08/19/2007 04:19 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Learning to Loathe Yourself: Peggy Noonan and How To Be a Conservative Pundit

Chaucer, like I need to tell you, says you have to take the rough with the smooth. And that's how I've always felt about the Wall Street Journal. You get to read some of the best reporting on Earth, and the price is an editorial page that appears to be reprinted from the walls of padded cells, and originally composed in the excrement of its authors.

The roughage with the smooth. It's a little like buying Playboy for the articles, but instead of also getting pictures of naked girls, some trust fund scumbag lectures you about meritocracy.

It's like Cracker Jack, only instead of a prize with your popcorn, you get a human thumb.

I accept that. The way, in The History Boys, the students don't mind that their favorite teacher also molests them.

I guess I could also just skip that section.

But if you only read the Journal for the uncrazy, fact-based parts, you miss things like Friday's column by Peggy Noonan. And you don't get to enjoy writing like:

"Suddenly an armored British army vehicle slowly rounded the corner..."

("And when did you first notice this sudden/slow vehicle, Mrs. Noonan?" "Why, one fine day in the middle of the night, your honor.")

(I mean, sweet heaven, that's awful.)

But I should let her finish. (She's talking about Northern Ireland in the '80s.)

"Suddenly an armored British army vehicle slowly rounded the corner, and the street came alive with kids pouring out of houses, grabbing the heavy metal lids of garbage bins, and smashing them against the pavement...

A woman came out. She was 35 or 40, her short hair standing up, uncombed. It was late afternoon, but she was in an old robe, and you could tell it was the robe she lived in. She stood there and smirked as the soldiers went by...

And I thought: Those kids banging the lids on the pavement, they are going to wind up like her...

They would grow up and assign their misery to outside forces. The boy humiliated because he's never sent to school with a clean shirt will turn that into 'Britain Get Out of Ireland.'"

See? That's why you have to read the opinion pages, too. If you only read "facts" you could waste your time with 400 years of Irish history since the Battle of the Boyne. When it's actually all about laundry. Blah-blah-blah, the Easter Uprising and William of Orange. The real problem with the Irish is that their mothers don't get their whites very white.

It's not Bloody Sunday. It's mom not getting the bloodstains out.

Also notice how Noonan can see a tank and a woman and side with the tank because she doesn't like the look on the woman's face. Arrogantly standing there, enjoying... well, poverty I guess. Some gals have all the luck.

Where does Messyhair McBathrobe get off, sneering at that poor armored car? Why doesn't she get a job? And why'd she have all those kids? I'm almost sorry that Peggy had to see that, since it's obviously left scars.

But that's the kind of first-person insight you miss, if you only read the WSJ for news. Take it from Margaret Ellen Noonan, there's nothing more inherently disgusting than an Irish Catholic woman.

And then it struck me, suddenly, like a slow-moving vehicle: That's how you get a job as a conservative pundit. Figure out what makes you different from a white, male, protestant businessman, and hate your own guts for it.

If you're black, hate civil rights. If you're a woman, hate feminism. If you grew up poor, despise the poor. If you're a visible minority, demand more profiling. If you're gay, say you're cured. If you're Jewish, praise anti-Semites, if you're Christian, praise war. If you're Michelle Malkin... I don't know where you start with your problems if you're Michelle Malkin.

Just take a good, long look in the mirror, and ask yourself: Who am I? And how am I failing to be Neil Bush?

If you're Peggy Noonan, start with hating everyone else, but with sudden slowness work back to yourself.

I know I'm supposed to be outraged about Rupert Murdoch buying the Journal, but the good thing is he'll probably cut the news parts, and expand the mean, crazy rants about people who don't know their place. (For one thing, they're cheaper to produce.) And then no one will have to read it anymore.


Essay Question/Compare and Contrast

Peggy Noonan sees her Irish woman, and it makes her realize that the poor are always blaming someone else for their problems and there's nothing to do about terrorists but kill their parents.

In The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell also sees a nameless woman for a fleeting instant but it makes him think something else:

"At the back of one of the houses a young woman was kneeling on the stones, poking a stick up the leaden waste-pipe which ran from the sink inside and which I suppose was blocked. I had time to see everything about her--her sacking apron, 
her clumsy clogs, her arms reddened by the cold.... She had a round pale face, the usual exhausted face of the slum girl who is twenty-five and 
looks forty, thanks to miscarriages and drudgery; and it wore, for the 
second in which I saw it, the most desolate, hopeless expression I have
ever seen.

It struck me then that we are mistaken when we say that "It isn't the same for them as it would be for us," and that people bred in the 
slums can imagine nothing but the slums. For what I saw in her face was not 
the ignorant suffering of an animal. She knew well enough what was happening to her--understood as well as I did how dreadful a destiny it was to be kneeling there in the bitter cold, on the slimy stones of a slum backyard, poking a stick up a foul drain-pipe."

Orwell's woman makes him think that maybe we're all bound by a basic humanity. Whereas Peggy Noonan focuses on her woman's clothes.

Who's right?


An Apology in Advance to Peggy Noonan:

Don't be thrown by the phrase "fleeting instant." "Fleeting" means fast.