The Dowdism crept, then took hold: In recent weeks, we've done a series of reports about Amy Chozick's horrific but revealing new book. Chasing Hillary.
The book is gruesome, but it provides a fascinating look at the intellectual and moral horizons of the Hamptons-based coven which produces the New York Times. Just consider the last pair of questions Isaac Chotiner posed.
Isaac Chotiner's aim was true when he interviewed Chozick for Slate. He zeroed in on her remarkable portrait of the Times politics editor, Carolyn Ryan, who would leap across her desk in excitement when confronted with "gossip" and "unsubstantiated tidbits" about earth-shattering topics like travel arrangements for Natalie Portman's pet dog.
Despite its total irrelevance, the Yorkie stayed in the news report about the Clinton Foundation! According to Chozick, Ryan actually wanted the Yorkie to be the news report's lede!
The sheer inanity of the New York Times' political coverage comes to life in auch anecdotes. That said, Chozick doesn't seem to see the way these anecdotes may look to sensible observers, of whom, in fairness, there will be very few, whether in the mainstream press or in the book-buying public.
As Chotiner said in his interview. Chozick seemed to think that these anecdotes paint Ryan as some sort of astute observer. "How do you respond to that?" the Slatester fruitlessly asked.
In the last week, we've taken a break from this book's inanity, but we hope to return to its pages. We've only begun to scratch the surface of the portrait this book provides—a portrait of the inanity which has long ruled at the Times.
We hope to return to Chozick's book before too many days have passed. As an example of the types of material it contains, consider the last pair of question Chotiner posed to Chozick.
He closed with a pair of questions about Chelsea Clinton. Unfortunately, his questions, as posed, sounds almost as frivolous as Chozick's remarkable book.
Here's the first question he asked:
CHOTINER (4/27/18): Chelsea Clinton has been tweeting about your book, saying a couple facts are wrong, like that she has never gotten “hair keratin treatment.” You have said the book was fact-checked. Do you know if the fact-checker reached out to Chelsea Clinton in the course of the fact check?We'll be honest! As presented, this question makes Chotiner seem almost as frivolous as Chozick.
Manifestly, he isn't. But that question makes it sound like Chotiner thinks it actually matters whether Chelsea Clinton got hair keratin treatment or not.
Manifestly, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if she did or if she didn't, except within the Hamptons-based coven which composes the New York Times.
Within that coven, snide observations about people's hair have long been coin of the realm. A few quick examples:
In the last few months of Campaign 2000, Maureen Dowd composed a series of columns in which she focused on Candidate Gore's bald spot. On the Sunday before that disastrous election, her column began with Gore standing before a mirror, singing "I Feel Pretty" to himself as he anxiously spoke with The Spot.
Dowd was widely read in Florida. Four years later, her work was peppered with insightful analyses containing references to Candidate Edwards as, who else, The Breck Girl. In this 2007 revival, The Breck Girl stood opposed to Barack Obama, AKA "the dumb blond."
(Headline: "Obama, Legally Blonde?")
In such ways, the culture of the modern Times was invented. Do you remember the newspaper's front-page profile of Candidate Romney's hair stylist? Sadly, Pepperidge Farm does!
Way back when, in 1992, Katherine Boo warned the nation about this emerging journalistic framework, which she memorably described as "Creeping Dowdism." But alas! As the years passed, the Dowdism crept, then took hold.
Dowd was awarded a Pulitzer prize. Boo left the world of journalism for the world of serious books—for the type of book which wins major awards, but never gets read or discussed.
Dowdism crept and conquered. The sheer inanity of that framework suffuses the first hundred pages of Chozick's book, in which she describes the intellectual frameworks which guided her work at the Wall Street Journal, then at the New York Times, in the course of pretending to cover Hillary Clinton's two White House campaigns.
Her snide remarks about Chelsea Clinton's hair constitute one small part of this depressing portrait. That said, her book is rank with the culture of Snide, and with the delight she seems to take in her own relentless cluelessness about all serious topics and issues.
In his surprisingly acerbic interview with Chozick—this sort of thing just isn't done!—Chotiner refers to the New York Times as "the most important newspaper in the world." He says this as he expresses his surprise at Chozick's portrait of the gossip-seeking Ryan.
Is the Times really the world's most important newspaper? We don't know, but it largely defines journalistic standards Over Here, and Chozick's book is an unintentionally punishing portrait of the inanity now in the catbird seat at the silly-bill and hair-observant Times.
The human mind begs for release from the task of reading this book. But within the next week or so, we're going to try to force ourselves to return to its pages.
Chozick's book reeks of the catty and snide. Chelsea's hair is just one stop along this road to perdition.
This fatuous culture got its start as the Dowdism crept in on little cat's feet. Long ago, the culture took hold. Chozick's deeply ridiculous book takes it to a new level.
Concerning that pair of questions: As noted, Chotiner asked two questions about Chozick's work with Chelsea Clinton's hair. Incredibly, Chozick asked permission to read from her book, seeming to think that a fuller dose of her prose about Chelsea's looks at various points would serve her in good stead.
It didn't. The book's full snide is worse.