It’s never too late to honor someone of the stature of William Safire, the columnist who died last Sunday. If I hadn’t been absolutely buried in work, I would have done this sooner, but later is better than never, as the old cliche goes.
I have always enjoyed Safire’s columns for their ability to make us laugh, while he prodded us to consider other points of view, and one that I particularly enjoyed was published in 2005. Perhaps that one resonated with me because I, too, worked for print publications as a columnist, and he came up with rules for reading a political column.
Here are just a couple of those rules:
9. Cherchez la source. Ingest no column (or opinionated reporting labeled “analysis”) without asking: Cui bono? And whenever you see the word “respected” in front of a name, narrow your eyes. You have never read “According to the disrespected (whomever).”
10. Resist swaydo-intellectual writing. Only the hifalutin trap themselves into “whomever” and only the tort bar uses the Latin for “who benefits?” Columnists who show off should surely shove off. (And avoid all asinine alliteration.)
11. Do not be suckered by the unexpected. Pundits sometimes slip a knuckleball into their series of curveballs: for variety’s sake, they turn on comrades in ideological arms, inducing apostasy-admirers to gush “Ooh, that’s so unpredictable.” Such pushmi-pullyu advocacy is permissible for Clintonian liberals or libertarian conservatives but is too often the mark of the too-cute contrarian.
12. Scorn personal exchanges between columnists. Observers presuming to be participants in debate remove the reader from the reality of controversy; theirs is merely a photo of a painting of a statue, or a towel-throwing contest between fight managers. Insist on columns taking on only the truly powerful, and then only kicking ’em when they’re up.
If you are sufficiently intrigued, you can read all the rules HERE