Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

From An Angry Reader:

Victor David Hanson, you’d sweep the table. Your post-tweet Presidency column entry tops all possible contenders in its unique blend of so-bad-its-good upending suspension of logic and unearned laudatory excess that the academy is bereft of adequate means of expression to honor its achievements.

 Perhaps its heaps and heaps of praises could be stacked in a pyre with the rest of your journalistic output in the same vein, your reputation placed on top, and the whole saccharine malodorous pile set ablaze.

That guy with your name who writes those sober and sane books and historical studies must daily be abashed at being confused for you.

 Paul Freedman

Vienna, VA

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Dear Angry Reader Paul Freedman,

 

Davis not David—not a good start. Whoa—slow down: your vocabulary and syntax of outrage have stampeded.

To write an effective Angry Reader letter, you must be specific and give examples, rather than start out with “you’d sweep the table” boilerplate. What then follows is mostly generic hyperbole without references or examples.

I made a simple argument: 1) Trump so far had defied expert opinion in using Twitter, sometimes crudely, for political advantage; 2) But after 10 months in office he has achievements (good economy, recalibrated foreign policy, likely tax reform, good appointments [especially judicial], soaring energy production, and deregulation; 3) Consequently, while Twitter is effective in reaching millions to convey his messages, he need not joust one-on-one with individual journalists and celebrities, but rather let his record and improving economy speak for itself and not be impaired by rhetoric distractions.

What, then, exactly is under dispute?—Has the stock market tanked, GDP fallen to past levels, consumer and business confidence crashed, unemployment risen? What exactly did you feel was not accurate and could be refuted with your own evidence?

But instead of rational rebuttal, you offer cumbersome and incoherent metaphors of rage (e.g., what exactly is the image conveyed of “journalistic output” and “my reputation” consisting of some sort of “pile” that in turn is “saccharine” (artificially sweet) but also “malodorous” (stinks) and yet combustible to boot? What a mess of a metaphor. And why as an adult do you descend to incoherent fiery imagery of burning up something (or someone?) with whom you disagree?

The article that you object to is actually constructive (but perhaps unwelcome) advice to Trump to cease ad hominem twittering.

In political commentary, I try to ensure three things that you apparently are oblivious about: offer examples to support an assertion, be clear rather than incoherent, and avoid ad hominem invective.

And as a historian and philologist I try to be inductive, not start with a preconceived notion, even if empiricism results in praising those with whose politics I might disagree or criticizing figures I otherwise admire (e.g., an often duplicitous and neo-socialist FDR was a brilliant wartime leader; good men like Omar Bradley and Mark Clark often made disastrous decisions; a sober and judicious George Marshall’s idea of a cross-Channel invasion in 1943 would have been an utter disaster; a rude and often arrogant Alan Brooke, chief of the British Imperial Staff, often offered wise if unwelcome strategic advice to his more polite and generous American counterparts, etc.).

Victor Hanson

Selma, CA

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

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