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The Hackiest Hacks of 2011

Salon's Alex Pareene doesn't know me, but for the second year running he has given me a terrific Christmas present: the Hack List, his roundup of the worst political analysts and commentators in the business. Last year it was called the Hack Thirty, and I posted about it here. This year there are just twenty hacks named, with a focus on their doings in 2011. Some names (like David Brooks) appear again; others from last year who didn't make the cut are included in an appendix: "Hack List Alums: Where Are They Now?" Pareene builds a strong case against each honoree. He's merciless, and hilarious. My favorite of this year's takedowns was number 5, Katie Roiphe, who, he noted, has gained attention once again "for being a reliable source of controversial-sounding contrarian anti-feminist bullshit" who "also writes very badly about the Internet and people on the Internet who are mean to Katie Roiphe." Also very deserving is number 3, who inspires this cheering observation: "One upside to Americas frothing populist hatred of intellectuals is that we dont produce many Bernard-Henri Levys."

(I love the present, but not the wrapping - Salon always manages to make it difficult for me to find the things I want to read, and impossible to find them again. Right now I can't find an easy way to link to more than the first five "hacks." I imagine they'll fix that eventually, but for now I recommend going to the list of Pareene's posts, finding the "earlier articles" link at the bottom, and moving backward that way.)

As a bonus, Pareene offers a reminder that the late Christopher Hitchens "was disastrously wrong" about the Iraq War, and his death shouldn't prevent us from acknowledging that. His take on Hitchens is not a eulogy, but seems entirely on-target to me.

About the Author

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.



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I'm all for making fun of as many people as much as possible, but some of the writers on this list seem more like "has beens" than "hacks"--e.g., Cohen, Broder, (who, to be fair, was only a hack through March, when he died), and Will. To qualify as a hack, I think you should have to show a lifelong inability to write anything imaginative or fresh. Isn't it kind of early to call Tucker Carlson a hack? He's only just getting over being William F. Buckley's toy poodle.Plus, a has-been might have been good once, but has simply fallen into hackdom because, like somebody's grampa, likes retelling his favorite stories and opinions. As someone pushing 60, I understand this urge better than I wish I did.And, let's not underestimate the value of a "good hack writer," as a co-worker used to call the editor of our paper, sotto voce. He wasn't imaginative, but he could fill an op-ed page on deadline, and he always got the facts straight and could marshall a logical argument.

Pareene illustrates hacky writing: ". . . hosting salons and drunken parties at his Washington, D.C., apartment that some of the most powerful and prominent people in the world of politics and media attended. But his most monumental public crusade had devastating consequences that he never fully grappled with."---------1) How does Pareene know who went to Hitchens' "salons and drunken parties"? Is he among or envious of "the most powerful and prominent people in the world of . . . media"?2) What "devastating consequences" did Hitchens' "monumental public crusade" have? Did anyone become an atheist or a Christian because of Hitchens?3) Why is Hitchens' death causing such an eruption of spite (and adjectives)? Does it demonstrate Hitchens' point about Christians?

2) What devastating consequences did Hitchens monumental public crusade have? Did anyone become an atheist or a Christian because of Hitchens?He's talking about Hitchens's support for the Iraq War ...

Thanks, John. If only Christopher Hitchens had opposed the Iraq war, things would have been different.

The Bernard-Henri Levy and Katie Katie Roiphe bits are spot on.

Imho, some of those people are easy targets. Roiphe, for one, and Jonah Goldberg, for another. Does mocking fish in a barrel inoculate the mocker from him/herself being called a hack? Hitchens' death should not "prevent us from acknowledging" that he was wrong about some things/people and right about some things/people. I think some Catholics (like Bill Donohue) dislike him for writing about Mother Teresa.Wiki article about his book on Mother Teresa: Amazon page for the book and the interesting customer reviews of it:

Y'all taking this seriously.

Abe: Aren't they though? I forgot to also call attention to number 11, Bill Keller. The line about "obtuse old man yells at cloud computing" left me marveling.

That link isn't working for me, for some reason, but that's what I was marveling at -- to sum up Keller's out-of-touch commentary on the Web with a Simpsons-reference-turned-Internet-meme that Keller almost certainly wouldn't get is just beautiful.

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