The Washington Post

James Taranto backtracks on ‘worthy’ tweet

What a tweet last night from the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto:

I hope the girls whose boyfriends died to save them were worthy of the sacrifice.

— James Taranto (@jamestaranto) July 25, 2012

Twitter retaliated with feedback such as “you sir are disgusting.” Appropriate.

What’s noteworthy about this nastiness is Taranto’s attempt to explain it away. In a posting today titled “Heroes of Aurora: A mea culpa for an errant tweet,” he reflects upon the turf from which that thought sprouted. It’s a brilliant tract, almost a guideline for those who get caught tweeting offensive half-thoughts:

We intended this [tweet] to be thought-provoking, but to judge by the response, very few people received it that way.

Factually incorrect here. The tweet provoked tons of thoughts. They just weren’t the sorts of thoughts Taranto was seeking, as he goes on to explain:

The vast majority found it offensive and insulting. This column has often argued that a failure of public communication is the fault of the public communicator, and that’s certainly true in this case. What follows is an attempt to answer for this failure with a circumspect accounting of our thoughts.

The “accounting” boils down to this: The three women who owe their lives to their boyfriends can redeem their heroism by using “the gift of their survival well — to live good, full, happy lives.”

This sounds like a long walk from hoping that they were “worthy,” a statement that, on its face, is loaded with judgment and misanthropy, with a possible sprinkling of misogyny.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.


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