Here’s a little game for you on this post-holiday Tuesday. See if you can identify which phrases, taken from New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt’s column this weekend, describe Times journalists—and which describe bloggers.

1. “those outside”
A. bloggers
B. Times journalists

2. “ready to pounce on transgressions by Times journalists”
A. bloggers
B. Times journalists

3. “aflame with charges of plagiarism”
A. bloggers
B. Times journalists

4. “burned to illuminate a national crisis through his personal experience”
A. bloggers
B. Times journalists

5. “the star columnist”
A. bloggers
B. Times journalists

6. “roughed up”
A. bloggers
B. Times journalists

7. “the ethics police”
A. bloggers
B. Times journalists

Answers: 1-A, 2-A, 3-A, 4-B, 5-B

Questions 6 and 7 aren’t as simple to answer, though. Question 6, because “roughed up,” while the surprisingly flippant phrase technically refers to Mainstream Journalist Maureen Dowd and the plagiarism controversy that swirled around her last week, is actually a dig at…bloggers. And, more broadly, “the Internet.” (Full quote: “Maureen Dowd, another star columnist, was roughed up on the Internet for using a paragraph from a blogger without attribution.”)

Question 7, for its part, is murky for an entirely different reason: “the ethics police” ostensibly refers, in irony-laden ombudsmanese, to “the bloggers” and the “reporters in California” who brought Times journalists’ ethical transgressions to light: TPM contributor Joshua, The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle, and the San Francisco Chronicle’s Phil Matier and Andy Ross—each of whom Hoyt’s column treats with the soft bigotry of anonymity. And yet—murky, murky—“the ethics police,” as a phrase, comes courtesy of the person who’s supposed to be, on behalf of the Times and its readers…the ethics police. (Full quote: “It has been a busy week or two for the ethics police—those within The Times trying to protect the paper’s integrity, and those outside, ready to pounce on transgressions by Times journalists.”)

Let’s leave aside the fact that Hoyt’s column vastly underplays the transgressions in question within it—MoDowd’s, in particular. (After a quick, he-said/she-said summary of the scandal, Hoyt declares: “I do not think Dowd plagiarized, but I also do not think what she did was right….If the words are not hers, she must give credit.” And then he moves on.) To my mind, there’s an even bigger problem in Hoyt’s column than the particularities of its conclusions: its assumption—and, thus, its enforcement—of an oppositional relationship between Times reporters and…everyone else. (Blogosphere? “Aflame with charges of plagiarism.” Times reporter? “Burned to illuminate a national crisis through his personal experience.” Yeesh—talk about fire in a crowded theater.)

The public editor is engaging, in all this, in a peculiar brand of institutional defensiveness. One that plays itself out via divisiveness—and via, in particular, a false dichotomy that aggrandizes Times reporters and dismisses those who are not. In particular, those nagging, nattering bloggers. (Outsiders! Pouncers! Rougher-uppers!) And he does so right in his lede: there are those “within” the Times, “trying to protect the paper’s integrity”…and then there are those “outside” it, “ready to pounce on transgressions by Times journalists.”

In other words: Clark Hoyt, meet John Milton. (How conveniently good-versus-evil! How delightfully Paradise Lost!) Out of the realm of possibility, of course, in the column’s rather ridiculously reductive binary, is the chance that “those outside” might be “ready to pounce” precisely because they’re trying to protect the paper’s integrity.

It should go without saying—but apparently, it needs saying nonetheless—that the strain of weirdly defensive, us-versus-them thinking that permeates Hoyt’s column this weekend helps nobody—least of all, the Times itself. On the contrary: such thinking represents all too well the protective, entitled, wagon-circling attitude that so many people resent about the Times—and about mainstream journalism more generally.

Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.