The Five Worst Op-Eds of 2012

Bad arguments and bad writing from the nation's top opinionmongers

For three years running, I've closed the Old Year with a seasonal burst of bile, my annual Five Worst Op-Eds column.

As before, this year's malicious listicle rewards bad arguments and bad writing, with extra points for warped values.

5. Eric Posner, "The World Doesn't Love the First Amendment," Slate.com (Sept. 25)

For warped values, it's hard to beat Professor Posner's lament that free-speech absolutism "prevent[s] the U.S. government from restricting the distribution of a video ['the Innocence of Muslims'] that causes violence abroad and damages America's reputation." Today, hurtful videos spread "as fast as the Internet can blast them, beyond the power of governments to stop them."

In Posner's view, technology has made the entire world a crowded theater, so turn off your cellphone and pipe down: "Americans need to learn that the rest of the world—and not just Muslims—see no sense in the First Amendment."

If so, score one for the overused concept of "American Exceptionalism."

4. L.Z. Granderson, "Don't Be Nosy about Fast and Furious," CNN.com (June 27)

"We are a nosy country," Granderson, a weekly CNN.com columnist, complains. Some people even insist on investigating the "Fast and Furious" federal "gunwalking" debacle.

But "not everything is our business," Granderson insists, comparing the scandal to Iran-Contra: illegal and maybe ineffective, but "done as a way to make America safe." There you go, case closed.

Yes, it reads like the poor man's Jonathan Swift, but there's no indication it's deliberate satire.

3. David Brooks, "The Follower Problem," The New York Times (June 11)

From here to the end, it's a clean sweep for the Gray Lady. Bronze goes to Brooks, who here scolds Americans for their lack of deference toward "people at the top." Is that because the elites have lately delivered an unholy financial and fiscal mess? No, says Brooks, it's mostly our "cynicism" and "vanity." I suppose we'll have to audit the class on "Humility" he's teaching at Yale this spring.

2. Maureen Dowd, "The Loin King," The New York Times (Nov. 3)

Here, for the silver, is MoDo's fever dream of a President Obama who's finally attentive to her emotional needs. She gushes over Obama's "caring reactions" to Hurricane Sandy, an alleged improvement over his post-BP-spill coolness: "I couldn't help thinking of a 'Star Trek' episode, 'The Naked Time,' " she writes, wherein "a strange red liquid that causes everyone [on the Enterprise] to emote like crazy. Even Spock starts crying inconsolably because he can't tell his mother how much he cares about her. ... Has President Spock, who bounded into action on Sandy and rocked a New Jersey woman in his arms, really grown?"

1. Tom Friedman, "Obama's Nightmare," The New York Times (Nov. 13)

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  • Enough About Palin||

    "Admit it. I have a very fuckable mouth. The Chinamen love it!

  • Generic Stranger||

    Dude, Chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature. Asian-American, please.

  • BlockadeRunnerX||

    "Huh?"

    - Morty Seinfeld

  • Generic Stranger||

  • John||

    Did anyone tell Posner that the film never caused any riots? That it was all a lie made up by a desparate administration?

  • MJGreen||

    There were plenty of riots outside of the Libya attack. Did those have nothing to do with the video?

    No sarcasm in the above. I don't know the answer.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    IIRC the other protests happened after the fabricated one in Libya supposedly occurred.

  • GILMORE||

    No - there were riots in Cairo and Tunisia before the Benghazi attack

    Attributing them to a *movie*, however, on the anniversary of *9/11*? requires a truly partisan and unreflective brain... considering both of these countries recently overthrew US-friendly leadership, and where jihadist political elements are now free to express themselves without reprisal

  • Brutus||

    Think globally, censor locally.

  • Shmurphy||

    That can't possibly be true because Obama.

  • ||

    La,la,la,la,la,la I'm not listening!

    I read Siddartha.

    La,la,la,la....

  • John||

    http://thomasfriedmanopedgenerator.com/about.php

    You guys could have just used this for the Friedman award.

  • ||

    Wow, that was hilarious. Bookmarked it.

  • Spoonman.||

    "If authoritarianism is Iceland's curtain rod, then freedom is certainly its alarm clock."

    HAHAHAHA

  • Randian||

    One, people don't behave like migratory birds, so attempts to treat them as such inevitably look foolish. Migratory birds never suddenly blow themselves up. Two, Sierra Leone has spent decades torn by civil war and ethnic hatred, so a mindset of peace and stability will seem foreign and strange. And three, capitalism is an extraordinarily powerful idea: If ethnic conflict is Sierra Leone's glass ceiling, then capitalism is certainly its flowerpot.
  • Brutus||

    What's the over/under on Friedman actually using this generator?

  • Slapweasel||

    I'd lay 7:1 odds that he won't use it for just over a month.

    10:1 he will after Groundhog Day.

    Odds will rise and fall. Get locked in before the 10th and receive Three Free Days of 'Showtime' Network...

    -Offer not available where French is spoken.
    -Your Mom is no longer eligible because of things that happened a few days ago --out of nowhere.
    -That was wrong; and I knew it before I did it then typed it.

    Your Mom's a whore for whatever reason.

    Bitcoin accepted.

  • Gladstone||

    If so, score one for the overused concept of "American Exceptionalism."
    Most attacks on American Exceptionalism are not calls for making America more libertarian but on America for being too libertarian.

  • Libertarius||

    You are hitting on something very important, especially for the readership of Reason:

    American Exceptionalism is a term used to describe many things, but among the left and many libertarians alike, it is generally equated with nationalism, military adventurism, statism, etc.

    I am an Objectivist, and as such I see American Exceptionalism as a remnant of Aristotelian thought, an echo of Aristotle's glorification of man's pursuit of happiness, knowledge, achievement, values. American Exceptionalism is man's pride in his own desire to be free and to achieve his potential, his ambition derived from self-esteem. It is the glorification of individualism and the potential of a human life. It is anti-collectivism.

  • John||

    Let me ask you, real or generated?

    An interesting thought occurred to me today—what if industrial giants sat down with ordinary people like you and me and ironed out some real solutions to our higher education crisis?

    With the election season over, maybe you’ve forgotten about higher education, but I certainly haven’t. It would be easy to forget that the problem even exists, when our headlines are constantly splashed with the violence in Madagascar, the authoritarian crackdown in Malta and the still-unstable democratic transition in Kenya. But the higher education problem is growing, and politicians are more divided than ever. Republicans seem to think that higher education can just be ignored. Democratic politicians like Nancy Pelosi, on the other hand, seem to think that shrill rhetoric will substitute for a solution.

  • ||

    An authoritarian crackdown in Malta is certainly more plausible then him blaming shrill Democratic rhetoric.

  • Sevo||

    ..."as fast as the Internet can blast them, beyond the power of governments to stop them."...

    See? Not everything is horrible.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Bug or feature? I say feature.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Without the Top Men in Washington, more countries would implode outward or explode inward. Stick that chainsaw-nail into your pipe and smoke it.

    [Nobody's] willing to fall on the Syrian grenade and midwife a new order.

    If that's how midwifery is done, whatever midwives are paid isn't enough.

  • ||

    One of the winners from the "Write like Tom Friedman" contest:


    "In order to salvage Syria, which is and isn't falling apart, we need to follow and not follow the path we did and didn't follow in Iraq. That requires a hand grenade, both post-explosion and pre-explosion, and a pregnant woman who has and hasn't had a pottery baby. We should allow our enemy, the lawyer Russia, who is our friend, to get and not get involved in the non/crisis.

    Using (and not using) our Iraq experience, or lack thereof, we mus(n)t continue, or stop, our current path by digging a hole, and filling it in, with the bones of those we saved by being there, as we allowed them all to be killed. We can throw their bones into the hole, which we shouldn't be digging.

    If 2006 has taught us anything, it's that 2012 is 2006 on steroids, minus steroids, in 2003. I can sum up by saying I stand by and repudiate all my previous statements about Iraq as regards Syria (as regards Iraq). I have NOT taken this acid that is corroding at my soul, but I am tripping balls.

    Schrondinger's columnist"

  • ||

    And this:


    "Iraq was fisted by the United States, and on experiencing such explosive pleasure knocked over a china cabinet while ejaculating acid. Syria's on her knees begging to be next."

    I started to read this aloud to my wife and she laughed so hard after the first line, I couldn't finish. The thing is, it's metaphorically very close to what Friedman wrote, and it was done in two sentences. Beautiful and concise.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I'm with your old lady. That's pretty hilarious.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Holy fuck these are funny!

  • Lady Bertrum||

    That's way better than anything TF overwrote even in his soft-core lit phase during his freshman year.

  • John||

    He really is mindnumbingly stupid. I used to think he was a con man. But now I think he is sincere. He really is that stupid. He is not playing to the crowd.

  • ||

    He may be somewhat smart when he is not stoned. That, however, apparently only occurs during the latter part of his sleep cycle.

  • Cytotoxic||

    He knows how to appear intelligent to stupid people. That is all you need. It's how I got most of the jobs I've held.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    Ditto, And it's still working, 34 years later!

  • Juice||

  • Killazontherun||

    When he started preaching Green, I assumed there was college girl coochie involved. There almost always is when guys get emotional supporting stupid shit.

  • ||

    Can't.stop.laughing.

  • Killazontherun||

    Last night while cleaning out the basement bathroom, I discovered I'm the owner of a mustache grooming kit. It contains a neat little comb, scissors, tweezers, and a tube of wax. I have no idea how it got there as facial hair has never been my thing (I grew a beard on an extending island vacation once, pretty much it), and the house was built to my specifications with no prior owners. WTF?

  • ||

    Doing a little manscaping sometime back in the day I see.

  • Killazontherun||

    I'm proud of every hair on my oily Latin body.

  • ||

    Ever get drunk and wake up next to Rollie Fingers?

  • Killazontherun||

    I would object, but that's a more plausible explanation than any I can come up with.

  • Calvin Coolidge||

    Does it come with a "Free Mustache Rides!" t-shirt?

  • Killazontherun||

    Except for the tube of 'stache lube, it's pretty early twentieth century looking. Especially the scissors. Might actually find a use for those.

  • GILMORE||

    Killazontherun| 1.3.13 @ 4:53PM |#

    Last night while cleaning out the basement bathroom, I discovered I'm the owner of a mustache grooming kit.... WTF?

    WARNING: SIGN OF BASEMENT TROLL

  • nicole||

    Or...basement Warty?

  • ||

    BASEMENT WARTY IS WATCHING YOU MASTURBATE

  • Killazontherun||

    The URL is my own address? How can that possibly be? Get out Now!

  • Contrarian P||

    Tony lives in your basement dude. It's either him or White Indian. Either way, it's time to torch the place and pick up the insurance.

  • R C Dean||

    You might ask your wife where she wants her mustache grooming kit.

  • Killazontherun||

    I'm thinking someone on her side of the family left it there on a visit. Though a time warp is equally plausible given the appearance of these contraptions.

  • Killazontherun||

    Oh . . . now I get it. That was just that one time she took 'roids when learning self defense. A disposable Bic is all she needs, most days.

  • An0nB0t||

    This seems like a good place for me to say that LZ Granderson might be the stupidest human being to ever draw breath. The very act of writing his name has depressed my IQ by a couple of points. His journalistic vomitage narrowly beats out aspirants like Stephen Prothero, who, aside from his various crimes against scholarship, recently provided Barfman with infinite ammunition by referring to Abdulrahman's killer as the nation's "pastor in chief," and Roland Martin, whose constant laments about the plight of minorities did not prevent him from offering a homophobic tweet last year.

    Oddly enough, all three write for CNN.

  • Randian||

    Sorry, but everyone on Gawker, Salon, and possibly Slate, is worse.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Somebody get Maureen Dowd to a battered women's shelter.

  • Killazontherun||

    Obama would just dronerage the place when he finds out his bitch is seeking help.

  • ||

    Dowd should write hard core porn scripts for Vivid. Preferably with her as a protagonist. Or antagonist. Or both.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Since Donald Kaul posted his diatribe about banning guns, declaring the NRA to be a terrorist organization, and dragging John Boehner and Mitch McConnell behind his truck last year (December 29th), he should at least get an honorable mention.

  • fish||

    he should at least get an honorable mention.

    ...or a visit from the authorities!

  • Sernylan||

    "...or a visit from the authorities!"

    Boehner should "SWAT" him in a drunken fit of passive/agressive rage.

  • ||

    The fact that Thomas Friedman's column is indistinguishable from the one generated by a column generating bot speaks volumes about his talent.

  • Loki||

    Eric Posner, L.Z. Granderson, David Brooks, Maureen Dowd, and Thomas Friedman. It's a veritable rogues gallery of punchable faces. If you put me in a room with those five assholes, I'm not sure I could decide who gets punched first. I'd probably just end up punching E.J. Dionne first instead.

  • Killazontherun||

    One of them is at least grudge fuckable. I mean if you are into mustaches and portly bears. You didn't think I meant Dowd, did you? Ewwwww!!!! Over fifty fire crotch don't age like other crotches!

  • Cytotoxic||

    David Frum needs to be in there.

  • ||

  • Craig K||

    I think you missed one. Granted, it was December 30th, 2012, so you may not have seen it in time...

    Let's Give Up On The Constitution
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12.....d=all&_r=1

  • Craig K||

    I think it at least deserves a special mention?

  • John||

    Yeah it does.

  • Loki||

    That is some weapons grade stupid. Not to mention about 100 years too late. I mean, give up on The Constitution? That horse left the barn a long time ago.

  • Craig K||

    And it comes from someone who teaches Constitutional law!

    "Louis Michael Seidman [is] a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University"

  • ||

    He actually makes some cogent points, though not in the way he intended.

    He's right that we abandoned the constitution a long time ago (and indeed, started abandoning it almost as soon as it was adopted), but he presents that as evidence that it's a fine thing to do, whereas I would think that just because we've been doing it wrong up until now is not a reason to do it even wrong-er.

    As usual, Spooner sez it best:

    “But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain - that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.”

  • ||

    You know who else was a professor of constitutional law?

  • Cavpitalist||

    Hitler?

  • John||

    He is not really talking about the Constitution. H really means lets give up on any idea that anyone anywhere can put a break on government power or that any individual has any rights when confronted with government power.

  • R C Dean||

    What he's missing is that the Constitution is the source of the government's legitimacy.

    If its (formally/overtly) discarded, then so is any claim to legitimacy.

    Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!
    More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
    Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
    More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man's laws, not God's — and if you cut them down — and you're just the man to do it — d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.

  • Pro Libertate||

    This is an absolutely critical point that hardcore statists--especially on the left--do not understand at all. By tearing up the Constitution, they're tossing out the entire reason our system has been stable for so long. Without the legitimacy provided by the Constitution, with a country as big and diverse as ours, there's no way we avoid disintegration at best and civil war at the worst.

  • ant1sthenes||

    The plus side is that there's a good chance they'll all be gruesomely executed when their team succeeds at establishing a dictatorship. I mean, it's not much of a silver lining, but I'm pretty fucking vindictive.

  • RickC||

    Do you think he would make this argument if Santorum or Gingrich had won the Presidency? Of course not and that's the big reveal about what he actually means.

  • ||

    This would have been my pick for No.1.

    We cant really complain about the picks though, there are so many deserving.

  • Craig K||

    Agreed. This should be a weekly thing

  • Randian||

    Sorry reason, but the clear winner is Imagining Nancy Lanza.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I can't tell who you hate more: yourself for reading Salon, or us for linking to it.

  • Randian||

    It was that column that led me to rail against it at every opportunity. It was my last hit, and now I'm a zealot against it...like an ex-smoker, you know?

  • Marshall Gill||

    Randian, you are a dick! Is my life not miserable enough that I need to read that?!

    All of these people are truly to stupid to live, yet they get paid for their opinions.

    John Barleycorn, where are you?

  • Killazontherun||

    John Barleycorn Must Die!

  • Almanian.||

    That was SugarFree grade suckitude. Yeah, I went and read it. So I owe myself an hour of self-inflicted beatings as penance.

    You're on the list with SF now, Randian.

    Got my eye on you....

    *two fingers to eyes, points to Randian*

  • fish||

    Linking to Joan Walsh is an immediate DQ! Her work is no different than that produced by Montes thousand monkeys! She gets graded differently.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcSUWP0QNeY

  • An0nB0t||

    The writing. My God, the writing.

    Every time you think you've pegged the queen of the idiots, another aspirant emerges.

  • jacob||

    Not sure if I should thank you for this submission or curse you for making me read that nonsense.

  • GILMORE||

    "...illegal and maybe ineffective, but "done as a way to make America safe." There you go, case closed.

    In short =

    'Scandals', when emerging in a Democratic administration, are to be ignored and downplayed and accepted as part of day to day business...while when the GOP is in power, they are RED MEAT DEMANDING A SENATE COMMITTEE INVESTIGATION AND IMPEACH!!! IMPEACH!!!

    Cato just did a list of their "Worst of 2012" essays, and included the recent NYT piece re: "Lets Dump the Constitution"-thing...

  • Brutus||

    I think that one takes it, especially since MoDo, Brooks and Friedman really deserve Lifetime Achievement Awards for their permanent, unrelenting efforts at disphittery.

  • waaminn||

    OK wow, now that looks liek it might jsut work dude. wow.

    www.otAnon.tk

  • Rick Derris||

    Awesome stuff, but way to end on a crappy note with Matt Taibibibibibi. Has he finished ignoring Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's involvement in the 2008 financial meltdown and stopped blaming the repeal of Glass-Steagall yet? That guy has a lot of nerve busting on Friedman for anything.

  • dunlap||

    Fast and Furious was done as a way to make America safe? People dying from the thing was part of the plan to push anti-gun legislation. So would that make the safety thing more of a "long term" goal, after the dying part where they could say "see! the guns came from the US..somehow!"

  • BigT||

    We had to destroy the village to save it. Rinse, repeat.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    It takes a village to destroy a village to save a village.

  • BMFPitt||

    5. Eric Posner, "The World Doesn't Love the First Amendment," Slate.com (Sept. 25)

    No way is this not #1.

  • Cyto||

    Freedom of speech and religion, equal protection of the laws and protections against governmental deprivation of life, liberty or property are important, whether or not they are in the Constitution. We should continue to follow those requirements out of respect, not obligation.

    I rest your case.

  • ||

    No Pauli Krugnuts *sniff*

  • Enyap||

    Has anyone ever seen Thomas Friedman and Matt Millen in the same room?

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Has anyone ever seen Matt Millen and competence in the same room?

  • ||

  • Captain Kirk||

    I have to disagree. This colorful little doozie, written by a purported scholar of constitutional law, was published by the Times, surely should have at least made the top five. I'm surprised Reason missed it. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12.....anted;=all

  • ||

    "I don’t know if America has a leadership problem; it certainly has a followership problem. "

    My personal favorite line, from the Brooks piece that clocked in at No. 3.

  • Rick Santorum||

    Is there any doubt in the minds of the American people that the media are totally controlled by leftists and progressive quasi-Marxists?

  • ||

    Yes, there is doubt.

    Take out the 'quasi-' and I will change my answer.

  • nannasin28||

    Even Spock starts crying inconsolably because he can't tell his mother how much he cares about her.TDA7388

  • uythsb||

    Happy New Year,NBA ,NFL 2013

  • Muzzle of Bees||

    My vote: Robert Reich's neo-Luddite ramblings.

    http://www.marketplace.org/top.....employment

  • دردشة العراق||

    thanks

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