JUDITH WARNERS DREAM! How bad is the work of the Times liberal pundits? A commenter nailed a dear child: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2009
The major leagues of clarification: Perhaps because Mario Livio is right here in Baltimore, his new book showed up at the Hopkins Barnes and Noble several weeks before Christmas. We thumbed through it there at our leisure. Yesterday, it rated this page-two review in the Posts dying Book World section.
Needless to say, you cant judge a book by its review. But this morning, we re-scanned the review, trying to see if any part of it seemed coherent. Did humans invent mathor did humans discover it? Were not sure the choice makes sensebut were certain that this passage doesnt:
As presented, we dont get it. Would you be surprised to learn that a hydrogen atom behaves the same way in Kansas as it acts in Nebraska? Why, then, would you be surprisedor driven to philosophical turmoilby the passage weve highlighted here?
When physicists and mathematicians start asking themselves questions like this, you will often find yourselves in the major leagues of conceptual confusion (seeking the major leagues of clarification). Yesterday, we went back and looked at Livios book, which you shouldnt necessarily judge by this largely incoherent review. We were struck by a phrase on the books third page (we think). You check it out there: actual reality. Our question for you, if you look at the passage: Does an incoherent claim become clear when you stick the word actual in it?
JUDITH WARNERS DREAM: In recent weeks, it was chic in liberal circles to roll ones eyes at the New York Times columns penned by William Kristol, whom the Times had decided to can. For ourselves, we were puzzled by that Group Reaction, because weve often read the columns penned by New York Times liberals. It what way were Kristols columns less distinguished than those of this sad gang? We didnt see anyone try to explain. Team Players just knew that they were.
How bad is the work of this newspapers liberals? This past Saturday, we marveled at four different columns, starting with this pitiful can of corn by the papers Judith Warner.
How bad does the work of the liberal set get? Lets start with this undergrown tangle.
Warner, you see, had just had a dream in which Barack Obama, the American president, presented himself in her shower. (More specifically, the president was taking a shower right when I needed to get into the bathroom to shave my legs, and then he was being yelled at by my husband, Max, for smoking in the house, Warner explained.) Confronted with this intriguing datum, Warners simpering mind began to wonder ifto borrow from the early Dylaneverybody else had been havin the same old dreams. (Dylan, just 22 at the time, had been dreaming about something important, of course.) So Warner did the thing that seemed bestshe launched an e-mail inquiry, hoping to learn if others (if other women) were dreaming about Obama as well. Needless to say, Warners cup overflowedand she began her column with her e-mailers deathless sex dreams. This is the kind of perfect pap which typifies the culture of the modern-day New York Times:
If you ever wondered why so many journalists couldnt stop sticking their big, long noses between the sheets that belonged to the Clintons, Warner was willing to help you see the inanity of her newspapers culture. The only cheer came from the comments, a good number of which questioned Warners emotional balance, or that of her mailers. This was one of our favorites:
Good for Linda, a master of social work. But surely, the ironic fourth comment was most plainly relevant:
And sure enough: Two days later, on February 7, the Times featured three different columns by pseudo-liberals; all failed to take those problems seriously. Tell us again: Why are we supposed to think that Kristol stood out in this bunch?
Reading from left to right on that op-ed page, the first such column was this piece of pap by Gail Collins. As usual, Collins was striving for light and humorous; she presented imaginary Q-and-As about Obamas current plight. But political humor requires a point. What was the point of this blather, her second Q-and-A (out of seven)?
Of course, when Daschle was senate majority leader, President Bush (from the other party) would have vetoed such dramatic reforms. Political humor should have a point; as usual, this was simply inane. And needless to say, Collins couldnt type a column without rolling her eyes at those silly outlanders who actually do take the country and its problems seriously. What follows is the type of insulting pap which seems to be required by law in a Collins column:
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! As noted, no Collins column is considered complete without some version of this eye-rollingeye-rolling aimed at the silly rubes who will actually give up weekend time to discuss their nations challenges. Tell us again, so well all understand: In what way did Kristol stand out, thrown in as he was with this crap?
There was more. Next to Collins, we found Charles Blow, off on his latest ridiculous quest. Lets keep it simple: Gallup had asked the dumbest poll question in historyand inevitably, Blow had been drawn there. By the last of his four pointless graphics, we were reviewing this bit of nonsense: Among people who think the tone in Washington hasnt changed since Obama was elected, who do they blame for the lack of improvement? Only a fool would waste time on such nonsense. Or a scribe on the Times op-ed page.
But for our money, it was Bob Herberts column which was most instructive. Herbert perfectly captured the style of debate in which we assail our opponents motives and character without making the slightest attempt to assess the merits of the things they have said. Uh-oh! Republicans werent voting the way King Obama preferred! In accord with time-honored rules, Herbert knew that this made them bad people:
Poor Herbert! Hed been sent to the fainting-couch by the fact that Graham had said the word stinksand by the contemptuous conduct he forgot to attribute to solons by name. Beyond that, he somehow knew that such statements by people like Graham represented their bad faith, not their failures of judgment. But then, Herbert spent amazingly little time explaining what was actually wrong with the Republican judgments at issuejudgments to which many voters were being exposed. For example, consider the way he cuffed Bob Corker aside:
Shorter Herbert: How dare Corker bad-mouth and obstruct (i.e., oppose) a proposal I, King Herbert, favor? In this passage, Herbert engages in a great deal of invective about Corkers pointless obstruction and lack of a brain. But he fails to describe the detailed complaint Corker made in that CNN appearance; instead, he says how offended he is by the rude mans choice of words (in this case, by the word disaster). But: Was there any merit to Corker long, detailed objection? Did his objection make any sense? We dont have the slightest ideain part, because we waste our time reading hacks like Herbert. Its amazingly easy to write columns like thiscolumns which make little attempt to address the merits of any issue, which simply name-call opponents instead. But heres our question to you, dear readers: Do you know what Corker actually said? We do, because we saw him on CNN. But Herberts readers dont know what he said, and never willand theyll get no help for Herbert when it come to understanding the merits. If Corkers presentation was wrong or patently ludicrous, that would be important newsthe kind of news that might affect the judgments of voters. But Herbert was too lazy to research and offer such work. Instead, he complained that Corker had said the word disasterand he told you that this conduct made him a very bad man.
Dear Children, we wanted to write to these columnists. Please get an outlet for your very scripted, under-active minds.
But to quote the younger, dead-panning Dylan: It was a normal day. Warner had typed up womens dreams about sexy-time with Obama. Collins had engaged in her endless eye-rolling, mocking those who take the country and its problems seriously. Blow was again chasing after the worlds dumbest questionsand Herbert was spending his standard ten minutes mind-reading and name-calling those who dont vote the way he prefers. (Remember the names he once called Al Gore? Four weeks before that election?) But so it goes in these high liberal precincts.
So it goes in these liberal precincts. A few nights earlier, Charlie Rose had fought rather hard to reject the truth about Darling Maureen. And in the weeks preceding that, analysts all over the liberal web had handed themselves a bit of real pleasure. Kristols columns were just soooo bad, our dear children endlessly said. It makes children glad to type such thingsand it keeps them from seeing their problem.
This morning: Krugmans column is loaded with meat (which doesnt necessarily mean that its right). In our view, Krugman, not Kristol, has been the Times most striking outlier.