WE READ THE SUNDAY REVIEW: The Dumb is endemic at the Times!


Part 2—Still there, sixteen years later:
This past Sunday morning, we read the Sunday Review.

The Sunday Review is one of the New York Times' highest-profile platforms. This past Sunday, its spectacular dumbness helped define one of our floundering culture's most pervasive problems.

Don't get us wrong! The Dumb is everywhere when one reads the New York Times. Yesterday's "news report" by Jonathan Mahler was so spectacularly dumb, in so sustained a way, that we plan to save it for the end of the week.

That said, on Sunday we read the Sunday Review. On its front page, in its featured location, we encountered the standard pre-Election Day column by the newspaper's crazy regent, Maureen Dowd.

Way back in 1992, Katherine Boo warned the world about the incipient journalistic culture she described as "Creeping Dowdism."

At the time, Boo was a youngish journalist writing for the Washington Monthly. As the Dowdism crept and spread, she left the world of deadline journalism, becoming an author instead.

Today, Boo writes intelligent books about serious topics—the kinds of books which are handed awards while going unread. In 2012, she won a National Book Award for Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity.

Have you seen it discussed?

Boo writes books which no one reads because they aren't sufficiently stupid. Dowd's kudzu vines continue to creep, defining the unintelligent culture of the New York Times.

Dowd's columns are widely read. On the front page of Sunday's Sunday Review, she opened dumbly, with an exquisitely crafted piece of equivalence:
DOWD (11/7/16): When historians write about this bizarre, ugly and dispiriting campaign—and oh, my, will they ever!—the epic dark saga will unfold this way: A man, filled with fear and insecurity, created a hatemongering character and followed it out the window. And a woman, filled with fear and insecurity, hunkered down and repeated bad patterns rather than reimagining herself in an open, bold way.
Will historians write about this election? If they do, you can be sure that they'll skip all forbidden topics.

Dowd has long been one such topic. At any rate, she started by crafting a piece of perfect equivalence.

Within the realm of the kudzu vines, what has happened in this election? Easy! One of the candidates is "a man, filled with fear and insecurity."

The other candidate is "a woman." She's filled the exact same way!

Each candidate is "filled with fear and insecurity," New York Times readers were dumbly told in the Sunday Review. That said, the formal equivalence on display here might almost look like a ruse. Along the way in that opening graf, we were told where the fear and insecurity had led:

The fear and insecurity had led the man to engage in "hatemongering." Meanwhile, it had kept the woman from "reminagining herself in an open, bold way!"

Those outcomes may not sound equivalent. But at any rate, on page one of the Sunday Review, the doctor—a very silly doctor at that—was very much IN this day.

As she opened, Dowd played familiar games. Her language suggested a pure equivalence, though an undercurrent may have suggested something perhaps quite different.

That said, by the end of her column, Dowd seemed to have voted for the hate. This was because of The Rules.

One rule commands that Dowd must start all columns with simpleminded wordplay. But another rule commands that Dowd must condemn you-know-who in the end.

By the end of Sunday's column, it looked like Dowd prefers the one candidate's hatemongering to the other's lack of reimagining!

How could that have occurred? Along the way, this most ridiculous of all American journalists had crafted a suggestion. She seemed to say that the hatemongering of the fearful man was maybe perhaps just a pose:
DOWD: Before he jumped into the presidential race, Trump was seen as bombastic, vulgar, a bit of a buffoon and a cave man, but there was also, as Tina Brown put it, ''a cheeky brio.'' He was not regarded as a bigot or demagogue. He was seen as a playboy, not a predator.


But he created another character for the Republican primaries, playing to the feral instincts of angry voters, encouraging violence at his rallies, hatred toward journalists and disrespect for democracy itself.

''He's so used to playing a role in different areas of his life,'' said Donny Deutsch, the ad man and TV personality who appeared on ''The Apprentice'' a few times and was once friendly with Trump. ''He saw the crowd's adulation and it drove him. He started to get the biggest cheers for saying the most offensive things.

''He detached himself from himself. I don't think he believes in the Muslim ban or half the things he's saying. It was more, 'If this gets applause, I do it,' in a Pavlovian dog kind of way. He just got into this character. He was so taken with the whiff of his own musk. And the irony of all this is, he didn't have to. He could have run as an outsider with a populist message without all the evil and mean components.''
Before he ran, the fearful, insecure man "was not regarded as a demagogue," we were told.

(What explained his stupid, deceitful birtherism? That we were not told!)

When he ran, the fearful man simply "created a character," it was now suggested. When he "encourag[ed] violence at his rallies, hatred toward journalists and disrespect for democracy itself," it was really the fault of all those feral voters!

He doesn't believe half the bullshit he said. "He just got into this character!"

This hasn't been the real Donald Trump, Dowd suggested, at some length, in this high-profile column on page one of the Sunday Review. Sure, he encouraged hatred and violence, and disrespect for our way of life. But that isn't who he is!

Can that possibly be what Dowd was suggesting or saying? By the end of the column, we'd say it's clear that she has suggested a possible preference for Trump.

We may get a bad actor if the fearful man prevails, she writes. We know we'll get a bad actor if the fearful woman prevails:
DOWD: The problem with Donald Trump is: We don't know which of the characters he has created he would bring to the Oval Office.

The trouble with Hillary Clinton is: We do know. Nobody gets less paranoid in the White House.
The fearful fellow might turn out fine. Candidate Clinton won't!

So ended the latest Sunday-before-Election Day column from this definitive mainstream press dolt. Candidate Trump might turn out fine. Candidate Clinton won't!

Boo warned about this spreading inanity twenty-four years ago. Her lengthy essay can't be accessed on-line, perhaps because Dowd's Dowdism, which is now deeply entrenched, is a forbidden topic.

Dowd is manifestly dumb, dumb on the borders of crazy. That said, her dumbness and her craziness have come to define the low-IQ culture of the modern New York Times.

Boo gave up and began to write books. We the people have just kept reading the Times.

When we read Dowd's latest Election Eve effort, we thought of the dumbness from long ago. Headline included, here's how Dowd began her Sunday-before-the-election column eight years after Boo informed the world that this sort of garbage was coming:
DOWD (11/5/00): I Feel Pretty

I feel stunning
And entrancing,
Feel like running and dancing for joy . . .

O.K., enough gloating. Behave, Albert. Just look in the mirror now and put on your serious I only-care-about-the-issues face.

If I rub in a tad more of this mahogany-colored industrial mousse, the Spot will disappear under my Reagan pompadour.

Whew! Now that W. has slipped on a mud pie at the finish line, I can admit I was scared, just like all the other Democrats. Things were stickier than a barrel of goo-goo clusters.

It would be awful to blow it just because no one can stand the sight of me. Or to win the Electoral College but not the popular vote. Ouch!

How could I lose to a guy who promises to fix Social Security without knowing it's a federal program? He probably thought it was a dating service.

But my inner teleprompter tells me I've got a much better shot now. Goody-goody for the goody-goody!
Dowd opened by picturing Candidate Gore looking at himself in a mirror and singing, "I Feel Pretty." It was the sixth or seventh column in which Dowd had featured the silly vain man talking to "the Spot," by which she of course meant his bald spot.

Sixteen years later, Dowd was still there! This Sunday, we encountered her column as the featured piece on the front page of the Sunday Review.

How could Dowd possibly still be there, sixteen years later? Easy! Her sheer stupidity can't be seen inside the walls of the New York Times. Her inanity defines the mental horizons of the fatuous, upper-class clique which now operates through the Times.

Because of the paper's famous brand, the inanity of that low-IQ clique is also the nation's inanity. Liberals have a very hard time seeing this problem, in large part because Maureen Dowd is a forbidden topic.

In June 2008, someone actually spoke up. It was Clark Hoyt, the New York Times' public editor.

Hoyt wrote a column savaging Dowd for her silly, stupid, gender-trashing treatment of Candidate Clinton. But because Dowd is a forbidden topic, Hoyt's column led to exactly zero further discussion.

Because of her status at the Times, Dowd's a forbidden topic! You'll never hear a peep about Dowd from the press corps' gaggle of overpaid corporate pseudo-liberals. On this as on so many topics, your favorite liberals refuse to speak. Rachel would leap from the Golden Gate Bridge before she'd voice a critique.

Dearest darlings, use your heads! This inanity is baked in the cake.

Identify the inanity? Challenge it even? It simply isn't done!

Sixteen years later, there it was, as it had been sixteen years before. This Sunday, Dowd sat in the highest profile spot when we read the Sunday Review.

Tomorrow: When we read the Sunday Review, this too was on page one

Few things ever change: Note how little changes in the limited world of these creatures.

In November 2000, it was Gore who needed a teleprompter. Later, Gore turned into Obama.

Back then, no one could stand the sight of Gore. Today, Gore has turned into Clinton.

They've memorized a few tiny scripts. Their recycling skills are substantial.


  1. I've read Boo's book on Mumbai. It is wonderful! I'm glad she stopped being a journalist and began writing non-fiction books, especially on topics such as how people cope with poverty and maintain hope under difficult circumstances. The movie Queen of Katwe is similar, if less realistic.

    Dowd could have used her talent to lead a useful life. Instead she serves ego, much as Trump has done for his entire life. Hillary is anathema to Dowd because she, like Boo, has chosen to dedicate herself to addressing the real problems of the world.

  2. When I was young, the Times had no Sunday Review. Instead, there was a News of the Week in Review. The first two pages gave a brief, objective summary of the week's news stories. Then there were op-eds and editorials, but they were mostly serious pieces written by knowledgeable people. It's sad to recollect what's been lost.

  3. Journalists may not challenge each other, but the poll modelers are having a fight over arcane details of statistics and the assumptions behind their models, including direct criticism of each other. They all seem to be prospering despite this. Why couldn't journalists similarly criticize each other over their choices in coverage of the election? All that is required is to not take things so personally and be responsive to complaints, just as Nate Silver has been explaining his decisions and why model has been under-predicting Clinton's chances of winning, compared to everyone else.

    1. I think that's a very good point. And the conflict would probably serve the interest of the media entities. The egos are so fragile at that level, it make take a new breed of smarter, more thick skinned anchors, writers and producers. Let's hope.

    2. I assume back when George Washington and James Monroe were running democracy* somehow survived without polls (*women and Blacks, who were enslaved couldn't vote). It seems half the coverage every day is about polls. Can't we just find out who won after the votes are counted?

  4. Everything must be compared to 2000!

  5. Wikipedia says Katherine Boo has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 2003.


  6. As another commenter observed in response to one of yesterday's posts, the tide has turned on Dowd. It used to be there'd be hardly a mumble about her crazy Clinton hatred. On Sunday's column almost every commenter attacked her.

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