TUESDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2021
When Bret and Gail met Vacuous: It's hard to believe, but it's true. The weekly "Conversation" between Gail Collins and Bret Stephens in now a regular, high-profile weekly feature in print editions of the New York Times.
These "conversations" are about as vapid as mainstream opinion work gets. Each week, an array of topics are discussed and debated for roughly twenty-five seconds each. The insertion of soul-crushing attempts at humor seem to be the weekly feature's distinguishing characteristic.
Today, the Conversation begins with mention of Nicholas Kristof's apparent decision to run for governor of Oregon. From there, readers were frog-marched to this:
Bret: ...Moving from the inspiring to the debased, what do you think the chances are that Mitch McConnell or Kevin McCarthy will ever challenge Donald Trump on his claims of election fraud?
Gail: Well, about the same as my chances of competing in the next Olympics.
Bret: Your chances are better.
Gail: Watching the rally Trump had recently in Iowa, I was sort of fascinated by his apparent inability to focus on anything but the last election. Don’t think a 2020 do-over is at the top of anybody else’s list of priorities.
Bret: It would be nice to think that his obsession with 2020 is solely a function of his personal insecurities. But there’s a strategy involved here, which is hard to describe as anything less than sinister. Within the Republican Party, he’s making the stolen-election fantasy a litmus test, which Republican politicians defy at the peril of either being primaried by a Trump toady or losing vital Trump voters in close elections. At the national level, he’s creating a new “stab-in-the-back myth” to undermine the legitimacy of democracy itself.
That was the full discussion. Is there anyone on the face of the planet who hadn't seen these astoundingly familiar points made perhaps a million times as of six months ago?
Beyond that, is there anyone who thinks the vapidity of this exchange is justified by the witty initial exchange concerning the chances of "Gail" to compete in the next Olympics? People, we're just asking!
(The participants are identified as "Bret" and "Gail" by the Times itself. In part, this is about the desire, now widespread within the pseudo-discussion business, to give gullible consumers the feeling that they're secretly dealing with friends.)
Within our self-impressed liberal / mainstream / establishment tribe, the dumbness of our upper-end culture is one of its least recognized traits. The Times is branded as our brightest newspaper, and yet subscribers take pleasure in this.
(Presumably, if this feature wasn't being widely read and responded to, it wouldn't be given such prominence.)
Indeed, the first letter in today's paper refers to last week's Conversation. "This exchange between Gail Collins and Bret Stephens is what we need so much more of," the appreciative writer says.
Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow, our despairing young analysts cried.