Sunday, September 07, 2014

Will somebody please cut Maureen Dowd’s cable service . . . or, why Tom Wolfe got it right 41 years ago.

In today’s truly terrible Times column (on the front page of the Sunday Review, no less), Maureen Dowd informs us that she went to a screening of the first episode of the new season of Showtime’s “Homeland,” a series Dowd clearly fancies. This consumes several grafs, followed by more grafs quoting Terry McCarthy, president of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council (a new one on me), then Richard Haass, prez of the Council on Foreign Affairs (heard of that), then Margaret MacMillan, an Oxford historian. The more people a columnist quotes, the less actual writing said columnist has to do, particularly when the quoted kind of seem to support in various ways what is Dowd’s trite and oft-repeated rap against Obama: that the man is just too cerebral, that he suffers from an “air of disconnection,” that we need to do something—or at least get blustery (a la Joe Biden!) to show the world that you don’t mess with the USA. Take that ISIS. You too, Putin. As always, Dowd never offers concrete solutions to these issues.
Has she forgotten Teddy Roosevelt’s observation about how to speak and what to carry?
Then there’s this howler: “In some situations, panic is a sign of clear thinking.” Did Dowd write this in her own panic room?
For Dowd to trigger a column on a viewing of “Homeland” is ludicrous, but Dowd thrives on pop culture wisdom.
Which brings us to Tom Wolfe and his introduction to 1973’s classic “The New Journalism.” Writing about what happens to most columnists after their initial efforts, Wolfe nailed it: “You can see the poor bastards floundering and gasping. They’re dying of thirst. They’re out of material. They start writing about . . . [ellipsis mine] something they saw on the TV. Thank God for the TV! Without television shows to cannibalize, half of these people [columnists] would be lost, absolutely catatonic. Pretty soon you can almost see it, the tubercular blue on the 23-in screen, radiating from their prose.”
And Wolfe was writing about columnists who wash out after a mere eight or ten weeks. Dowd has been chugging along as a columnist for nearly 20 years.
Enough already!


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