Margaret Wente: not so provocative, after all.

It’s true that Margaret Wente, who writes a column in the Blog and Lame, Canada’s National Paper of Record, receives her share of opprobrium from the chattering classes. No one likes her except crackpots and fascists, for whom she seems to be giving voice. Even her niece, also named Margaret, was advised to change her name in order to travel safely in Newfoundland (after Wente the elder smeared the province in a column last year).

Wente likes salaciousness and inuendo, she loves to shock; she’s nurtured a reputation as the Globe’s bad girl: she does everything wrong, she’s–gasp–politically incorrect.

We feel sorry for her: her tottering high heels and her miniskirt, her puckered thighs. If she were a man we’d be more accepting, come to think of it. She’d make an acceptable aging transvestite.

But what we feel is not important.

It’s the facts that will out, with Margaret Wente.

Wente wrote a column in the paper last week that started out in a predictable manner: she’s driving her car to her exercise class on a smog alert, while rationalizing her behaviour because public transit is inconvenient.

For Wente, this about sums up her evidence that “The war against the car will never succeed” but she goes on. And on.

Big whup. What’s worth writing about here? After all, Wente loves her car, loves traffic, loves the “freedom” the ads tell her is hers (because she bought it: it came with her keyless ignition). She’s written about all this before.

For Wente, the story turns this time on the claim that it’s faster to get places by car than transit, despite the secondary claim that “Transit subsidies are hugely greater than any subsidies to the automobile” (a quote Wente attributes to one Peter Gordon, “a California professor of planning and economics”).

Margaret Wente extrapolates her claim to describe her own personal utopia: cars everywhere, 24 hours a day.

Well, we said she was “politically incorrect.”

But is she provocative?

Not really. Well, it’s true we did respond with a letter to her paper. In a technical sense, we were provoked.

But what got to us was not Wente’s thoughts or opinion: she’s welcome to her loony fringe views.

What got to us was our friends, who asked us how we could let such bitterness and gall go unchallenged. And then, as we examined Wente’s spurious claims in greater detail, what got to us was her lazy journalism, sloppy research, and absent ethics.

Sigh. Okay, we were a little provoked.

In our response we suggested readers might want to look a little more deeply into Wente’s scholarship. We pointed out that the Peter Gordon quote is not even original reporting on Wente’s part, but is taken verbatim from the website of “Reason” magazine, in an interview with Gordon in 1998. That this fact is not disclosed by Wente borders on plagiarism. Without question it is sloppy, for it suggests she conducted the interview herself, and it hides the fact that the statement is so last century.

Has anything changed in eight years?

Apparently not, for Wente.

In our letter, we suggested the Globe’s readers might want to look at the Peter Gordon interview themselves, and we provided the link.

What we suggested was that they look a little further along in the interview though, where the following exchange occurs:

Reason: How are you perceived in the planning community? Are you on the fringe?
Gordon: I’m at the edge of the fringe.

As we put it to the Globe editor: “Hmm. Very nice. Thank you, Margaret Wente. You have given those of us who live by the adage “I’d rather bike to a restaurant than drive to the gym!” reason to relax. Clearly, our struggle is almost over.”

Now, it’s true our letter was not published, but several others were: all of them examples of wit and intelligence, clear writing and factual relevance: words you almost never hear in the context of a post about Margaret Wente.

So maybe god put her on this earth for a purpose after all.

One Response to “Margaret Wente: not so provocative, after all.”


    Now it turns out that margaret wente has inspired a "watch" blob, over at According to Zerbisias, it's run by one Tyrone Nicholas, and was started in reaction to Wente's slander against African men in a recent column.

    Zerbisias comes across as jealous, with her title "Oh please, start one about me!" but is spot on about Wente: "She must be doing something right to have all these people pissed off at her." That's all the newspaper editors care about: has she outraged anyone today? And the fact is, you can't open the damn glob and mule without finding a letter to the editor responding to some fleck of foam from Wente's mouth pen.

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