Deborah Howell's report on the Charlotte Allen affair is in: turns out it was all just an ill-advised "bad joke." Howell makes little effort, beyond a nod to Katha Pollitt's letter of rebuttal, to actively refute the substance of the column. She accepts at face value everything Allen tells her about the piece -- even Allen's incredible claim that "half her mail was positive."
Interestingly, Howell also declares Allen's conservative ideological axe expressly off limits to criticism:
And this should have nothing to do with politics. Allen is a conservative, and Outlook should pay attention to conservative opinion.What we're left with, once again, is a story largely about us -- the trusty, cranky, often-vicious left blogosphere -- Executive Online Editor Jim Brady's Blog Ragers of yore. It's a story perfectly encapsulated in Howell's headline, "The Outrage Over an Outlook Piece."
Once again, according to Howell, the Post's editors and staffers were "stunned at the outpouring of outrage" they received at our hands. Outlook assignment editor Zofia Smardz "didn't anticipate the fury of the Internet and the blogosphere, much of which seems to me to have either overlooked or missed the humor I saw." Outlook Editor John Pomfret, who admired the column's "very non-PC take," says he "expected the piece to be controversial, but...did not expect the intensity of the reaction":
It was a learning experience about the section, my job and our readership.Yes, John, we're fucking craaa-ziiiiie -- maybe just crazy enough to try to hold you to account for your newspaper. You'd think you'd get that by now. After all, we keep reading pretty much this same Deborah Howell column about how stunned you are over our outrage. There was the Howell-Abramoff thing and then Brady's "Blog Rage" column; there was the Robin Givhan thing on Hillary's cleavage and then a Howell column; there was the Perry Bacon "rumors Obama's a Muslim" piece and then a Howell column; and there were undoubtedly others of this type I'm overlooking.
And the Post always ends up absolutely stunned at us. Which is odd, considering that the Post readily admits it's essentially trolling for attention with these predictable "controversies":
If columnists aren't interesting and provocative, they won't be read. No newspaper wants to receive thousands of protests, but that is not as serious a problem as having readers turned off by dullness. A provocative commentary that might result in protests will win every time over a ho-hum column that readers would pass right over.So rage on, folks. But know it's all about the hits.