STUPIDISM V. SILLY-BILLISM: Sheryl Gay Stolberg is a very bad person, as she makes clear today: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, MAY 25, 2011
Coming across as a fraud: It helps when you have a good candidate! Smiling broadly and speaking clear regional English, Kathy Hochul came across as a superb political figure in her victory speech last night. As county clerk of Erie County, Hochul is an experienced public figure, of coursebut beyond that, she seems familiar with life out in the real world.
Hochul came across as a superb public figure. We only wish we could say the same for Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), who appeared on last nights Ed Show to celebrate Hochuls victory. Schultz kept the goose-stepping to a minimumbut Israel offered pure twaddle:
That highlighted statement is pure perfect garbage. Do we need to reduce Medicare in some way? Youll have to speak to some actual experts. (That would not include Digby.) But if we get rid of those tax subsidies to the big oil companies, it will reduce future deficits by $21 billion total, over the next ten years. The current deficit, just for this year, is around $1.5 trillion.
A trillion is quite a bit more than a billion; you can check with your local math teacher. Nor does anyone need to terminate Medicare to fund those tax cuts for the big oil companies. Are we really that dumb?
To our eye and ear, Hochul came across as a superb public figure. Israel came across a fraud.
Part 2STUPIDISM V. SILLY-BILLISM (permalink): Sheryl Gay Stolberg is a very bad person. This morning, she puts the culture of American political journalism on vivid, depressing display.
Stolbergs piece appears on page one of the New York Times, one of the most famous newspapers in the declining collection of duchies still known as the United States. In our lexicon, her political memo represents an especially noxious example of journalistic stupidism.
Like the hapless Bob Schieffer before her, Stolberg has a large cow today over one of the candidates jewels. In her noxious opening paragraph, she recalls other recent cases where the culture of stupidism helped redefine a White House campaign.
Example: During Campaign 2004, Candidate Kerry dared to go wind-surfingand someone even took his picture! In response, hapless boobs like Stolberg told us what this troubling conduct showed us about Kerrys character. Four years earlier, this same collection of half-witted mutants lectured the world about Candidate Gores buttons and bootsand about his polo shirts, and about the fact that he wore a brown suit when he debated Candidate Bradley!
In each case, Candidate Bush ended up in the White House.
This morning, the stupidists are at it again through the labors of Stolberg. In fairness: As she pushes that cow out into the world, she does at least acknowledge her agency:
Let us add Gingrichs line to the list, this high-ranking stupidist says.
Having explained whos creating the list, Stolberg continues her stupidist narrative, crafting a prime example of the way this cults adepts reason. Note the slippery, nuanced way Stolberg discusses the voters:
Wow! According to Stolbergs reporting, voters see Gingrich as a guy who paid more for jewelry than people pay for their houses! Well, not exactly: According to Stolberg, some voters see Gingrich that way; well actually, some voters might do so. (More precisely, this undisclosed number of voters might see Gingrich as a person who paid more for his jewels than some people pay for their houses.) Of course, some voters might see Gingrich as the second coming of the Buddha. Well assume that Stolberg wont waste our time thrashing that story line (to use her own chosen term).
Simple story: Stolbergs piece is part of a post-journalistic culture which took full form during Campaign 2000: A culture in which journalists seize upon some trivial matter to drive pre-existing tales about character. Often, the facts about these trivial matters will be fudged, invented or redefined to drive the pre-existing tale. Lets get clear on the stupid way Stolberg does that today.
In her opening paragraph, Stolberg tells us that Gingrich used a $500,000 revolving line of credit at the luxury jeweler Tiffany. Like you, we have no real idea what that actually meansbut so what? Stolberg quickly tells us how some voters might see this troubling matter.
Gingrich used a revolving line of credit! In a true journalistic culture, the journalist wasting her time on this matter would try to explain what that murky phrase means. Not Stolberg! This is the best she does at explaining this basic point, in two separate stupid passages:
Do you know what a revolving credit card agreement'' is? We dont know either! That said: As best we can tell from that puddle of muddle, Stolberg has no idea how much jewelry Gingrich ever bought, though he did spend more than $1000. In her attempt to explain why this piffle matters, the stupidist soon offers us the highlighted statement, hiss-spitting as she goes:
Did Gingrich spend large sums on jewelry? Stolberg doesnt quite know. (She does know what a knockoff is, having looked in the mirror each morning.) But assuming that he actually did spend such money, the stupidist is required to show why this discussion is actually relevant. Stolberg pretends to do that in the highlighted passage, in which were invited to imagine a troubling contradiction:
Gingrich preaches the virtues of fiscal conservatismbut he spent large sums on jewelry! With respect, might we offer a point? If you see a contradiction there, then youre too stupid to play this game! The next time political discourse breaks out, please just stay in the house!
No, there isnt an actual contradiction between fiscal conservatism and buying a necklace. But by law, the stupidists have to pretend that theyve spotted a troubling problemand theyve been building this culture since Campaign 2000, when they kept it up so long that Bush ended up in command.
By the way: Gingrich said amazingly stupid things all week about very important policy matters. Have you seen a front-page report about that? No! By the rules of stupidism, Stolberg must instead finger his jewels! By definition, the stupidist rarely notices, or cares about, the stupid remarks of others.
Stolbergs very stupid report is matched by Maureen Dowds column today; well discuss that stupid pile tomorrow. But Stolbergs stupidism is only one part of post-journalistic culture. A related culture, silly-billism, was on vibrant display in Sundays Outlook section.
The Washington Post still carries a reputation as our leading political newspaper, but it has sunk into cosmic dumbness over the past many years. Any given Sunday, you can see this culture of dumbness in full flower in its high-profile Outlook section. In a rational world, this section would be a weekly salon for very smart political discourse. But consider some of the silly-billism found in its pages this week:
Read this lengthy piece, if you can, about a woman who spent a whole year doing everything Oprah told her. (Our remark is not intended as criticism of Oprah.)
Read this piece, in which Chris Cillizza (briefly) discusses the stupid things Gingrich said about policy matters last week. Predictably, Cillizza fails to tell us that he himself, just one week before, hailed the considerable strengths of this long-time ninny, citing the fact that Gingrich is widely regarded as the brightest policy mind in the [Republican] party (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/13/11).
Most punishingly, fight your way through this long piece about the various Republican candidates. The piece was written by a sitcom producer. Accompanied by a massive graphic, it was Outlooks featured front-page report. Its silly-bill crap from beginning to end, reflecting an apparent belief that Post readers have low IQs.
If you can read that featured piece all the way through, you win a silly-bill merit badge for completing a long hard slog. For extra credit, scan this piece, about how we should get rid of lawn-blowers.
Lets establish the difference between these two schools: Stupidism drives a political point. By way of contrast, silly-billism simply wastes everyones time with utterly pointless blather. Any given Sunday, these complementary cultures are found all over Outlook.
This Sunday, the Outlook sections featured piece was a dumb-brick review of Republican hopefuls. In the next two days, well review two additional front-page Outlook effortspieces which truly show us the broken soul of American post-journalist culture.
Tomorrow: Good lordSissela Bok on James Stewart!