Today, the Washington Post’s Sunday “Outlook” section ran a piece in which Lawrence Downes, formerly of the New York Times editorial board, boasts about feeding books by Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Laura Ingraham, and other conservative authors to worms. Downes says he purchases these books on sale from his public library. He then takes them home for “quarantine.” In this way, he prevents people who might want to buy and read the books from doing so.
For extra pleasure, Downes has taken to putting the books in a compost bin along with coffee grounds, potato and carrot peels, etc. and feeding the pages to worms. He seems to believe that doing so is different in nature from burning the books. He’s right. Taking into account the pleasure Downes gets and his desire to write about the experience, it’s sicker.
Downes, as you might already have concluded, is a piece of work. His beat at the Times was immigration. In Losing Control, a book I discussed here, Jerry Kammer describes Downes’ work as notable for its stridency and lack of perspective. Says Kammer:
[Downes coverage] made no room for the moral complexity that roiled Arizona civic life as illegal immigration surged early the the new millennium. It illustrated why Daniel Okrent, the Times’ first public editor and in-house critic, wrote. . .that the editorial page was “thoroughly saturated in liberal theology.”
Downes reduced the story [in Arizona] to a Manichean struggle between strumming Mariachis who represented the forces of light and snarling Minutemen who represented the forces of darkness. . .In a single condescending sentence Downes shot down [a store owner’s] claim to be protecting customers from harassment [by pro illegal immigration protesters]. “Mr. Reza calls that ridiculous,” he approvingly reported. . . .
Making no attempt to moderate his righteous contempt, he claimed that restrictionists yearned for a time when immigration laws were enforced and “the Mexicans disappear and everything gets pure and legal again.” He observed no one like the man who caught the ear of [a reporter for the Arizona Republic] with his defense of the protesters. “None of these people is against immigration,” he said. “We have laws in this country, bud. There’s a proper way to enter this country.
As he was writing his book, Kammer asked Downes for an interview. Downes spoke with Kammer by telephone, but refused to go on the record.
It’s not surprising that a shrill ideologue like Downes gets his kicks from destroying books by authors he doesn’t like. Sadly, it’s also not surprising that the Washington Post turned over space in its once excellent “Outlook” section to this unhinged leftist for a celebration of book destruction.