Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I'm not sure about Nick Coleman...

For those of you not in the Twin Cities area, Nick Coleman is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. To me, his writings are pretty inoffensive and, while I read him, I don’t often find his work especially provocative, moving or insightful. He’s essentially a middle-of-the-road liberal who likes to pose as a salt-of-the-earth populist in that Mike Royko/Studs Terkel mode. However, his regular-guy outsider role isn’t too convincing: his father was a powerful guy in the state senate and his brother is the current mayor of St. Paul (he is not related, however, to former St. Paul mayor and current repulsive Senate hack, Norm Coleman). That being said, he occasionally hits on a good subject and does it justice. He also is willing to go out and talk to the people usually ignored by big media, and he’s capable of telling their stories with respect and thoughtfulness. Other times, especially when he tries to be comic, he doesn't make much sense at all. I don’t like or dislike his writings, really. More than anything, he comes off as another generic city columnist, reliable and predictable and unexciting. Whether this is due to the limitations of the semi-weekly column format or due to limitations of his own, I can’t say.

One thing’s for certain, though. He drives local right-wingers up the wall. The day after he comes out with one of his columns, you can bet good money that certain conservative blogs will be snarling at him and his supposed prejudices and inaccuracies. They never tire of this, apparently. Something about him offends them to the core. Maybe it’s ideological incompatibility, maybe it’s a clash of self-righteousnesses, maybe it’s simple jealousy (he, after all, gets paid pretty well to spout off about the issues of the day while they do it on a pro bono basis): in the end, it doesn’t matter. Once in awhile, it’s entertaining to watch the rightist crew working themselves into yet another lather at yet another Nick Coleman column, but usually it’s just the same old pissing match and pissing matches get dull quickly.

However, the konservative kidz could be right about one thing: Nick Coleman may very well be a raging dickweed. Check out this post here, where the author–an editor at a up-market local magazine-- shares his correspondence with the (apparently very touchy) columnist. Early on in the exchange, he does the whole aggrieved-by-these-people-with-websites schtick :

The Internet does not permit morons who masquerade as professionals to write stupidly without consequence...When you go on local blogs to insult people (linking to your execrable wankings), do you expect a pass? You don't get one.

Unfortunately--and, given the flak he catches virtually every week, this is something Nick should know better than most anyone else–the internet does permit morons who masquerade as professionals to write stupidly without consequence. That and porn are pretty much all you can expect from the internet these days. But this gets beyond the point perhaps. The point is, who gives a shit? Some obscure guy criticizes you on an obscure website: so what? You’re a goddamn columnist at the goddamn biggest paper in the state, shouldn’t you have thicker skin by now? But it just gets better. In his next e-mail, he’s set aside all his Minnesota nice:

Thanks. You have indisputably, undeniably demonstrated what a small person you are. And what a scumbag. Please let me know when you write your next review of all the exciting new advances in bathroom fixtures in your hip, urban mag. I can't wait.

A small person and a scumbag! Wow! And I hesitate to mention that a professional writer like Coleman out to know that “indisputably, undeniably” is a redundancy. But perhaps he was composing this missive in the heat of passion. Perhaps he was so pissed he wasn’t thinking straight. God knows, maybe he was the wronged party in this whole episode. Be that as it may, he should have had the self-control to cancel this next e-mail before it went winging out over the broadband wires:

I don't do any reporting? Really, you ought to stop spending so much time on your myspace account trying to get a date...any date...(boys or girls though? I can't tell what you're after...maybe that's the problem) ut I know that not many reporters can match your Big Bwana reporting from Uptown... when you got all creeped out eating take-out at Lunds...Oooh, spooky! Wow, that was a gobsmacker...What? Were you 2 blocks from the crib? our blog is big bad goo (fittingly) because you don't even cop to your stupid MNSpeak comment that led to my mail…You think it's cool to mock someone by publishing mail that was designated as private...That's beneath contempt...
You are a freak, but people sure love your features on dentists who can brighten up a smile.
We always defer to you for news on the latest cosmetic developments.
We know you are very up on the topic

Now this is dense with references that won’t make sense to the casual observer, so you’ll have to check out the original post if you want to find out exactly what he’s on about. Essentially, he’s angry at the accusation that he doesn’t do any reporting (an unfair charge, in my opinion) and even angrier that this guy had the temerity to publish an e-mail that Nick intended to be private. Now, one would think that if someone went and shared one e-mail from the locally-famous columnist, they wouldn’t hesitate to share others. Knowing that, you’d think that a locally-famous columnist would probably be more circumspect in their later e-mails to this person. One wouldn’t, for instance, hurl a bunch of quasi-nonsense insults and childish taunts at the private-email-sharing guy. Apparently Nick doesn’t think this way, which is surprising for someone who’s been around the block as much as he has.

But understand, I don’t particularly care if Nick Coleman is an arrogant asshole. Almost all writers worth their salt are arrogant assholes. It comes with the territory, I guess. What surprises and entertains me here, however, is that this particular writer is willing to fire off e-mails at slights so small, at people so far beneath him in the media food-chain. Why? That’s what amazes me. Why bother engaging in such hostilities when you’ve got absolutely nothing to gain? Wouldn’t your reputation be better served by staying above such behavior?

Weird. People are weird.