HE WILL FOLLOW HIM! Bob Herbert says we should follow Bill Gates. He doesnt say where Gates is going: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2009
Flu shots and the death of the dollar: Last night (2 AM re-airing), the analysts were reeling from Rachel Maddows deeply incoherent statements about Medicare. At a commercial break, they switched over to Glenn Beck, who was running a special program. We have a very special show tonight, he had said, early on. We have moms from all across the country.
Beck was running a group discussion. Almost as soon as the analysts flipped, they were treated to this:
Were a bit confused by the two hands reference in the transcript. We would have thought that a lot of hands went up about the dollars five-year death sentence. (We cant find tape of this exchange.) At any rate, within moments of switching over to Beck, we were exposed to two new concerns:
This brings us back to New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt, who has done a good job, overall, at that post. Our question:
Has the New York Times been slow to react to these conservative concerns?
Another question: When such unusual ideas are being pushed so widely, should a newspaper like the Times report this matter, as news?
Maddows work was often embarrassingly bad last night. (In her first segment, her work was quite good.) She even returned, after all this time, to her apparently bogus old claim about not owning a television! But when the analysts switched away, that transcript records what they got at Fox. The analysts thus came to us with a question:
What would a newspaper do?
PART 2HE WILL FOLLOW HIM: One complaint: When Mike Judge made his film, Idiocracy, he made idiocracy seem like a bad thing. Heres the way the film is described at Wikipedia:
Somehow, that makes it sound dirty! In fact, you may already live in an idiocracy, however much the elitists, like Judge, try talking that system down.
You may live in an idiocracy if: Your society is hurtling toward catastrophe but nobody wants to hear about it, the situation described by Paul Krugman is yesterdays under-shrill column (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/28/09). And not only that:
You may live in an idiocracy if: You open your nations most famous newspaper and discover a column like this one.
The column to which we link today was written by Bob Herbert. It appears today in the New York Times, our most famous upper-end newspaper. Just a guess: Some people will skim Herberts column today and think theyve ingested some lofty, high thoughts.
We had a different reaction.
In todays column, Herbert pretends to write about education, a pose he adopts several times each year. As so many big pundits do, he uses the occasion as an excuse to gush about the worlds richest person, Bill Gates (so ranked by Forbes). In fact, Herbert wrote a virtual carbon copy of todays column back in April 2008, building his piece around a discussion over lunch with the head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. For our discussion of that earlier column, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/22/08.
In todays column, Herbert says that this famous, fifteen-year-old foundation is the worlds largest philanthropic organization. And good news! In his preparation for todays piece, Herbert got to play groupie to Gates himself, not to some bureaucrat flunky:
Sometimes, top writers will invent fictional characters; these fictional characters are then used to express the writers own reactions. Having seen Hebert (and others) fawn to Gates down through the years, were not sure it wasnt Herbert himself who shrieked, whooped and became a bit giddy when he gazed on the worlds richest man.
It certainly wasnt Gates ideas which produced Herberts excitement. Just as he did in 2008, Herbert writes an entire column about Gatess determination to improve educationwithout saying a single word about anything Gates would actually do to produce that high-minded outcome.
If we dont yet live in an idiocracy, this column gives a rough idea of how it will feel when we do.
As he continues from the passage above, Herbert does what he typically does in such columns. He offers gloomy assessments of our educational miseriesassessments which are factually bogus. He then showers praise on Gates and Gates for their lofty determination to make things massively better. But he never says a single word about how we might make such outcomes occur. Does Bill Gates have any actual ideas about how to improve our educational outcomes? If he does, he didnt tell Herbertor Herbert chose not to tell us.
Go ahead! Read the whole column! See if you can find a single word about how the Gateses think we might improve our miserable situation. The Gates Foundation has focused on education for years, yet Herbert acts as if Gates and Gates were making their very first field trip. Not a single word crosses Herberts lips about what is correctibly wrong in our schools. Not a word crosses his lips about how we can make improvements.
We made the same critique of that April 2008 column. Herberts work was weirdly idiocratic thenand its the same way today.
Herbert is of course eager to tell us how bad our situation is. As he continues from the passage above, his offers this gloomy assessmentan assessment which is simply inaccurate:
Who knows? In context, that highlighted statement by Bill Gates may be accurate in some way. But on several basic international measures, American children have been gaining on the rest of the world in the past decade. But then, when it comes to public education, Herbert seems to have been off the planet over the past several decades. Late in his column, he offers this deeply puzzling assessment:
As with Gates, so with Goldin and Katz: In context, their quoted statement may make perfect sense of some sort. But Herbert starts with a truly weird claim: He somehow believes that many Americans over the past few decades took their eyes off the critical importance of education as the pathway to personal and societal success. Can we talk? Public education has been debated exceptionally widely in the past few decades, going back to the education summit headlined by President George H. W. Bush and then-Governor Bill Clinton in September 1989. In our view, the approaches which have predominated during this period have been picked from a rather thin pallette. But education has been widely discussed over the past several decades. And during that period, American achievement levels seem to have risen, on both domestic and international measures.
That doesnt mean that we dont have problemsgiant problems, in fact. As far as we know, the statistics in this passage are accurate:
Later, Herbert describes a more horrific situation. As usual, Melinda Gates is right there, holding a hanky and offering fatuous words:
You might want to note Melinda Gates view: We should get all the children educated!
In this utterly silly passage, Herberts lips are locked on the Gates ladys keister. But what would the Gateses actually do to lower that gruesome dropout rate? Herbert says we should follow their lead. But where are the Gateses going?
Go ahead! Read this column! See if you can find a single word which addresses that basic question. Bob Herbert wants us to follow Bill Gates. He forgets to say where Gates is headed.
People! You may live in an idiocracy if: Major columnists keep standing in line to kiss the ass of the worlds richest person. A few years ago, David Broder kissed that particular keister so wetly that he made the worlds most ridiculous statement: No doubt misunderstanding something some Gates aide had said, he announced that kids are dropping out of high school because they arent forced to read enough Plato! (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/27/06.) In todays column, Herbert avoids saying something that foolish in a famous old way; he simply avoids discussion of substance at all! He just keeps praising the Gateses intentions. After that, his column is done.
You may live in an idiocracy if: You open your nations best-known newspaper and see fawning fatuity of this order on its op-ed pagerepeatedly.