I wrote back in early February this piece recounting my glee at reading Rick Mercer's oped basically ripping Noreen Golfman into teeny, tiny little pieces. This was Noreen's original piece. I haven't been able to find her defence after Mercer tore her apart. The Independent doesn't have it online and I haven't been able to find it reprinted elsewhere.
Why am I mentioning this now, six weeks later? Well, because there is a follow-up. Macleans did a fairly sympathetic story on what Golfman's life has been like since Mercer attacked her. Ryan Cleary did a piece in the March 9 Independent defending what she said. Both point out that Golfman has been under particularly vicious attack since Mercer's piece ran. And it only takes a quick Google search using "Noreen Golfman" and "Rick Mercer" to find many blogs commenting on and that most of the comments are exceedingly negative towards Golfman. Some of have taken it further, with Golfman claiming to have received harassing phone calls and threats.
Cleary defends Golfman, which isn't much of a surprise. You're not much of an editor if you don't stand up and defend your writers unless they're complete nutjobs (it's not without precedent that an editor has hired a columnist and later discovered he or she was insane). I think he makes errors in his defence. For example, I suspect that many of the letter writers didn't miss the point of defending Canadian troops who are trying to defend freedom in Afghanistan by writing letters ripping Golfman. They understood and appreciated the chance to state in no uncertain terms that they don't think much of her or her opinion. I always found that to be a bit of a week and generic defence, although I'm sure I've probably used it in the past.
And while I don't care for Golfman, I would never go so far to say she's a nutjob. It's also highly unfortunate that she's been subjected to harassment, phone calls and threats.
Understand, I think that every letter ripping her and criticizing her opinion on this matter is justified. I did it on my blog. Mercer did it with his letter (and he didn't miss the point, Ryan. He nailed it with a laser beam like efficiency you rarely see) and hundreds of others have used similar means to say, very strongly, that they didn't like what she wrote, that she was entirely off-base.
If people are willing to take the time to articulately express an opinion (no foaming, cursing, or using vulgar insults), write and sign their name to it, then you better find your spine and deal with it. Either that or stop writing a column. Say what you will about Margaret Wente, and many did, she took the overwhelming scorn from calling Newfoundland "a scenic welfare ghetto" with some spine and dignity. She owned up to what she said and moved on.
Understand, no one should have to put up with abusive phone calls or physical threats and Mercer wisely distances himself from the morons who have engaged in this behaviour. It is unacceptable. If you don't like what someone has to say, then debate them or ignore them. Honestly, the best way to get rid of a columnist you don't like is to not pay attention to them. If editors think that's happening, the columnist will be dumped for someone who generates debate. I wouldn't be surprised if Cleary gave Golfman a raise after the racket she's caused. That's good newspaper sales, right there.
I know I ought to feel bad for Noreen. The personal abuse is uncalled for and wrong. But still...her original oped piece was a vapid, shallow thing. And she's been writing them for years. I haven't read many since I moved up here, but unless she's taken a radical leap forward, I found them boring and smarmy when I was living in town. This time she just had the misfortunate of wandering into a vastly superior writer's crosshairs. I wouldn't mourn her being dropped from The Independent if for no other reason that they could then find a better columnist to replace her.
Not one whose opinions are more palatable or pleasing to me or other readers. Just someone who is more...interesting. And barring any miracle shift in her writing the past year or so it's been a long time since anything Golfman wrote was particularly intelligent and clever.