The candidate's body language and clothes!


It's all at Rosenthal's restaurant:
How dumb is the modern New York Times?

In its political coverage, the famous upper-class Gotham rag is spectacularly dumb. Just consider three major offerings in today's editions, all in the "National" section.

Atop the paper's hard-copy front page, Amy Chozick writes a Tolstoy-length summary of the latest leak from Moscow. Chozick's basic report runs an interminable 1922 words. It's accompanied by hundreds of words of additional text, aimed at subscribers who are especially sleep-resistant.

The mind-numbing dullness of this piece could only have come from Chozick. As noted, it starts atop the paper's front page. Inside the paper, it consumes the whole of page A12, what with its accompanying photos and pointless additional text.

Readers, let's be fair! Chozick's piece is a cancer cure compared to what's found on page A18. The entirety of that page is consumed by two reports. The first examines the body language displayed at Sunday evening's debate. The second is the usual high-flown piddle about Candidate Clinton's clothes.

The report about the body language is written at second-grade level. Alan Rappeport, who's widely believed to be human, starts his report like this:
RAPPEPORT (10/11/16): From the opening handshake that did not happen to the stone-faced stares and surly scowls, it was evident from watching Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton share a debate stage on Sunday night that their political differences have become personal and that the mutual distaste that they feel is very real.

With the candidates unshackled from lecterns by the town hall format, the window into their feelings opened a bit wider. As much as their words, it was the physical movements of the candidates that captivated viewers and body language experts.
Forget about the candidates' "words!" Let's round up a passel of "experts" and scan their actual language!

This sort of feature is so dumb it's long since been abandoned on cable. First Chris Matthews, then Bill O'Reilly, decided to let their "body language experts" go. Stupidity abhorring a vacuum, the New York Times may have its eye on this prize.

How expert are these particular experts? Only a man with a string of Ph.D.s could have come up with this:
RAPPEPORT: According to Bart Rossi, a political psychologist and body language expert, Mr. Trump’s facial expressions were more revealing. The disdain that he feels for his opponent could not have been clearer.

“He had almost a frightful face at times,” Mr. Rossi said, pointing out how Mr. Trump’s brow remained furrowed as he squinted for much of the debate. “He was agitated and angry."
No one else would have caught that! Meanwhile, don't miss Ruth Sherman's ruminations on "the forces of 'proxemics.'" Saddest of all was this:
RAPPEPORT: Ms. Sherman said that some of Mrs. Clinton’s subpar reviews could be the result of how she carried herself on the stage, clenching her thumb against her forefinger while speaking and looking down more than usual.

“It’s something people do when they’re thinking, but I think it conveyed a bit of defensiveness,” Ms. Sherman said.
Of course! The Clinton-loathing will never cease, not as long as Clinton insists on clenching her thumb while speaking!

Alan Rappeport's pre-IQ piece burns up more than half the page. It's swollen out by four big photos, which seem to show Candidate Trump standing where he was supposed to be, right next to his chair, despite the mandated cries which came from some of the experts.

The rest of the page was burned by Vanessa Friedman's hopeless posturing about Candidate Clinton's clothes. Is Rush Limbaugh on loan from God? Friedman was on loan from Fashion. As always, she was an upper-class poser. She started out like this:
FRIEDMAN (10/11/16): Has Hillary Clinton found her dresser in chief? It would appear that way.

While the Twitterverse was busy parsing the possible subtexts of Melania Trump’s decision to wear a hot pink Gucci pussy-bow blouse to watch her husband, Donald J. Trump, during the second presidential debate Sunday evening (given his recently revealed lewd comments about women from 2005), it was actually what Mrs. Clinton wore that seemed meaningful to me.
Forget about the candidates' words! Let's focus on what they wore!

Deliciously, Friedman managed to smuggle a P-bomb into her take on the hot Mrs. Trump. This is why we're shelling out that $8 every Sunday!

Trivial emails and body language, with Vanessa Friedman on pussy bows! The New York Times is a low-IQ, upper-class mess, though it tends to be hard for us the humans to process this obvious fact.


  1. When Somersby thinks you're not being concise, you got a problem.
    Bob Gardner
    Randolph, MA

  2. Nonverbal communication is a legitimate field of study with an established scholarly literature (with findings that are based on scientific research). To mock this field because (1) you don't understand it, or (2) you confuse it with the folk wisdom, charlatans or pop practitioners, is both unfair and unwise.

    Trump's nonverbal behavior on stage was odd and just as distracting as this NY Times article suggests. People were noticing it and attributing meaning to it all over the comments on various blogs after the debate. Everyone noticed it. This is very different than the mind-reading and negative comments routinely made by partisan "experts" based on scant evidence. Trump's behavior was bizarre and his looming over Clinton appeared both deliberate and menacing.

    It is tiresome when Somerby dismisses an entire field of study as trivial or nonsense. No one would do that about the other aspects of language (studied by linguistics or psycholinguistics) but for some reason they feel free to trash the analysis of nonverbal behavior. Somerby is displaying his ignorance, in my opinion.

    1. I found myself wondering whether the looming was created by camera angles or field compression that happens with telephoto lenses. But I saw versions of the debate using different cameras on different stations and he was actually stalking her (the term stalking describes what his proximity would mean if a stranger did it to someone at a bus stop).

    2. Anon. @ 4:42: Of course I could be wrong, but I believe it was Somerby's intent, not to belittle the science you defend as a legitimate field, but rather that the media is giving body language priority over the more important issues that our nation is confronted with, such as climate change, jobs, economic inequality, et cetera.

    3. Communication can be about any number of topics. Communication includes both the verbal and nonverbal components. For example, someone can entirely negate the semantic content of words with a facial expression, gesture, or by tone of voice, as in sarcasm.

      The media does tend to go meta instead of considering the policies and proposals of the candidates.

  3. Alan Rappeport, who's widely believed to be human.....


  4. Alan Rappeport's pre-IQ piece .....


  5. I agree with Somersby. For at least the last 20 years the NYT has caused me to seriously consider the possibilty that poking out my own eyes with an ice pick might be a more preferable outcome than finishing one of their articles. They race between being overly pedantic to trifling at an incredible speed--whiplash tends to be my Monday curse.

    1. Ridiculous; it's a decent newspaper overall. Not perfect, but so what.

    2. You mean the War Cheerleader? Or were you talking about their cooking section?

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  7. I was so looking forward to DinC's rationalizations for why it's a positive that Trump is causing civil war within the GOP.

  8. Not germane to this piece, but please cover the thirsty, credulous scrambling to pin Donna Brazile to the wall for allegedly feeding town hall questions to Clinton. These guys are really hurting for a close horse race, and they're jumping to all sorts of conclusions about lack of a CNN transcript (not exactly airtight evidence that a TV producer didn't find time to cover a topic they asked panel participants to prepare for), and specificity of figures (death penalty activists have succeeded in framing the debate using the 1970's supreme court decisions regarding the death penalty, which is why you would see the exact same numbers over and over again, tracking state executions isn't the hardest thing in the world).

    It's been scary seeing the media jump on scoops without really allowing time to establish the basic facts of a story, but not very surprising to anyone who reads this blog.

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