Volume > Issue > The Arrogance of the Columnist

The Arrogance of the Columnist


By John C. Cort | April 1986

There’s something about writing a column that leads to arrogance. The temptation is strong and few resist it. I would not pretend to be among the resisters. Perhaps that is why I can detect it in others. One example:

On the Op-Ed pages of the Boston Globe for January 11, there was a column with the title, “Fie on You, Tutu.” The columnist, Raymond Price, described Bishop Desmond Tutu’s arguments on behalf of his black countrymen as “offensive” and “silly” and Tutu himself as “an embarrassment and a bore, and an obstacle to genuine progress.”

One is not favorably disposed to accept Price’s abusive treatment of Bishop Tutu as any­thing more than “offensive” and “an embarrass­ment” to the trade of column-writing. Let us, how­ever, stifle our feelings of resentment and consider his arguments. He describes as “silly” Tutu’s state­ment, in Price’s words, “that if only we did to South Africa what we’re doing to Nicaragua, apar­theid would collapse.” Price says such sanctions haven’t worked in Nicaragua (therefore President Reagan must be “silly” also) or in Rhodesia, and that “in South Africa they would almost surely work destructive mischief that would harden the hard-liners, further impoverish the poor, inflame passions and generally pour gasoline on an already perilous fire.” One would think from reading this that nothing very serious is happening in South Africa, that the brutalizing and killing of black people is not something that should greatly upset us. Price says, “What South Africa needs above all else is time: time to work through its difficulties and to make the intractable tractable.”

What I would like to ask Price is this: “What in your experience makes you a better judge than Bishop Tutu as to whether sanctions would or would not help the blacks in South Africa? What makes you a better judge than he as to whether the cold-blooded racists who run South Africa should be given more time to kill black people before the United States does what it can to stop them?”

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