Roger L. Simon

Playing Freud with Hiltzik

I’m actually feeling a bit sorry for LAT columnist Michael Hiltzik who is undergoing something of a “skimmity ride” (see Thomas Hardy) across the blogosphere and now the mainstream media. For those few who don’t know, the Pulitzer Prize winner was caught posting
on various blogs under fake screen identities excoriating his enemies (fancy talk for calling names). Of course, he isn’t alone in this slightly pathetic enterprise – it’s a fairly common occurrence (happens on here frequently enough). But it is surprising to see that someone with Hiltizk’s bona fides would think he could get away with this – we can trace your IP pretty easily, Michael, often even locate you on the map. It is, however, equally likely that Hiltzik knew this deep down and had the all-too-human desire to shoot himself in the foot (or in this case worse, since his reputation, unlike his foot, will never fully recover).

But why would he do this, Dr. Freud? Well, son, let’s leave the primal issues out of it for the moment. Maybe it’s closer to the surface. Maybe he simply knew that he was wrong and, like a schoolyard bully (threatened child), simply had to lash out. Otherwise, why call Cathy Seipp, in Howard Kurtz’s phraseology, a “tool” and “someone hampered by her own ignorance”? I know Cathy, and while she has her biases like everyone else, she is clearly as far from those accusations as anyone I can think of. But Hiltzik wasn’t thinking. He was lost in his own rage. Did he want to get caught? You decide. On Cathy’s site today, she says she has learned that the LAT is now looking into other signs of possible dishonesty by Hiltzik in the pages of the paper itself. As they say in France, à voir.

UPDATE: There’s a possible irony in all this too. It may be that blogging is more the big leagues than the mainstream media. In blogging, you’re out here on your own. It takes self-discipline that is not as necessary in mainstream venues where you are (sometimes) back-stopped by editors and by the “reputation” of your journal (diminishing though that may be). Perhaps Hiltzik, a relative newcomer to the online world, was simply in over his head.