I missed the Jessica Simpson weight-gain fracas until it showed up in my political blog reading, where it was safely confined to a tidbit about Barack Obama’s boilerplate interview with Matt Lauer. Normally I’m not quite so oblivious, but it’s been a busy couple weeks.

The gates seem to have broken since; the Tribune has a surprisingly ugly little think piece today that’s screwed up from the first sentence: “The famous are fuming over photos of Jessica Simpson that prove the singer is—of all things—human.” 

The photos clearly aren’t the problem, but this is what really got me:

“Actress Carmen Electra and supermodel Heidi Klum also denounced the attention paid to Jessica’s waistline, and the consistently incoherent Paula Abdul described it as ‘damaging to one’s psyche.'”

To begin with, what she said is coherent. Unless you’re aware that Paula Abdul has a reputation for occasional incoherence–she’s a live TV star, not a Faulkner narrator–it makes no sense at all, which is a fatal mistake to make when accusing someone of incoherence. (The dangling, illogical subsequent paragraph, an excuse to shoehorn the president in to the story, only compounds the author’s personal struggle with coherence.)

It’s mean. And worse, it’s cheap. I doubt that Abdul could give a shit what Rex W. Huppke thinks of her affect, but it doesn’t mean there’s no harm done. Enmity is a useful tool in our shared societal self-defense, and I hate to see it dulled just to meet word count.

More importantly, banal hostility dulls the spirit. If occasional or frequent incoherence is deserving of scorn, almost everyone is, and that is a hard way to live. I risk incoherence by saying so, but that sort of offhand cruelty is damaging to the psyche.