Dear Editor: I Hate You

Sometimes indistinguishable from the pen

Note to publishers: Be nice to Michael Kinsley. That’s gospel, Jack. You can tug on Superman’s cape, spit into the wind, and even pull the mask of the old Lone Ranger, but you’d better not mess around with the former co-host of Crossfire and the founder of Slate. Otherwise, he’ll give you a piece of his very nimble mind.

As Kinsley explained in an e-mail, after Si Newhouse offered Kinsey a job editing the New Yorker, then withdrew the bid:

“[Newhouse] asks me to say that I had withdrawn my name [from the running]. I say I’m not going to lie about it, but I’ll decline to discuss it. He mumbles something and I mumble something and we hang up.

“On reflection (about two minutes’ reflection), I decided I was not inclined to do him the favor of not discussing it.”

According to an article in Slate, (Kinsley’s own baby), this is pretty mild stuff. When journalists are shown the door, or when they make for it on their own, they tend to rant. And why not? All their lives, they’ve been under orders to cut, cut, cut. Once they decide they have nothing to lose, they throw all those unused $50 words into their farewell letters, and as a result, come off sounding like political prisoners, screaming defiance before a firing squad.

The most bombastic:

“My ill-starred tenure at New York magazine was, among other things, a crash course in the staggering unselfawareness of Manhattan class privilege. … [T]here was the sashaying mood of preppy smugness that permeated nearly every interaction among the magazine’s editorial directorate—as when one majordomo tried to make awkward small talk with me by asking what it was like attending an urban public high school, or when another scion of the power elite would blithely take the credit for other people’s work and comically strategize to be seated prominently at the National Magazine Awards luncheon.”

“Go ahead and talk amongst yourselves, masters of the universe—and let your therapists-manqué at New York transcribe your every mawkishly aggrieved word. Every phony social revolution needs its Joe the Plumber, after all—and Messrs. Moss, Sherman et al fit the bill nicely. Watch the decibel level, though—it turns out that a lot of people went to public high school, and they’re pretty sick of the sound of your voices.”

—Chris Lehmann, four years after leaving New York magazine, April 2009.

The best extended metaphor:

“Blogging at Newsweek was sort of like setting up your tent in a bombed out building. First the editor who hired me left. Then the editor above him left. Then the executive above that guy left. Then the editor who didn’t really like me but tolerated me left. As a result I was left alone, which was fine. I kept writing; the checks kept coming. It was only a matter of time before the occupying army moved in.”

“The people at the Daily Beast seem to be having a desperate sort of faux-fun as they try to madly generate paying hits before Barry Diller’s money runs out subsidizing Ms. Brown’s big bucks staff.”

—Mickey Kaus, shortly after his Newsweek blog was canceled by incoming editor Tina Brown

The most “Huh?”:

“After extensive study of history, I believe ‘Latino’—as used in the Los Angeles Times—is the most recent attempt at genocide perpetrated against the native people of the Americas. I also posit this new genocide is far more dangerous than the old fashioned murder and relocation efforts.”

—Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, in her 3,400-word letter of resignation to her editors at the Los Angeles Times, early 2001

And the winner of the Less is More award:

“Jesus spent three days in Hell. … I could only handle one.”

—Richard Morgan, who quit Gawker.com after one day, January 2008.

Read the rest! Beware strong language and stronger senses of grievance..