I am a lazy person who prefers shooting from the hip instead of taking careful aim. That is why I am more likely to dash off a quick response to a political posting on Facebook than I am to pontificate about something on my blog. A post on my blog is not a work in progress; it is a final product. A comment to Facebook is a stream of consciousness, almost.
Letters to the Editor used to be like a blog post – i.e., something fully thought-through and carefully articulated. Because these letters involved a lot of work, I rarely took the trouble unless I was highly motivated, such as when Darrel Royal was not given credit for the Longhorns’ going undefeated in 1977. In our new digital age, Letters to the Editor have become, like Facebook comments, supremely easy, and this ease is just what a laggard like me needs.
My favorite forum for Letters to the Editor is the local San Antonio Express-News. Almost daily I comment on an article, usually to criticize the reporter or the paper for taking a liberal position or failing to provide us readers with the necessary information. To encourage comments, the paper ranks commenters according to a complex formula, and I am currently their #6 commenter, with 351 comments. My most recent comment to the Express-News concerned the reporting on Jeb Bush’s visit to McAllen. I was pretty hard on reporter Aaron Nelson:
- Aaron, you state, “Children born to parents in the U.S. illegally are guaranteed citizenship under the 14th Amendment.” Is this your unlegal opinion, or are you relying on some legal expert to state this conclusion? If so, please cite the expert and refrain from making categorical statements without citing an expert. I challenge you, or any other expert, to cite any Supreme Court decision holding that children born to parents in the US illegally are guaranteed citizenship under the 14th amendment.
- I find it interesting that Jeb now points to Asians (anchor babies) or Central Americans (border crossers) as the current immigration culprits, although it is undeniable that the vast majority of anchor babies and border crossers have been Mexican. That appears to be a personal bias of his. It seems that Rubio and Jeb want to redefine the concept of anchor babies as limited only to rich people who take advantage of this constitutional loophole. The rich are mercenaries, while poor people who cross the border into Brownsville to have their babies are acting out of love. Talk about populists.
My second favorite forum for making comments is the New York Times. The power of that paper amazes me. It is not unusual for controversial articles to receive thousands of comments even though the paper often stops accepting comments after a few hours. For additional discouragement, the paper moderates comments (i.e., screens them), so that your comment may not appear for hours after you submitted it.
Because of these discouragements, I submit comments to the NY Times probably less than once a week, but yesterday the Times finally gave me some encouragement. I submitted a comment about an article on an Ivy League analysis of school suspensions of blacks in 13 southern states. Consistent with my modus operandi, I criticized the reporting as follows:
- “Surely, we haven’t reached the point where we apply racial quotas to suspensions! I suspect that males are suspended more often than females, but no one suggests sexual bias there. I wonder if there is a racial imbalance in instances of resisting arrest, too. It’s too easy to casually imply causality when actually all we have is correlation.”
Boy was I surprised when only a few minutes later I received an email saying that my comment had been published. Then when I looked at the published comment, I noticed that it was listed as a “New York Times Pick.” This designation means that the Times moderator believed it adds value to the commenter discussion of the article. Of the 262 comments, only ten received the NYT Pick designation. If a person submits enough solid comments, that person becomes a “verified commenter” whose musings are published without going through a moderator.
I wonder why I feel so good about this seal of approval from this bastion of liberal politics. Because I respect journalism as much as any profession.