I am a “liberal Democrat” who likes to read different perspectives on the many issues facing our country.  I picked up Chronicles to read your article on Rolling Stone’s and Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s egregious misreporting (“UVA: Facts Versus the Left’s Narrative,” News, June), which I’m interested in as a UVA alumna and parent.  When Mr. R. Cort Kirkwood asks, “Who but the editors of Rolling Stone and their gullible left-wing audience would believe such nonsense?  And do even they believe it?,” I’m struck not only by another example of partisan sneering (and yes, everyone’s doing it these days), but by the deep irony of one reporter accusing another of ignoring “Journalism 101.”  Why not just call a liberal Democrat and find out if she cares?  (I do and deeply, by the way.)

Erdely ought to write nothing but fiction, Will Dana ought to be fired, and I’ll never look at Rolling Stone again.  That said, I and so many of my friends and acquaintances continue to be dismayed at the depth of partisanship that taints so much reporting, on all sides and even in book reviews.  Might Dr. Clyde Wilson’s rather sweeping declaration that some sort of “cleansing” is taking place in Southern states be just a tad inflammatory (“A Tale of Two Keys,” Reviews)?  As a democrat and republican, I have absolutely no interest in cleansing anyone from anywhere.

There are liberal narratives, and there are conservative narratives: They’re all getting tired.  It would be wonderful if liberals and conservatives alike could return to intelligent and reasoned debate instead of mudslinging; it only detracts from otherwise very worthy analysis and critique.  Maybe you can start a new trend.

        —Anne Sheerin
via email

Dr. Wilson Replies:

It would indeed be wonderful if U.S. public discourse could “return to intelligent and reasoned debate.”  This is hard to do when you are a target of relentless demonization, but let me know if you find a liberal who is capable of anything other than smug superiority, and I will give it a try.

I am not so sure about the “return” part.  Intelligent and reasoned debate has never been as absent as it is today, but it has not dominated American public discourse since at least “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” in 1840 and Abe Lincoln’s “Vote Yourself a Farm.”  Presumptuous historical ignorance and lack of common sense are so pervasive today as to prevent any genuine debate.  At present, they take the form of egalitarian liberalism.  With a slight change in circumstances the same mass could just as easily become fascists.  They are well on the way.