FOR practitioners and followers of the craft of political...

salmagundi

October 06, 1994

FOR practitioners and followers of the craft of political journalism, we offer the following excerpt from a 1984 TRB essay reprinted in the newly published "New Republic Reader: Eighty Years of Opinion & Debate." The piece strikes us as particularly pertinent reading as another election season races toward its November climax:

"Political journalism has evolved in somewhat the same direction as literary criticism, which is now dominated by people called deconstructionists. Deconstructionist criticism is indifferent to the literary value of the 'text' -- novel or poem or whatever -- it is analyzing. The 'text' is just grist for arcane and self-referential analysis. A work of no special merit is even preferable in a way, since it doesn't distract from the analysis, which is the real show.

"Similarly, political journalism dwells in its own world of primaries and polls. If necessary, journalists can take a significant fact -- such as Jesse Jackson's continuing embrace of the repellent Louis Farrakhan -- drain it of all its moral implications, and turn it into a gaffe. But campaign mechanics make for preferable subject matter. And the ideal 'text' for political journalism to chew on is an episode of no real meaning or importance . . . which can then be analyzed without distraction exclusively in terms of its likely effect on the campaign. The analysis itself, of course, is what creates that effect: a triumph of criticism the deconstructionists can only envy."

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