Things I Don't Understand

Why would Joan Walsh go on O'Reilly?

UPDATE: Per comments. Walsh explains:

I was surprised when so many people I respect told me not to appear on "The O'Reilly Factor." I'd attacked Bill O'Reilly for his jihad against Dr. George Tiller, and he asked me on to discuss my "accusations." I thought that was fair. I could explain my point of view to his face; to say no felt like being a punk. But smart and supportive friends, family, co-workers, Twitterers and media stars all over the country reached out and suggested I skip it.

I thought about it, but not for long. I like doing TV. I'm not terrible at it. I criticized him, I should have the guts to repeat it to his face

I think the logic of "I ain't no punk" has to be very selectively applied, when your over 25. This is coming from someone who lived by that logic in his younger years. But as you age, the instances where "I ain't no punk" becomes useful are few and far between.

Writers are particularly prone to "I ain't no punk"-ism. In the extreme, you see Norman Mailer and Stanley Crouch. But, in the main, we want to prove to people that we're not effete bespectacled eggheads, hiding behind our reports. We don't want people thinking we're afraid of a fight.

I don't know. Having been a few actual fights in my early years (and ran from a lot more), having knuckled up with some fools who weren't gonna talk you to death (and ran from a lot more), I find the notion of a shout-fest with O'Reilly (or anyone who talks for a living) as a mark of courage to be dubious.

When I was 14, I threatened a teacher, and got arrested, trying to prove I wasn't no punk.  When I was 16, I got smacked in the head with a trash can, by a kid who, himself, was trying to show that he wasn't no punk. I've got nothing left to prove. And I know how it all ends. Stupidly.


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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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