Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
November 14, 2004
BLOG: Who The Hell is James Wolcott?
James Wolcott of Vanity Fair magazine refers to Glenn Reynolds as "[a] racist-t-shirt wearing professor of Creationism at Wayback University". (Reynolds fires back here). I confess that I don't have much of an idea who Wolcott is, other than this quickie tongue-in-cheek bio on his site and my generally dim view of the low journalistic standards of his magazine's political hit jobs in the last several years. But you could hardly ask for a more extreme example of East Coast snobbery than to have a "columnist on media and pop culture" dismissing a guy like Reynolds as a know-nothing flat-earther. I mean, I'm certainly no worshipper of credentials as the sole basis for valuing a man's opinions, but Wolcott appears to fancy himself to be, by definition, Reynolds' intellectual superior simply because Wolcott is published in a glossy New York magazine and Reynolds lives in Tennessee, ignoring the fact that Reynolds is - in addition to his prolific internet profile - a respected and extensively published tenured law professor with a degree from Yale Law School and some depth of expertise on a staggering array of subjects. What is sadder is that I suspect that that self-image is reinforced by nearly everyone Wolcott knows.
I wouldn't want to overgeneralize, but it's not hard to see from extended observation that there are, at a minimum, more than a few people in the media world who think precisely the way Wolcott does: that a man who has succeeded in getting paid to be a full-time journalist must have more brains and sophistication than the people who have carved out careers in other endeavors, no matter how much more educated or accomplished those people are. And, of course, that attitude is precisely how journalists often wind up making hilarious errors when they try to cover specialized areas like the law, the military, etc., where a little bit of consultation with people who actually do the stuff for a living could have set them straight.