January 4, 2017

What will we do without James Taranto writing Best of the Web?!

We'll have Best of the Web written by this new person, James Freeman. And we'll have James Taranto in his new Wall Street Journal incarnation, running the op-ed pages.

Here's Taranto's last Best of the Web column. Excerpt:
There is something to be said for going out on a high note, and 2016 was a great year for this column. We don’t claim to have gotten the election right—we were surprised, if only mildly, by Donald Trump’s victory—but most journalists were so spectacularly wrong that simply taking Trump and his supporters seriously was enough to put us at least in the top decile, maybe the 98th percentile, of journalistic sagacity. (In the 99th percentile we’d place cartoonist Scott Adams, reporter Salena Zito and, oddly enough, left-wing propagandist Michael Moore.)

As 2017 begins, the general mood in the so-called mainstream media is a bewildered despond, captured well in the opening of a year-end New York Times editorial:
Let’s pretend we’re in some cosmic therapist’s office, in a counseling session with the year 2016. We are asked to face the year and say something nice about it. Just one or two things.

The mind balks. Fingers tighten around the Kleenex as a cascade of horribles wells up in memory: You were a terrible year. We hate you. We’ll be so glad never to see you again. The silence echoes as we grope for a reply.
We said captured well, not written well. A cascade moves downward, not upward. Here’s an example of the correct usage: The tears of unfathomable sadness welled up in the editorialist’s eyes. She clutched a Kleenex as she prepared for them to cascade down her face....
How will we know which direction is up — or down — without Taranto's reading the web for us?

Good luck to James Freeman, and I look forward to seeing what Taranto does with the op-ed pages.

(Salena Zito is the one who wrote "Taking Trump Seriously, Not Literally" in The Atlantic (back in September).)

ADDED: I went back and reread Michael Moore's "5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win." That's from back in July. Really brilliant.

76 comments:

MadisonMan said...

Really disliking the use of 'we' in that article.

rhhardin said...

I gave up on Best of the Web as too wordy and, what might be the same, not as smart as it thought.

The feel of a word count goal animated the thing.

Still, it's national and mentioned Althouse now and then.

I'd suggest zinger of the day.

rehajm said...

Like some of Taranto's Twitter followers I hope he writes another finale column again today.

Tweet of note from another fan:

I emailed you in 2013 after a column "blew me away." Took your advice to buy heavier shoes.

Mike Sylwester said...

I read him every day until the pay wall was interposed. I suppose I could have gotten around the pay wall, but I respected the WSJ's decision to put it there. I suppose that I'm just a compliant kind of guy.

rhhardin said...

The WSJ editorials were good when Jude Wanniski wrote them, back in the 70s.

Then even he went 'round the bend and became a gold freak.

Sometime in the 90s the WSJ went to a women's lifestyle newspaper and I dropped it.

Chuck said...

Such a kerfuffle! Even the French-speaking John Kerry -- who by the way served in Vietnam -- is probably lamenting a future without James Taranto's column. At least he's got the hat. It's as if the world were ending; women and minorities hit hardest, of course.

Mike said...

I'll miss Taranto's wit and wisdom. I can usually tell when he's written an editorial (they are unsigned) because his voice is so distinctive. I like his reasoning within his opinion pieces and his very objective approach to news.

Mike Sylwester said...

Now that I think about it, the Wall Street Journal has contradictory opinions about pay walls and border walls.

* Pay Walls = good and effective

* Border Walls = bad and ineffective

Mike said...

Nice work, Chuck! Pitch perfect.

tcrosse said...

Why do bad things always happen to her ?
How will we know which direction is up — or down — without Taranto's reading the web for us?

Meade said...

Chuck, is that you?

Big Mike said...

What will we do without "Best of the Web"? Read more Althouse, of course!

AReasonableMan said...

The WSJ op-ed pages are the best in the business. Hope he doesn't screw it up.

Chuck said...

lol; Laurence, I am an old hand at Best of the Web. James always credited his readers and tipsters (at the end of the column every day) for their contributions. I am in a fair number of those mentions.

Let's be clear here as well. Ann Althouse, it is true, seems to have been a great fan of James Taranto. But the feeling was mutual. Kudos to both.

Quayle said...

"the ... mainstream media is a bewildered despond"

The bewilderment and despondence that comes when it starts to dawn on you that no matter how or how many times you rub the magic lamp, the genie no longer shows up.

All that time and training to lean and perfect the kitschy story formats and sentemental doggerel - now for nothing!

Chuck said...

The Althouse commentariat ought to be very happy with the Taranto elevation. Of all of the candidates at the Op-Ed page, Taranto is one of the most circumspect about Trump. One of the least "NeverTrump" columnists on their staff.

StephenFearby said...

"Really disliking the use of 'we' in that article."

It's the royal we.

"The royal "we", or majestic plural (pluralis majestatis in Latin, literally, "the plural of majesty"), is the use of a plural pronoun to refer to a single person holding a high office, such as a sovereign (e.g., a monarch or sultan) or religious leader (e.g., the Pope or a bishop)."

"...In a 1911 letter, Daniel David Palmer, founder of chiropractic, spoke of establishing it as a religion, and placed himself on a par with other founders of religions ("Christ, Mohamed, Joseph Smith, Mrs. Eddy, Martin Luther"). In the letter he refers to himself with royal third person terminology.[6]

In 1989, Margaret Thatcher, then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was met with disdain by some in the press for using the 'royal we' when announcing news that she had become a grandmother.[7]"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_we

Part of Taranto's tongue in cheek persona.








rehajm said...

I suppose I could have gotten around the pay wall, but I respected the WSJ's decision to put it there.

Paywalls have peepholes for a reason. That reason is people like you, Mike. If it's the economics that bother you remember the presence of your eyeballs has value to them.


MayBee said...

Awwww. I adore Taranto. You and he were on a limb during this campaign season, and saw Trump and the coverage of him in a similar light.

FullMoon said...

Chuck said... [hush]​[hide comment]

Such a kerfuffle! Even the French-speaking John Kerry -- who by the way served in Vietnam -- is probably lamenting a future without James Taranto's column. At least he's got the hat. It's as if the world were ending; women and minorities hit hardest, of course.


Perfect. Just for that, I will not mention your premeditated future assault of Greta Van Sustern for an hour or so.

Quayle said...

"Really disliking the use of 'we' in that article."

"Part of Taranto's tongue in cheek persona."

Not so.

A little known fact is that Taranto goes to work each day with a mouse in his pocket.

Chuck said...

Mike said...
I'll miss Taranto's wit and wisdom. I can usually tell when he's written an editorial (they are unsigned) because his voice is so distinctive. I like his reasoning within his opinion pieces and his very objective approach to news.


You're not alone, and I think you are not wrong. I feel like I can pick out a Taranto editorial, versus a Gigot editorial (lots of those), and even the rare Jenkins editorial.

And let's remember that James Taranto -- whom I could hardly admire more -- isn't even their best columnist. There's Holman Jenkins, Bill McGurn, Mary Anastasia O'Grady, Kim Strassel, Dan Henninger and Terry Teachout, and undoubtedly more to come with the Murdochs' capable management. And for the devout Trump haters in conservatism, there's always Bret Stephens.

Mike said...

Pretty sure Chuck and I aren't the only Althousians who have contributed to BOTW. Ira Stoll was good at it, but lacked the sly humor Taranto brought to the endeavor. I really will miss it. But maybe the next host or hostess will do us proud and bring their own panache to the column.

rehajm said...

Heh, Chuck.

Yancey Ward said...

I have never seen the word "despond" as a noun or a verb. I thought the noun form was despondency.

Mike said...

Stephens and Henninger became a little tiresome in their Trump opposition. I lost count of how many times I was stopped by a sentence they wrote and said to myself, "but Hillary would be WORSE for the same reason. Stephens had a special knack for examining Trump as if he was the only unacceptable candidate. I got the impression Hillary's prior existence as a made member of the Big E Establishment gave her entree that Trump's outsider status did not. His arguments did not stand up to scrutiny in my opinion, but I read them anyway to get a feel for the Big E view of things.

traditionalguy said...

The born again Chuck is reborn. Celebrate!

It must have been hard kicking against the goads, Chuck. Now go forth and praise our New President. You will be like Bob Dylan turned Christian.

Stay tuned.

tcrosse said...

Also missing Taranto will be the folks a Puffington Host and a certain former adviser to Enron.

Marc Puckett said...

And the adolescents at Vox 'the young-adult website' will miss him, too. I wonder how the Facebook group 'Fans of...' will carry on.

TosaGuy said...

For years 3:30ish meant a 15-minute break to read BOTW until the paywall made it a pain in the butt.

Google located my 2006 credit in BOTW where I enlightened Mr. Taranto on some Midwest geography and he turned it into a witty correction.

He undoubtedly is responsible for the renewed use of the word kerfuffle. A fine and exceedingly descriptive word.

If the NYT ran a story on this change to the BOTW column, it would undoubtedly find a way to put it in the narrative "women and minorities hardest hit."

TosaGuy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chuck said...

tcrosse said...
Also missing Taranto will be the folks a Puffington Host and a certain former adviser to Enron.


Oh, touche'!


khesanh0802 said...

Taranto will be missed in this house. I found him a solid thinker, and a writer of succinct prose touched with a wry sense of humor. He has been a joy to read. I looked forward eagerly to his daily posts. Althouse and Taranto have been my sanity keepers over the last 6 months.

ngtrains said...

khesanh0802 said..

I agree with you

DrMaturin said...

Actually, I believe the former Enron adviser hated being called a former Enron adviser. Yet another BOTW contributor here, BTW. I'll bet lots of us are.

TWW said...

Mike Sylvester:

"I read him every day until the pay wall was interposed."

Which give the best indication of how much you valued his opinion.

Like progressives believe, everything is free!

Brent Ayotte said...

Best consistently excellent political column, bar none.

Only 2 guaranteed regular daily reads for this conservative the last 10 years:
Taranto BOTW and Althouse.

robother said...

"Then even he went 'round the bend and became a gold freak."

You mean,, there HAS been a better time to buy gold?

DKWalser said...

I loved James Taranto's Best of the Web and read it virtually every day -- until it was moved behind the pay wall. Then, I only read the column if another blogger linked to something he wrote. But, since he was behind the pay wall, Althouse, Instapundit, and the other blogs I read (in that order) didn't link to him as often as they did in the past.

I wonder how many readers he lost due to the pay wall. Did everyone but me subscribe to the WSJ (or go through the hassle of coming in through the Google back door)? Or, did the WSJ give up a lot of its readers (and potential influence and ad dollars) in exchange for very few additional subscriptions? That's the WSJ's business and they get to make those decisions. In my business, I seldom need the information from the paper's news pages and I was unwilling to pay for the only part I read consistently -- Taranto's column.

Hagar said...

"Really disliking the use of 'we' in that article."

It is the editorial "we" and the appropriate term to use for an editorial columnist.

robother said...

"I was unwilling to pay for the only part I read consistently -- Taranto's column."

Same here. Makes you wonder how that paywall is going to work without even that incentive, now that he's headed to the editorial page, where his quirkiness will be toned down.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

What will we do without James Taranto writing Best of the Web?!

Move on.

Get yourself another clone.

And luxuriate in that 15 minute period were you're just inconsolable.

Henry said...

Just reread the Michael Moore article. It is prescient. He almost lost me when he coupled "everything" with "literally", but that's just a tic he can't help.

I really liked this line: Finally, do not discount the electorate’s ability to be mischievous...

In Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, Shunryu Suzuki writes (my emphasis):

Even though you try to put people under some control, it is impossible. You cannot do it. The best way to control people is to encourage them to be mischievous. Then they will be in control in its wider sense. To give your sheep or cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him. So it is with people: first let them do what they want, and watch them. This is the best policy. To ignore them is not good; that is the worst policy. The second worst is trying to control them. The best one is to watch them, just to watch them, without trying to control them.

That is how Trump won. He encouraged people to be mischievous. He gave his supporters space.

* * *

The passage I quote comes from an essay in which Suzuki explains the Buddhist principle that all life is suffering:

Whatever we see is changing, losing its balance. The reason everything looks beautiful is because it is out of balance, but its background is always in perfect harmony.... But if you understand the background of existence, you realize that suffering itself is how we live, and how we extend our life.

Static Ping said...

Chuck: Good show!

I was regular reader of Best of the Web until it went behind the paywall. I did miss it.

As for Michael Moore, Michael is not stupid. He's unpleasant, corrupt, and dishonest, but not stupid. If he was stupid, no one would have heard of him.

Hagar said...

I have seen an occasional typo in Taranto's column when his fingers went too fast and it was not caught, but never a misuse of the English language. However, like Madame Chiang, he shows off his knowledge of abstruse terms more than is necessary.

John Scott said...

Not a bad career path for a High School and College drop-out.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

James Taranto. Thomas Sowell.

Well, we're already seeing a larger number of stories about the Homeless, the downtrodden, and the oppressed in America. Gotta keep them pages and that airtime filled.

Meade said...

@Henry, astute connection of Moore's to Suzuki's pearls of wisdom.

tim in vermont said...

Moore made Nate Silver look pretty stupid, but Trump is not a sociopath, and Hillary is not "whip smart." She isn't even as smart as Michael Moore, who can't figure out when he should stop eating hamburgers.

FullMoon said...

World Ends, Etc.


traditionalguy said...

The born again Chuck is reborn. Celebrate!

MikeR said...

Guessing right doesn't make someone brilliant. Trump won by a percent or so in a few battleground states. If any of a dozen things hadn't happened, he could easily have lost by a percent or so instead. Adams, Moore, etc. do get credit for recognizing an important thing about the American electorate, something that a lot of fools in the media missed - that was brilliant. They don't get credit for claiming they knew an outcome that was actually really close; no one can smell the penumbra from a 51% victory as opposed to a 49% defeat.
If Clinton had won, that wouldn't have made the fools brilliant either. They would still be fools who were sure of something that was merely probable.
The ones who got the election right were the folks at 538: Clinton was ahead in the polls, but only a little. She could have won, and Trump could have won.

tim in vermont said...

"Guessing right doesn't make someone brilliant."

If he called one thing, I would agree with you, but he called a lot of things that happened.

" Trump won by a percent or so in a few battleground states."

This is the kind of statistical stupidity that just gets to me. He won a lot of counties that were similar in character in and out of those battleground states. Places like Upstate New York, for example, where the state was never in doubt, but Trump carried a certain kind of voter there. You can't draw a strict border around just the "battleground" states and grouse about how a "hundred thousand votes decided the election." The movement in the electorate showed up there, sure, like a big fish in shallow water. But you can't say that if you just snipped off the parts of that fish that showed above water, the fish wouldn't exist. In order to snuff that lead in those states, Hillary would have had to draw a national vote much higher than just her total plus 100K.

But if you are too stupid or butt hurt to see that, I guess trying to catch you up on numeracy you never acquired is a fool's errand.

johns said...

Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead!

James Taranto is still at the Wall Street Journal, but moves to a new editorial job, since his BOTW column was getting a little stale. He will be missed. Possibly due to the Roe Effect, there will be no more James Tarantos to replace him. Or is that a question no one is asking?

Big Mike said...

Michael Moore got three things right, one clearly wrong, and one probably wrong.

He was right about the four Rust Belt states.

He was correct that Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate. She lied when she didn't have to because mendacity is her default mode. Personally corrupt. So technologically out of it she has to have assistants print her Emails. Was there anything about her to respect. Well, yes, if you thought the US wasn't fighting enough wars you might point to Libya as the crowning achievement of her career.

He was right about depressed Bernie voters. Some voted for Jill Stein, some for the stoner, and some left the presidential ballot blank, but most probably voted unenthusiastically for Hillary. I suspect enough stayed home (hurting downballot candidates) to not only give the presidency to Trump but also return Ron Johnson and otherwise vulnerable first time Congressmen to Capitol Hill.

He was wrong, sort of, about male sexism as a factor. 53% of white women voted against Hillary. Why? Because women have husbands and sons and are tired of seeing the males they love being dumped on. One woman of my acquaintance had her son falsely accused by a drunken co-ed of rape at a party -- a woman he didn't know and hadn't had sex with. It didn't get to the university review board because the woman sobered up enough to understand that she had had consensual sex with a different man. That woman blames the Democrats for creating a hostile anti-male environment at the University of Virginia, and she'll vote Dumbocrat like never again.

Gabriel said...

@tim in vermont:This is the kind of statistical stupidity that just gets to me.

It isn't stupid, because of the Electoral College.

In order to snuff that lead in those states, Hillary would have had to draw a national vote much higher than just her total plus 100K.

Hillary's lead was not national. That's kind of the point. She won the popular vote by blowing away California. People in different states vote differently. Electoral College again.

SukieTawdry said...

Taranto's greatest talent for me personally is his facility for approaching a subject from an angle I might not have considered. And his Byekus were just the best!

Big Mike said...

And the last point, I can picture voters pulling the lever for a third party candidate to say "a pox on both your houses" when both major parties nominate bad candidates. But not when 70% or more think the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Gabriel said...

@tim in vermont: Suppose a team wins the World Series 4 - 3, with the tie-breaking game decided by one run.

Well, it would be perfectly legitimate to say the World Series came down to that one run. It would not make much sense to say the losing team would have had to win many more runs in the other six games to overcome the one run they lost the deciding game by, because each game is different.

DKWalser said...

...he shows off his knowledge of abstruse terms more than is necessary.

I know what you mean, but part of the enjoyment many of got out of reading his columns was his use of $64 words when 25-centers would have sufficed. In another context, I would have found it annoying. However, I thought it fit well with the tongue-in-cheek tone of his column. Besides, I enjoy (occasionally) being driven to the dictionary to look up an unfamiliar word.

Simon Kenton said...

"I know what you mean, but part of the enjoyment many of got out of reading his columns was his use of $64 words when 25-centers would have sufficed."

How about, "Since the election, the MSM have gone spodomantic."

Got a good beat, and it's easy to dance to...

JaimeRoberto said...

Did the cascade of horribles fall from the basket of deplorables?

Sebastian said...

"a cascade of horribles" Aleppo, Nice, . . .

holdfast said...

@Chuck

You forgot Jason Riley. I can only assume that race was a factor

: )

David said...

Blast From The Past:

"1938 was a horrible year. Just horrible. So glad it's over."

(Not original from me but worth repeating.)

Michael K said...

Quayle beat me to it about the mouse in his pocket.

"Really disliking the use of 'we' in that article." an affectation.

Since the Murdoch kids have taken over the WSJ it has begun to drift left. Conquest's second law.

I have hopes that Taranto will reverse that drift. I have been a subscriber for 40 years or more. I don't even read the front page much anymore.

Birches said...

We were driving yesterday and so I didn't get to the internet until evening and saw the last column after dinner. I was probably sadder than I should have been. Honestly, I felt like he died. I hope the op ed pages will end up having his fingerprints all over them. Taranto and Althouse are my go tos every day.

tim in vermont said...

Gabriel, your argument is nonsense because we are not talking about baseball and small numbers,but millions of votes.

But like I said,explaining it to someone who refuses to understand it is a waste of my time.

exiledonmainstreet said...

"Really disliking the use of 'we' in that article." an affectation."

Taranto has employed the editoral "we" ever since he began writing BOTW.

I stopped reading him when the paywall went up. Since I already get the dead tree version of the WSJ at work, subscribing to the online one seemed too extravagant. But I missed BOTW a great deal (the comments were also great fun) and a few weeks ago, I was actually considering subscribing despite the cost. Now I see no reason to.

Kirk Parker said...

"... to the editorial page, where his quirkiness will be toned down."

That remains to be seen.

Zach said...

Taranto consistently pulled off the toughest trick in online journalism: he could make fun of people without being mean, and could go back and forth between humor and serious points.

Zach said...

There's no substitute for wit in writing; a half-wit just isn't the same.

AReasonableMan said...

Michael K said...
I don't even read the front page much anymore.


Because factual information interferes with my world view.

Gabriel said...

@tim in vermont:Gabriel, your argument is nonsense because we are not talking about baseball and small numbers,but millions of votes.

Votes in California do not affect votes in Michigan. If Hillary had got another 10 million or 100 million Californian votes she would not have got Michigan. California and Michigan are different populations and they each had their own, independent election.

Math works on small numbers just as well as large numbers, and small numbers can be described statistically. But that's not the point. The World Series is awarded on games won, and games are awarded by runs, and the team with more runs can lose the series. The Electoral College is awarded on state Electoral College votes, which are awarded by state popular votes, and the candidate with more popular votes can lose the Electoral College. The analogy is mathematically identical, but the numbers involved are different.

Gabriel said...

@AReasonableMan:Because factual information interferes with my world view.

If you're looking for factual information, the front page is not generally the place.

John Studer said...

"The World Series is awarded on games won, and games are awarded by runs, and the team with more runs can lose the series. The Electoral College is awarded on state Electoral College votes, which are awarded by state popular votes, and the candidate with more popular votes can lose the Electoral College. The analogy is mathematically identical, but the numbers involved are different."

Very good brief explanation.

The 1960 World Series is perhaps the best analogy. The Yankees outscored the Pirates 55-27 while losing the series in seven games. Simple.

John Studer said...

"(Salena Zito is the one who wrote "Taking Trump Seriously, Not Literally" in The Atlantic (back in September).)

ADDED: I went back and reread Michael Moore's "5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win." That's from back in July. Really brilliant."

Agree 100%. John Kass also nailed it. http://host.madison.com/wsj/opinion/column/john-kass-hillary-clinton-can-t-win-because-she-s/article_4ad86c55-1f26-5484-93ee-4caee54675fe.html