THE FATUOUS, INFANTILE AND FAUX: "Pete Buttigieg's Mixtape Suuuuuuucks!"

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2019

As seen in today's New York Times:
Friend, have you been looking for someone to help you set a marathon time goal?

If so, your search is over! On page A3 of today's New York Times, the silly daily "Here to Help" feature starts off exactly like this:
Here to Help
HOW TO SET A MARATHON TIME GOAL

According to Running USA, the median marathon finishing times in the United States are 4:20 for men and 4:45 for women, and many aim for a sub-four or sub-five hour marathon. Once you pick the time you want to beat, you’ll need to map out a plan to get there. JEN A. MILLER
As the feature continues, Miller pens a five-part discussion about the best ways to set such a goal. Amazingly, the feature ends with a promise of more:
For more marathon tips, look for the How to Run a Faster Marathon guide at nytimes.com/guides.
Say what? Is it possible that the New York Times really provides such a guide? Is it really possible that the modern New York Times actually offers a stand-alone guide about how to run faster marathons?

In fact, the answer is yes! We googled and ended up at this site, where Miller's original, full-length report appears, supplemented by "illustrations by Chi Birmingham," with "additional photography by J. Adam Huggins, Jim Wilson and Aaron Lee Fineman."

The site spills over with other reports about how to run and prepare for a marathon. Meanwhile, Get More Running Tips From Well! Under that heading, you can register to receive weekly emails "to help you on your running journey."

In truth, there's little the modern Times won't do to help the reader on his or her journey. Nor will the paper fail to give us our regular dosage of fiddle-de-dee about Friends.

Last Sunday, the Arts & Leisure section groaned beneath the weight of thoughtful reports concerning the sitcom's twenty-fifth birthday. On this morning's page A3, the daily "Conversation" feature offers more of the same:
The Conversation
SIX OF THE MOST READ, SHARED AND DISCUSSED POSTS FROM ACROSS NYTIMES.COM

[...]

4. It's a new morning for Jennifer Aniston
Fifteen years after "Friends," the actress Jennifer Aniston is returning to the small screen in Apple's "The Morning Show," a television show about a news anchor dealing with ageism, sexism and her co-host's misconduct. "It may also be her best chance to finally get the world to see her as an actor, not just a star," Jessica Bennett, gender editor of the Times, writes.
As far as we know, Jennifer Aniston has never been anything but a good, decent person and citizen. We have no idea how her forthcoming show will turn out.

The show may turn out to be good! But when we googled up the profile of Aniston—yesterday, it was one of the most read, shared and discussed posts from across the entirety of NYTimes.com!—we found the Times' gender editor starting off like this:
BENNETT (9/10/19): Jennifer Aniston was trying to have a quiet weekend away.

It was just after her 50th birthday, and she’d boarded a plane for Mexico with six of her best girlfriends
—most of whom have known her since her early days in Los Angeles, before Brad, before Justin, before “Friends” and before the tabloids, when they lived as neighbors on the same street in Laurel Canyon. (“We called ourselves the Hill People,” she said.) But a few minutes in, the pilot asked to speak with her. They had a tire missing, and they would have to return to Los Angeles.

As the pilot burned off fuel, Aniston spent the next four hours cracking jokes and trying to remain calm (she is terrified of flying), while fielding text messages from friends who’d read about the “emergency landing”—which hadn’t actually happened yet.

The women landed safely, switched planes and, the next night, gathered for a ritual they’ve been doing for three decades: a goddess circle. Seated on cushions, cross-legged on the living room floor, they passed around a beechwood talking stick decorated with feathers and charms, much as they had done for every major event of their lives. They had circled before Aniston’s weddings to Brad Pitt and Justin Theroux. They circled when babies were born, and when Aniston and Theroux had to put down their dog, Dolly. This time they set the circle’s intention: to celebrate how far they’ve come—and to toast Aniston’s next chapter.
There's nothing "wrong" with any of that—and we mean what follows as a comment about the Times, not about Aniston. But it's almost like the dumbest old movie mags from the 1950s were being composed by gender editors all along!

Can we talk? There's very little this paper won't do in the general areas of personal life-style and dumbness. Apparently, though, they know their subscribers! This profile of Aniston was one of the newspaper's most read, shared and discussed reports!

There's very little this paper won't do in the general area of dumbness. This morning, as the paper pretends to be covering politics, we get handed a debate preview column in which Gail Collins says that she'll "be watching to see if Biden bloops or Beto bleeps," even as she warns us to "avoid the drinking games."

Over the past thirty years, the spectacular dumbness of our political journalism has largely emerged from the Times. That's why it's intriguing to see the eight-page "special section" which fell out of this morning's editions.

The entire special section was written by Amanda Hess. Her high-fallutin', academicky writing may make it hard to tell, but she's mainly discussing the spectacular dumbness which has descended upon our political discourse now that social media has given us rubes the chance to think and speak for ourselves.

Hess discusses the world-class dumbness coming from us the people as we build realms of super-fandom around our favorite candidates. Much as gender editors may still do when discussing movie stars.

Employing way too many big words, Hess describes the political foolishness found all over social media. "Citizens may be the ones creating material about the candidates," she writes in the first of her two long essays, "but they are also helping to build cults of personality around politicians" as they behave like the silliest fans.

(For the second long essay, click here. For the "Case Studies," see link below.)

Hess forgets to say that it has long been the role of the mainstream press to behave in such dimwitted ways. It has been the stars of the mainstream press who behaved like pitiful fanboys around favored pols, while simultaneously creating dark assaults on those who were disfavored.

In 1999 and 2000, it was mainstream journalists who clamored for seats aboard Saint John McCain's "Straight Talk Express," behaving in such ridiculous ways that some journos actually wrote about their colleagues' embarrassing conduct. (We think especially of the late Lars-Erik Nelson.)

It was mainstream journalist who hid in the bushes, long ago, to knock Candidate Hart from the race (they were afraid that he might have a girl friend). It was a New York Times reporter who helped invent the non-quote quotes which let Candidate Bush scrape past Candidate Gore, then take us into Iraq.

Hess describes a spectacular dumbness which isn't especially new. Meanwhile, her special section is littered with "case studies" such as the ones which appear beneath these headlines in today's print editions:
PETE BUTTIGIEG'S MIXTAPE SUUUUUUUCKS
A Twitter exchange about the singer Everlast reveals how pop-culture aesthetics carry real values.

BERNIE SANDERS LISTENS TO CARDI B
What if his pop culture illiteracy is the secret to his pop culture success?
As a species, we're simply too dumb to be playing this game—but also, of course, too pretentious.

The Times has always been the best place to see the dumbness of modern journalistic culture. That said, the newspaper's branding may keep us people from seeing it as it is.

We still haven't discussed the column from last weekend's Sunday Review. We refer to the embarrassing column in which the Times announced that it was publishing a column by "a philosopher."

We'll get to that column tomorrow. But our public discourse has been drowning in dumbness for decades. And make no mistake:

A people can't agree to be this dumb for this long without ending up with a Trump.

Tomorrow: Presumably on its way to the Hamptons, the New York Times hears a hoo

10 comments:

  1. 1. Gary Hart not only had a "girlfriend," but he was married and he lied to reporters, which motivated their "stalking". A candidate might survive an affair, but if he is proven to be untruthful, that used to be damning. No longer, and that is our loss.

    2. That circle with the talking stick is a staple of cheerleader camps and other groups of young women nationwide. Aniston and her friends didn't invent it. Mocking the way girls experience their friendships should be beneath Somerby, but it isn't. The NY Times covers Aniston because the public is interested in her. This is nothing new. What does Somerby think a Society Page is?

    3. The New York Marathon is a major event in NYC, both financially and in the lives of the participants and watchers. It does take preparation and mocking those who run in it ignores the importance of the event to the city. One important function of a newspaper is to promote local events and support civic life, as the NYC was doing with its guide.

    4. It is a new phenomenon that politicians are attracting "fans" and groupies and not just voters/supporters. JFK had that appeal but most candidates do not. If social media is generating this, that is something new and it is worth covering. As the author covers that story, she is not herself acting as a groupie or fan and there is nothing silly about covering a change in the way candidates campaign.

    5. Since when it it a sin for any author to use "big words"? It is easier than ever to look words up. Those big words permit more precise communication of meaning. Those who use them are not being pretentious or elitist -- they are using what they know to inform the public. Damning a journalist for being too educated should be beneath Somerby, it is a cheap shot, but he takes it anyway.

    Who is anti-intellectual enough to blame the NY Times for catering to its audience, serving the needs of the city and using big words to do it? Conservatives...and Somerby.

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  2. "A people can't agree to be this dumb for this long without ending up with a Trump."

    Thank god for Trump, or we all would've long been dead, with zombie psycho-queen having access to those codes.

    Anyhow, dear Bob, about the dumbness. Everything you say is true, but you yourself, I must say, are part of it. Unfortunately.

    You don't seem to care about economics (medical costs being the only exception), you don't care about liberal-neocon imperial wars, you only care about who said what. Which politician said a smart thing, and which one said something stupid (in your opinion). As if their words meant something.

    I'm sorry to say, but that's just as dumb as discussing Jennifer Aniston's exercises at burning jet fuel...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Isn't Somerby the guy who was saying that the Democrats didn't appeal to the common voter enough, that they were ridiculing ordinary people and out of touch with semi-rural voters?

    Would Somerby be writing a column about candidates eating corn dogs at county fairs? Would he be complaining about their consumption of local dishes at Rotary halls, about them kissing babies and patting dogs (and horses and cows), about them trying to relate to everyday people in various ways? Pop culture is no different than any of those things. Further, it is the entry to younger voters, the way to relate to them, no matter which performers you favor. Just as candidates are now using twitter when it was previously not serious enough for campaigns.

    Somerby is yelling at the kids on the lawn again.

    ReplyDelete
  4. What an elitist Bob Somerby is. He will determine what is dumb and what isn’t. If you care about marathons or Friends or Jennifer Aniston, you are interested in dumbness. If a newspaper publishes such stuff, they are publishing dumbness, even if they may publish a thousand stories on topics Bob Somerby thinks are important but ignores.

    I am uninterested in football, baseball, hockey, etc, but I don’t call them dumb, nor do I mock people who are passionate about them. I am passionate about other things, many of which would probably be labeled dumb by Bob Somerby.

    A point can be made about political reporting being superficial or biased, but acting as if the stuff appearing in the Arts and Leisure section is somehow relevant to that is nonsense. Newspapers have always contained sections like that from the beginning of newspapers.

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  5. If a candidate is so hated by the mainstream press that they openly mock him amongst themselves and go out of their way to torpedo him with false stories, shouldn't that candidate (Gore) analyze why he has such a press problem and do something to address it?

    If the press dislike of Gore was created by Republicans as part of a deliberate campaign, couldn't it be countered by exposing those tactics and buying more ad time? Couldn't it be made an issue?

    The same press targeting of Clinton occurred in 2016 and Somerby joined in. He did point out that she was being treated badly, but he let the press activities affect his own enthusiasm for the candidate and he used this blog to say negative things about her, resulting in luke-warm (at best) support for the only person who might have stopped Trump. Bernie and others did the same thing. Now they claim they did it because they disliked her (as the press taught them to) and thought she would win anyway.

    Somerby forfeited his right to call out the mainstream press by doing its dirty work for it in 2016. Of course, this was well after the time when Somerby might have been called a liberal, so perhaps he was no longer interested in getting any liberal elected to office.

    As Deadrat keeps pointing out, the safest interpretation is to judge his motives by his actions -- those actions were to malign the nominee and help elect Trump. So I must conclude that is what he intended to do and his motives were congruent with his behavior.

    What does he intend with his daily undermining of the public press? How does a democracy function without the press? Are his complaints likely to improve political reporting or will they simply deter readership? What goal does Somerby have in mind when he undermines readership (by pointing out too many big words) so that they abandon the NY Times altogether and retreat to Facebook? That only benefits Russia, the Republicans, and Trump.

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  6. If Trump had read the article about the tattoos, he would understand that the teachers getting them are combating the influence of gangs, who formerly were the only people getting tattoos. Maybe Somerby thinks that Central American gangs are trivial, inconsequential, not worth thinking about? They are one of the reasons we have caravans approaching the Mexican border seeking asylum.

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