Un-Conventional Wisdom
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A Night at the Opera: Politicized for Your Protection

It's off to the opera for me again on Saturday night, joining my father for a performance of the Los Angeles Opera's mounting of the David Hockney-designed production of Richard Strauss' Die Frau ohne Schatten.

I expected to write something up after seeing the performance (as I did with an earlier production here), but L.A. Observed is reporting some remarkable journalistic hubbub arising from a zealous copy editor's rewrite of Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed's review. Kevin Roderick reports:

Here's why reporters want newspaper corrections to make clear that an editor is at fault for an error introduced to their copy. Last week, the L.A. Times' Mark Swed filed a review of the opera "Die Frau Ohne Schatten" at the Music Center. He wrote that the Richard Strauss epic is "an incomparably glorious and goofy pro-life paean..." But when it ran in the paper, pro-life had been changed to anti-abortion.

The entire story is worth reading: there are corrections, corrections of corrections, internal memoranda complaining about the corrections . . . it soon begins to resemble the joke in the opening credits of Monty Python & the Holy Grail:

"The persons responsible for sacking the persons responsible have been sacked."

A similar tin ear was in evidence over the weekend in the Times' Sunday Book Review, though there's no way to tell whether this one is the work of an editor or of the writer. In the midst of his review of a new book on the subject of Washington's Crossing of the Delaware [this review is most likely hidden behind the Times' irritating pay wall], University of Colorado professor Fred Anderson provides some historical background. We join General Washington as he and his troops regroup following their ouster from the island of Manhattan:

Fortunately for Washington, the situation was not completely hopeless. Thomas Paine's newspaper series, "The American Crisis," with its famous denunciation of "the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot" and its appeal to stand by the cause of independence in "the times that try men's souls," had begun to counter the defeatist spirit. Moreover, the occupation troops in New Jersey had largely ignored Howe's orders forbidding looting and the abuse of civilians. As reports of rape and plunder spread, armed individuals and small groups began to waylay patrols and foraging parties. Resistance became more organized in mid-December, climaxing in twin uprisings — one in the countryside north of Trenton and the other to the south — and a series of raids across the Delaware by Pennsylvania militiamen.

Washington had had no part in directing this intifada but recognized an opportunity when he saw one and began planning to cross back into New Jersey on Christmas night with what was left of his Continentals, in order to attack the Hessian garrison at Trenton. . . .

Stop the presses, sweetheart; get me rewrite!


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