by Diane Brandon  (Page 1 of 3)

( The following letter to the editor of NEWSWEEK was written by Diane Brandon and emailed in on AUGUST 15, 1996 pursuant to the appearance  of two articles, “Soul Searching” and “Alien Invasions” in the July 8 issue of the magazine.)


I have been a subscriber to and reader of Newsweek for approximately 30 years, primarily because I always considered your publication to present good, objective coverage of news in diverse categories.  I always looked to Newsweek to fill in the gaps of electronic media news coverage and to pique my curiosity and give me information in wider news categories, such as science and the arts.


I have, however, been increasingly dismayed over the past few years by a tone of snideness and sarcasm that has crept into the magazine at a growing rate, especially in your “Conventional Wisdom Watch.”


Reading, albeit somewhat belatedly, “Soul Searching” and “Alien Invasions” in the July 8 issue finally pushed me over the top and compelled me to write.


There is a decided tone of derision and sneering that permeates these two articles, especially the latter.  While the former article attempts to present both sides of  the issue, it, too, falls back on subtle sarcasm and superficiality.  (Do we care about people’s wardrobes?)  I would attribute this tone to the writers alone had I not already noted the tendency to derision over the past few years.  It would appear that there has been an editorial policy encouraging this sort of mocking tone in articles covering a wide range of topics.


I find this not only unfortunate, but also disturbing.


Disturbing because this type of sarcasm-based writing reflects an attitude of exclusivity, based on the assumption that the magazine is the arbiter of what is “normal” and acceptable and that “others” not falling within its narrowly defined terms of normal are unacceptable and “beyond the pale.”


Disturbing because this type of sneering humor is sophomoric and represents an immaturity and insensitivity on the part of the writers (and the editorial board) and an ego-based need to look better through bashing or putting down others.


Disturbing because it reminds me of a similar tone I used to hear from racists, bigots, and others inclined to prejudice based on race, handicaps, or other deviations from the “norm.”


Disturbing because this type of exclusivity-based and mocking tone cheapens and debases all of us – and certainly does nothing to further a cohesive society.


How did this type of humor and attitude come to be sanctioned by a publication of Newsweek’s stature?


And, of course, the writers attempt to be as cute as possible in their pursuit of deprecation (e.g., with such not-so-subtle allusions without direct attribution as “…doesn’t channel spirits from The Other Side….” or “…manuals on how to be embraced by the light, or a prophecy of the Celestine variety”).                                                                     (Continued)


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