Saturday, February 18, 2006

Richard Cohen, blithering idiot


Richard Cohen is the columnist who made waves this past October when he instructed Patrick Fitzgerald to "move on", smugly certain that the concerted attack on Ambassador Wilson was just politics, and there was no crime that sophisticated people need be bothered by. I am not the only person who thought this was one of the dumbest things ever written about the Valery Plame scandal.

Recently, while looking for reviews of Syriana, I was surprised to find that Cohen wrote openly that he simply didn't understand the plot, and further, that he saw that as a defect of the movie, not of his own obvious inabilities. The two people who read this blog regularly may have thought it unjustified that I denounced Cohen as a noted imbecile.

Yet, I was right. Yesterday, he decided to tell a high-school girl that algebra was completely useless, since he personally had never found a use for it. Naturally, this made real scientists apoplectic.

The entire column is idiotic, but I'll just highlight this part.
I confess to be one of those people who hate math. ... I let others go on to intermediate algebra and trigonometry while I busied myself learning how to type. In due course, this came to be the way I made my living. Typing: Best class I ever took.
Later, when the shitstorm of letters arrives at the Washington Post from outraged scientist, mathematicians, and engineers, that is the specific paragraph he'll point to when he says that he was only joking. Maybe he is; in the next paragraph, he conventionally praises more education in the liberal arts.

It hardly matters. His favorite high-school class was freaking Typing. Truman Capote criticized Kerouac's On The Road by saying "That's not writing, that's typing!" What Richard Cohen writes is not thinking, it is just typing. It enrages me that he is supposed to speak for the liberal side at the Washington Post. He is not my ally, whatever his political beliefs. He is thoughtless, uninformed, and unapologetically stupid.

Cohen is one of the incompetent people who are completely unaware that they are, in fact, incompetent. There was a terrific analysis of this pattern in a 1999 paper by Justin Kruger and David Dunning at Cornell, "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments" (PDF file, 14 pages).

I am frankly jealous of people like Cohen. They must surely be happier than someone like me. I am quite competent in many areas, yet I am also acutely aware of my many failings. Life must be one long bed of clover when you are blithely certain that you are a gifted writer and thinker, when in fact, you're just an idiot.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Syria Anna

Plame in Syria

Saturday, 18 February, 2006  
Blogger travis said...

Verbs are crucial in building a stronger arguments. I urge you to rephrase your position.

Saturday, 18 February, 2006  
Anonymous Alan said...

Perhaps he's a deconstuctionalist.

Saturday, 18 February, 2006  
Blogger travis said...

Deconstructionist? de con, at least.

Saturday, 18 February, 2006  

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