But also, the candidates' songs: Don Lemon tried to get there first. We stumbled upon the segment in question twice last night, groaning each time as we did.
That said, the project unfolds in fullest flower in today's New York Times. In print editions, it's thumb-nailed on the constantly fatuous page A3, with Astead Herndon and Patrick Healy "shar[ing] some background on the interactive article" in question.
Already, we were puzzled—and somewhat ashamed for our species. But then, we continued ahead in the paper, and we found three full pages—page A16 through page A18!—fully, completely and hopelessly devoted to this pitiful project:
What the Rally Playlists Say About the CandidatesThat's part of the way the sprawling project is headlined in hard copy. To see the way it's headlined on line, you can just click here.
Song playlists at campaign rallies tell you a lot about presidential candidates...
Readers, is it true? Do "song playlists at campaign rallies tell you a lot about presidential candidates?" Well, actually, yes they do, especially if you're seven years old, or you have an I.Q. of 11.
We told our young analysts to avoid staring directly at the three full pages of this claptrap in today's hard-copy Times. They tell us that, for each of ten different candidates, the Times gives readers a lengthy list of the songs which are played at their campaign events; a capsule account of what each play-list secretly means; and a rambling, pointless analysis of each list from one of the Times' music critics.
Abundant learning results. For example, here's what Times readers are able to learn about Candidate Gillibrand:
OUR CRITIC SAYSWith this newspaper's patented brilliance, music critic Caramanica caught Gillibrand is a misstep! Early on, they played a song from a Spider-Man film, and...
On the one hand, Ms. Gillibrand includes a track by Le Tigre, the underground feminist dance-punk band that Kathleen Hanna founded not long after the riot grrrl icons Bikini Kill split. On the other hand, a misstep: There are several hundred Lil Wayne songs that could have appeared on Ms. Gillibrand’s playlist to include contemporary hip-hop. But the selected song is from a “Spider-Man” movie soundtrack, and it features XXXTentacion, who, before he was killed last year, had been accused of assaulting his pregnant girlfriend. (The campaign says it removed the song in the spring.)
Well, you can read it for yourself. Try not to linger. Don't stare.
This morning, the Times devotes three full pages to this rather typical claptrap. For what it's worth, this type of diversion has long been with us, often used as an adjunct to the press corps' beloved "gaffe culture."
This afternoon, we'll revisit a memorable example from October 1999. But this very morning, on page A3, Times politics editor Patrick Healy explains how the brainstorm hit him in this current year of our lord:
HEALY (8/21/19): Six months ago, I had a thought: What could we learn about the 2020 candidates through their rally playlists? About audience and intended message? So we got them from nine Dems (and Trump). And this interactive was born.By Healy's admission, he had a thought "six months ago." That said:
With respect to Donald J. Trump's playlist, we learn that the songs played at his rallies "includ[e], surprisingly, gay swagger."
Checking the markings on the playlist, we learn that this refers to the fact that the campaign sometimes plays Y.M.C.A., by the Village People. In such ways, the Times helps us learn what rally playlists say about the candidates.
This may seem like the great newspaper's most pointless enterprise yet. Obviously, it isn't. As evidence, we return to the page A3 "Here to Help" feature from last Tuesday, August 13. In hard copy only, it started off like this
Here to Help"If you want to be a better reader, you first need something to read." Yes, that's what it said.
HOW TO BE A BETTER READER: CHOOSE THE RIGHT BOOK
If you want to be a better reader, you first need something to read. Start by asking yourself some questions:
Do you want to read for enjoyment or for knowledge? Do you want to stretch yourself in some way? Are you looking for escapism? (There’s nothing wrong with that!) Do you want to be part of the cultural conversation around the current “it” book? Are you curious about a book that has been atop the best-seller list for months?
"You don’t need to buy one," the Times' Tina Jordan said as she continued, behaving as if the paper's subscribers were the dumbest known people on earth.
As she continued in hard copy, Jordan listed many ways Times readers might pick out a book. The hard-copy feature was drawn from this truly astonishing on-line post. In hard copy, the different strategies Jordan discussed included such approaches as these:
Here to Help, continued:Interesting! If you can't decide what book to read, you can ask a friend!
If you're still not sure what you want to read, here are some other ways to figure it out:
Ask a friend.
Head to the library....
Find a bookstore....
Look at a "best book" list....
In such ways, the New York Times rarely ceases to amaze. Within the academy, the famous newspaper's repetitive dumbness is a fairly obvious matter of anthropological interest.
It is within this ever-expanding context that we recently stumbled upon the newspaper's "1619 Project." We first saw it mentioned by executive editor Sean Baquet in the purloined transcript of a recent, fairly lengthy meeting he held with the Times' staff.
The project debuted in the Times magazine last Sunday. It still isn't entirely clear what the project will entail, but at one point, some editor decided it made good sense to use the term "re-education" in connection with what may turn out to be a thoroughly worthwhile project.
"A re-education is necessary," the overview material boldly declares at one point. Some editor thought it made good sense to employ that old Maoist term as this project was launched.
The 1619 Project may turn out brilliantly well—and then again, it may not. For ourselves, we thought we stumbled upon an unhelpful perspective in Sunday's lead essay by Nikole Hannah-Jones, who had nothing to do with that playlist piddle. We'll only suggest that you keep this provisional thought in mind:
This project is being brought to you by the people who think our public school achievement gaps are a matter of test prep, full stop; by the people who think it makes sense to burn three full pages on the various candidates' campaign song-lists; by the people who recently spent so much time telling readers how they might select a book, should they decide to read one.
By the people who ran with "Creeping Dowdism" in spite of Katherine Boo's warning; by the people who decided to partner with conservative hack Peter Schweizer in their coverage of the Trump/Clinton race (Uranium One!);
By the people who refused to challenge Trump on his birtherism garbage right on through their front-page report on the topic; by the people who resurrected and vouched for the ludicrous Gennifer Flowers late in the fall campaign.
Hannah-Jones didn't do those things. But others around her did!
The woods are lovely, dark and deep—and despite the things you constantly hear, our species is deeply flawed. Tomorrow, we'll look at several things Baquet told his staff—and at something one Times staffer said.
Candidate Gillibrand made a misstep; Trump is involved in gay swagger. If you want to select a book, you can ask a friend.
This is the way our species works, even at its most "elite," Hamptons-based levels. Top anthropologists tell us that this is a large, ongoing problem.
Tomorrow: What's in a trio of words?