Absurdity, self-regard, hypocrisy, chumminess between writer and subject — it’s all there.
Carlos Lozada writes a delightful take-down of David Samuels and his controversial piece about Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security advisor for strategic communications. He hits some salient points.
Keep in mind that Lozada is a literary critic, not a political analyst, so he dissects the piece as a failure in journalistic style. He does not attack the piece on its substance. Neither Samuels nor Rhodes comes out of the piece looking particularly good, but none of that detracts from the core revelation:
Ben Rhodes is a master propagandist who managed to sell a subset of the ostensibly balanced and hard-nosed Washington press corps on a view of a key foreign policy initiative that was probably not in line with the facts.
Should Samuels have been less chummy with his subject? Probably. But with respect to Mr. Lozada, in criticizing the simpatico twixt Rhodes and Samuels he is being a bit disingenuous. As a critic of non-fiction, he should know that chumminess with one’s subject has been a facet of New Journalism – now more properly called “creative non-fiction” since its emergence in the 1960s. There are no hard and fast lines that divide subject and author, and an argument can be made that erasing that line offers the reader a valuable perspective that would otherwise be unavailable.
One is led to wonder, then, to what degree this article was motivated by the ongoing rivalry twixt the Post and the New York Times, or indeed by Mr. Lozada’s own bruised political sensibilities. Regardless, in the political debate around the Obama administration, Iran, and national security, it neither adds nor subtracts from the discussion: it is simply irrelevant.