MISSING IN ACTION! Brooks mentioned cable TV, and the Net. But he forgot Lady Dowd: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 30, 2010
Dylan Ratigans song: As a matter of taste, weve never been drawn to Dylan Ratigans loud, familiar cable bombast. That said, attention must be paid to Brian Stelters profile of Ratigan in Mondays New York Times.
At present, Ratigan does the 4 P.M. weekday hour on MSNBC. (On the weekends, this channel pimps crime.) In his profile, Stelter defines Dylans song. Well quote from our hard-copy Times, even as we link to the version of the profile which appears on-line:
Good lord! Ratigan states an important point, one which can be slightly expanded: As long as Wealth and Power have existed, Wealth and Power have conspired to take advantage of regular people. As most people pretty much know, this basic truth involves key aspects of our human nature.
Might we make a simple point about those regular people, the ones who are getting ripped off? (In this interview, Ratigan offered his sainted mother as an example of same.)
Here at THE HOWLER, we dont know Mother Ratigans politics. She may be a person of the left, right or center. Like many Americans, she may not have politics at all. But there you see a basic point about the current state of play. Regular people of all descriptions are being ripped in the manner Ratigan has described. Tea party members are being thus ripped. So are fiery liberals.
Regular people are being rippedbut were divided into two warring camps. And as long as those tribes keep insulting each other, Wealth and Power will prevail. Alas! At 4 P.M., Ratigan preaches the truth. At 8 P. M., KO comes on the air and makes sure that the truth wont prevail.
(Olbermann is paid $5 million per year. For him, is it just entertainment?)
At several points in his profile, Stelter quotes Andrew Leckey, president of the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism at Arizona State. In this passage, Leckey offers a rather good point:
Ratigans song involves a key point: Wealth and Power are ripping The People. In theory, progressives could get a lot more people behind that key point if liberals would drop their childish insistence on insulting tens of millions of the people who, not unlike Mother Ratigan, are getting their keisters ripped off.
How does this tribal division work? Last weekend, Palin hammered BP hardand we liberals called her a moron. To review this familiar service to Power, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/29/10.
PART 2MISSING IN ACTION (permalink): Unheard of! David Brooks did a pretty good job definingand savagingmodern press culture! (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/28/10.) Over the course of the past fifty years, a new press culture has come into being, he wrote in last Fridays New York Times.
This new culture has elevated the trivial over the important, Brooks correctly said. The new culture is devoted to the inner soap opera. It devotes itself to matters which were once regarded as the least important part of government.
Brooks was unusually frank about the gruesome work of his own guild. That said, we thought he went a bit easy on some of his most famous colleagues. As you may recall, Brooks described a three-part process by which we moved from an earlier journalistic culture of reticence to the present-day culture of exposure. His explanation came in three easy pieces. They deserve to be posted again, though the bracketed numbers are ours:
As of 1960, journalists tended to focus on the way politicians performed public duties. Now, the inner soap opera is the focus. Teddy White started itthen Vietnam. After that, the crowning blowcable news and the Net came along.
In fairness, there is no question that cable TV has helped create this fatuous culture. But as he relates this gruesome history, Brooks is much too easy on his own newspaperon one of its most famous scribes.
Yes, cable news has driven The Dumb; so has some of the work on the web. But cant we tell the truth for once? No one did more to create this new culture than the New York Times own Maureen Dowd. To refresh ourselves, lets recall a few key moments from Gay Jerveys profile of Dowd in the old Brills Content. Jerveys profile appeared in the June 1999 issue, shortly after Dowd won her guilds greatest award, the hot-damn Pulitzer Prize.
Jervey wrote an intriguing piece, even mentioning some of Dowds faults. But lets be frankno one on cable or on the Net has propelled the Culture of Dumb as hard as this famed empty vessel. Does modern journalism elevate the trivial over the important as it explores the inner soap opera? At one point, Jervey praised the brilliance with which Lady Dowd had plumbed one mans inner drama:
Sad. Dowd crossed the country, presumably on the Times dime, to visit the company which manufactured the new White House hot tub. To help you see how stupid the new culture already was, this is the start of the column which issued from this pointless trip. Dowds headline was Rub a Dub Dub:
Even today, our cheeks rouge with embarrassment for Myers and Kaus. Two years later, the ninny who crayoned that ludicrous column was awarded her professions top prize. Bin Laden was planning attacks.
In that passage, Jervey described Dowds obsession with the inner soap opera, while praising her as a keen observer. At another point, though, Jervey went rogue, describing Dowds rejection of topics which actually matterthe topics which an earlier press corps accepted as their focus:
Silly Klein! Why would Dowd worry her head about welfare reform? People! She wasnt on welfare!
Of course, Dowd had been playing the fool for years by the time her comely avoirdupois helped drain that obsessed-upon tub. How had American journalists come to focus on the things which are least important? At one point, Jervey spoke with Bill Kovach, Dowds former editor at the Timessomeone with a reputation for being one of the bright guys in the profession. Quoting Kovach, Jervey described an incident which had showcased Dowds keen eye way back in 1984.
The incident occurred in July of that year, at the Democratic Convention. Walter Mondale had picked Geraldine Ferraro as the first female nominee for vice president. On the conventions final night, the following pitch-perfect nonsense occurred. Even then, Dowd had her insect-like antennae aimed at the inner soap opera:
In a slightly saner world, you might expect that anecdote to appear in a hatchet-job takedown of Kovach. But by 1999, this foolishness was being cited as evidence of Dowds eye for nuance.
Does the modern press corps focus on triviaon the inner soap opera? Just consider what a trail-blazer Dowd already was by the summer of 84. Consider an important event which had already occurred on the night when Walter Mondale didnt know which lady he should hug first.
On that same night, Mondale had made an important statement in his convention address. He had discussed a problem which persists to this daythe need for sane tax policy. Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I, Mondale had said. He won't tell you. I just did. Just two weeks ago, Walter Mondale was still being mocked in the Washington Post for having made this accurate statement (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/14/10). But in real time, Dowd saw right past this silly stale fluff! What was the actual story this night? To a simpering ladys fine eye, the question of hugging came first!
Sixteen years later, at another Democratic Convention, the press corps found its way past The Hug and instead obsessed on The Kiss, a moment which still tortures their sleep (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/4/10). For herself, Dowd spent an inordinate amount of time that year discussing one candidates bald spot.
These kinds of judgments about what matters have increasingly defined the press corps culture. Doing a favor to the guild, Brooks failed to mention Dowds leading role in creating this death-dealing focus. To his credit, Brooks offered a good capsule history, defining a gruesome slide in press culture. Guild members simply dont do this. But alas! At one point in his capsule history, Brooks did play a familiar old card. He blamed cable TV, and he blamed the Netbut he forgot to mention his own high colleagues. And lets be frank: No one has spread the culture of trivia and inanity as completely as the high Lady Dowd.
Brooks forgot to mention Dowd, and others like her. That said, another sector has spent many years failing to complain about Dowd. Have you ever seen your liberal journals complain about the sheer inanity Brooks described in Fridays column? Have you ever seen a liberal journal perform an honest profile of Dowd?
Why do our fiery liberal leaders keep their pretty traps shut about Dowd? Well speculate before were finished. But first, well mention a few other matters which went AWOL in Brooks piece.
Nextpart 3: A brace of additional ethoses