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The Day In Hackery


TNC on Mamet:

All jest aside, I find the process that produces this sort of work to be utterly amoral. I’ve said this before, but this is the kind of writing that would get you bounced out of any decent essay writing class at a credible university. Words have meanings. You cannot change the fact that Thomas Jefferson served in the Virginia House of Burgesses because it’s unfortunate for your argument. Unless you have a name like David Mamet.

The message one derives from this is that power gives you the privilege of lying. If you are big enough, if your name rings out far enough, you may make words mean whatever you want them to mean.

Part of the problem is Newsweek publishing political analysis by people who have no actual expertise on the subject. But that’s not the only problem — not only that arguments should stand on their own, but Niall Ferguson has every expert credential you could want, and his heavily promoted anti-Obama story was every bit as replete with howlers and puddle-deep talk-radio cliches as Mamet’s. As Coates says, the ethos at Newsweek seems to be that if you’re any kind of celebrity you’re under no obligation to get things right. I have a hard time believing that nobody at Newsweek knew about the political experience of Madison, Hamilton, Jefferson et al. Hell, before he “forgot” it because it was inconvenient to his immediate line of bullshit Mamet knew it. It’s just that they apparently don’t care if a big name lies to their readers as long as he (and let’s be frank, it’s overwhelmingly likely to be a “he”) has a name that’s big enough.

Meanwhile, speaking of lazy cliches how can we forget Mr. Tom Friedman.

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  • witless chum

    The telling moment of punditry stupidity I’ve experienced is reading a George Will column in the Sunday paper sneering at California for building a rail project and then coming to LGM and seeing a Sarah Palin column on the same subject linked.

    They were exactly the same, not really making an argument, but sneering against the idea of government investing in a rail infrastructure. George Will does not produce any better punditry than Sarah Palin or whoever she hires to write such things for Palin Inc. And he by no means comes off as the dumbest major pundit.

    And you who is the worst offender? NPR which should fucking well know better. They waste valuable minutes weekly having E.J. Dionne and David Brooks explain conventional wisdom to us when they have access to knowledgeable people who knows things about things.

    But no, we get to hear bullshit artists’ opinions on the color of other bullshit artists’ bullshit, delivered in a jocular, chummy manner so as not to arouse Robert Seigel from his afternoon nap. I mean, Aaron Sorkin is poison to good TV at this point, but I get why he wanted to make FUCK YOU NEWS MEDIA YOURE FUCKING MORONS: The Series.

    • Halloween Jack

      Palin, at least, no longer has her Faux News pulpit; they didn’t renew her contract.

      • FLRealist

        You know you’ve truly faded into obscurity when Fox doesn’t want you anymore.

    • Marek

      Well said.

    • hylen

      But no, we get to hear bullshit artists’ opinions on the color of other bullshit artists’ bullshit, delivered in a jocular, chummy manner so as not to arouse Robert Seigel from his afternoon nap.

      Very well said indeed.

  • JKTHs

    If they say Newt Gingrich is the dumb person’s idea of what a smart person sounds like, what is Friedman? My guess would be a person suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect’s idea of what a smart person sounds like.

    • somethingblue

      Friedman is not just an idiot, but a hyperidiot.

      • JKTHs

        This era of globalization calls for a new breed of especially clueless pundits who advocate the same half-assed non-solutions in their columns over and over again.

  • DrDick

    It thought Friedman had copywrighted the Lazy Cliche ™.

  • jake the snake

    The reason we forget Tom Friedman is the same as the reason
    husbands die before their wives, we want to.

  • Halloween Jack

    It’s amusing that Tina Brown is still making up a cover for Newsweek, as if to remind us that there’s still part of the franchise that she hasn’t run into the ground, but that she’s working on it.

  • ploeg

    It’s of a piece with the conservative belief that government might be necessary but is at best a duty that our betters must endure. If you are ambitious to do great things in government, you are a politician. If you aren’t, you’re not, even if you end up spending your entire life serving in various posts.

    When I visited Monticello last 5th July, the tour guide talked about how Jefferson saw each political post as a duty and longed to get back home when he could. I don’t doubt that he said and felt this (his gravestone famously omits the fact that he was president of the United States). But it seems simple to claim therefore that he wasn’t a politician, that he didn’t chase after these posts and take full advantage of them if he could, or to think less of him for doing so. He undoubtedly fully enjoyed his time as ambassador to France (as, upon arrival back home, he ripped down his house and rebuilt it according to the architectural ideas that he picked up overseas).

  • c u n d gulag

    Tina Brown – the Dr. Kevorkian of publishing.

    • grouchomarxist

      More like the Lennie Small of publishing. Things break so easily …

      • c u n d gulag

        Of Micepads and Men.

  • Davis

    Besides Krugman, I can’t think of a single economics pundit that is an actual economist. No, instead we get the egregious Megan McGardle and Robert Samuelson. For a ling time I thought that Samuelson was an economist, and that he was related to the great Paul Samuelson (I still have his textbook!). He’s neither. I’m pretty sure that Brad Delong or James K. Galbraith would be willing to write a regular column. Maybe then we would not have all this nonsense about the deficit.

    • JKTHs

      This. It seems like the only experience economics pundits have had is that one intro macro class in college that they dropped out of after two weeks.

      • JKTHs

        I guess I’ll qualify that I mean many economic pundits and often many of the most prominent ones or the ones with the loudest mouthpieces

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      On the other hand, Larry Summers (who, for those keeping score at home, is a real economist, not a columnist, but also an asshole) is a real Samuelson. His father, the economist Robert Summers (also not a columnist), was Paul Samuelson’s brother. So there was a Robert who was both an economist and an actual Samuelson…just not Robert Samuelson.

      • JKTHs

        He was also apparently Kenneth Arrow’s nephew. Quite a family tree there.

    • Malaclypse

      Some, but by no means all, of these writers. Felix Salmon.

      And to your point, Atrios is a real economist, and even writes. Someone could perhaps hire him to write more than pithy one-liners. But no, Yglesias gets an economics platform – and depressingly, has perhaps the second-best prominent economics column.

      • rea

        Yglesias, at least, is related to an economist on his mother’s side.

    • DrDick

      It has become depressingly clear that the key to becoming a successful and prominent pundit in the modern media environment (with a very few notable exceptions) is to have no discernible qualifications or knowledge for the topics you write on. It really is an Idiotocracy.

      • grouchomarxist

        You also have to be dead wrong about all the right things at the right time. Nothing kills a media celebrity’s cred like being prematurely right.

        • herr doktor bimler

          Prematurely anti-bullshit?

      • The key to a prominent and successful punditry career is to reflexively flatter the powerful. I think that’s a problem that goes way back. I’m sure ancient Rome had their own Megan McArdle to patiently explain to the plebians why the class divisions were really for the best for everyone.

  • Derelict

    One thing that absolutely must be understood: Publishing complete crap is the desired model in the business today.

    Tina Brown’s record of abject failure at every enterprise she’s helmed is seen in publishing as a record to stellar accomplishment. That’s why she will remain sought after no matter what happens. Her giving space to fabulists like Ferguson is just a part of what makes her so appealing in the industry.

    • Captain Splendid

      One thing that absolutely must be understood: Publishing complete crap is the desired model in the business today.

      Always has been. You are not the customer, you are the product, delivered to the advertisers, who are the customers. Any incidental entertainment or news that leaks through is just a cute bonus.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    I dunno, Scott. The presence of all those links in the OP suggest that we’re living in a world that’s hyperconnected!

  • fledermaus

    I have a hard time believing that nobody at Newsweek knew about the political experience of Madison, Hamilton, Jefferson et al

    Methinks you give them too much credit. The DC courtiers masquerading as journalists are chosen more for social ability and signaling rather than genuine knowledge. It’s more important to believe the myths of American history than to have actual knowledge of what happened. Heck, look at how much of the last 30 years they pretend to have no knowledge of.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Fair enough — it can be hard to distinguish incompetence and malevolence.

  • Boots Day

    I’d be surprised if Newsweek.com lasts through 2013. There’s simply no reason for it to exist at this point.

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