Newser’s Michael Wolff meets his match

The journalist accuses writer Tony Judt of fabricating a father-son dialogue. The son responds

Topics: Michael Wolff, How the World Works,

As the father of a 16-year-old teenage girl who regularly expresses strong feelings on the disasters bequeathed her generation by those who came before, I found nothing particularly surprising about the father-son dialogue between Tony and Daniel Judt in Sunday’s New York Times. I thought the exchange lacked a certain dynamic tension, as the two seemed to agree far more than they disagreed about the debate topic at hand: President Obama’s failure to move more aggressively on the issue of climate change. The distance between young Judt’s disillusionment and old Judt’s jaded I-never-hoped-for-much stance just wasn’t far enough to generate any sparks.

For that, we have to turn to Newser’s Michael Wolff, a man who appears to rise from his bed each and every morning with the same goal: What’s the nastiest, ugliest, most pandering way I can generate cheap page views for my website today?

Citing zero evidence, Wolff accuses Tony Judt of faking the whole thing.

Let’s say it: Judt, who sounds in the piece like he’s having a conversation with himself — or as he might imagine himself at 16 — is. He’s made up his son’s part. How the New York Times could not have been wise to this is preposterous (figuring, no doubt, that if the parties in question were in agreement on their respective authorship, who could say otherwise)…

In this instance, pretending that the straw man — and helpful and convenient foil — is actually real makes it all the more dubious. Judt is, it turns out — like most intellectuals with a political point to make — a crafty confidence man.

In return, the Daily Beast helpfully provided a forum for young Judt (or faux Judt — who can tell in this hall of Web mirrors?) to respond. If he’s for real, he sounds like someone who is going to have to be reckoned with for decades to come.

There’s nothing I can say that will factually authenticate my portion of Sunday’s op-ed. Sure, I could pull up countless email exchanges with my dad laying out our respective parts of the piece or open documents on my computer that have only my own prose on them, but both would surely be condemned as extravagant hoaxes. In short, Mr. Wolff, I can’t get around one blockade that will prevent me from proving that I wrote my half of the article: your habit of parading your own opinions as fact, caused by your willingness to make up anything in order to get a few reads, comments, and tweets.

So young, and so percipient! Again, I am reminded of someone who regularly shares meals at my own table. But I also have to agree with a tweet from Tim Fernholz: “Daniel Judt is really punching under his weight here, he should pick on someone his own size.”

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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