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Poor Bobo


Pareene really delivers the goods here:

It seems a pleasant life to be a Columnist. He writes a few hundred words once, or at most twice a week. He’s paid more to read those words out loud to people at elite colleges and conferences. [These ideas can move you…into a $4 million dollar house! — ed.] Naturally, people frequently want to know where a Columnist comes from and how they come to have columns.

The Columnist begins as a Young Conservative Intellectual. It is important for the Young Conservative Intellectual to be a converted radical, so he will have a story of his foolish young radicalism and of his conversion, which he will credit to William F. Buckley and Milton Friedman. He finds meaning in seriousness as a concept. He admires Edmund Burke. The Columnist will be a public intellectual, not a mere pundit. He will be wry, but never funny. Lightly ironic, but never sarcastic. If he mocks, it will always be gently.

The Columnist floats around the Conservative Media for a while, where he is guaranteed work for life so long as he remains ideologically correct, but the columnist has grander dreams. He wants everyone to admire his seriousness, and that will not happen so long as he’s writing “The Democrats Are the Truly Stupid Party” and “The Clintons Are Actually to Blame for Enron” at a conservative magazine, where those takes are conventional and expected, instead of an Ideas magazine, where those takes would be fresh and counterintuitive. At the Weekly Standard, “The way George Bush ran his baseball team shows his many impressive leadership qualities” is simple partisan cheerleading. But at the Atlantic? So the Columnist moves to a magazine of Ideas.  He writes things like, “Liberals are more materialistic than they claim to be,” and “Liberals are less tolerant than they claim to be,” and “I have read Reinhold Niebuhr.”

Normally, it might not seem sporting to kick a man while he’s down, but for the reasons cited by Yglesias in Brooks’s case I’ll happily make an exception.

Most of the rest of the hack list is excellent as usual, with this one particularly recommended.

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