Part 5—Valley of the Dowds: The New York Times has gotten our week off to a helpful start.
On the paper's reimagined page A3, the always helpful Here to Help feature is headlined as shown below. No, we aren't making this up:
Here to HelpReaders, we sh*t you not! Nor does the self-parodic behavior end there.
HOW TO GET KETCHUP OUT OF A BOTTLE
How to get ketchup out of a bottle! The Times proceeds to offer four ideas designed to help us accomplish this task. Clownishly, these suggestions come from no less an authority than Professor Anthony Strickland (no middle initials), "a senior lecturer in the department of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Melbourne in Australia."
(On the brighter side, we can imagine that no American professor was willing to lend his or her name to this particular gong-show.)
Long ago, a fellow named Clemens composed a famous passage. In it, he burlesqued the way we rubes are inclined to fall for the blandishments of such learneds, or at least for the mugging and clowning of a pair of fallen royals.
Years later, Meredith Willson composed a famous musical about Professor Harold Hill, who sold a line of trombones.
Our own grandfather toured New Brunswick in the 1880s with a troupe of trained monkeys, performing under the name Professor Wormwood. (This seems to have been a franchise of some kind.) To its credit, Harvard University has finally acknowledged its debt to Grandfather Rufus—in this case, to the show he instantly mounted in the wake of Lincoln's death.
(Click here, scroll to the bottom. Then click two more times.)
Professor Hill sold a line of trombones; this morning, a colleague dispenses free advice concerning the world's ketchup flow. This performance is in line with the New York Times' brand, which is built around the bogus idea that subscribers are being exposed to the world's brainiest discourse.
The pimping of this bogus brand is endless. Comically, today's "Here to Help, the ketchup edition" tells us where we can go for more erudition of this type:
For more life tips, look for
Smarter Living at nytimes.com.
We sh*t you not! The professor's discussion on ketchup retrieval has been placed at a site called "Smarter Living!" The endless performance of this jive lies at the heart of this newspaper's highly successful brand.
Twain's Arkansans couldn't quite see that the duke and the king were frauds. In River City, Iowans believed that their children would learn how to play those trombones.
Years later, Garrison Keillor invented Lake Wobegon, a mythical Minnesota town where "the children are all above average." And sure enough:
Today, the Times is offering ketchup acquisition advice from a molecular engineering professor Down Under. Even worse, the Washington Post hit "peak Lozada" in yesterday's Outlook section.
Or at least, we hope they did.
Lozada, of course, is Carlos Lozada, a callow scribe who can no longer be dismissed as a callow youth.
Lozada graduated from Notre Dame in the class of 1993. Later, he pounded out a master's degree at an even loftier school, Princeton. These credentials made him fully employable within the upper-end guild.
Lozada has been at the Washington Post since 2005. Here's what Baron and Merida said in 2014, when Lozada moved on from a "stellar" run as editor of the paper's high-profile Sunday Outlook section:
BARON AND MERIDA (10/13/14): We are delighted to announce that, after a stellar five-year run as editor of Outlook, Carlos Lozada will become The Post’s new nonfiction book critic, writing regular weekly reviews and contributing to online coverage of nonfiction books and long-form nonfiction.Refreshingly, that pitch came from the Post's aptly-named "WashPost PR Blog."
From his perch in Outlook, Carlos has already established himself as a fresh voice in Post criticism, writing everything from essays on book-title trends (“The end of everything”) to reviews of high-profile books on politics, foreign policy, economics and culture, such as Mark Leibovich’s “This Town,” or William Deresiewicz’s “Excellent Sheep.”
This summer, Carlos developed a detailed proposal on how to reimagine the role of the nonfiction book critic for a digital age–and proceeded to pitch himself for the role. He had a great idea, and we agreed that he’d be perfect for it.
As with A2 and A3 at the Times, Lozada had done some reimagining. In the process, he pitched himself for this reimagined role as the Post's non-fiction book critic.
The suits thought Lozada's ideas were great. They thought Lozada himself would be perfect for the role in question, which would be new. improved and better.
As one part of his idea, Lozada's reviews now appear beneath an embarrassing brand at the Post (Book Party). Sad but true! Yesterday, the callow fellow was "partying hearty" in a massive, sprawling spread on Outlook's high-profile front page.
It seems to us that Lozada's review offers us a horrible look behind a journalistic curtain. What sorts of folk lurk behind that screen, at the top of our upper-end guild?
We strongly suggest that you read Lozada's immensely sad, but highly familiar and highly instructive, 2700-word book review from yesterday's Outlook section. Where once the Dowdism only crept, eventually the Dowdism conquered, just as Katherine Boo had warned the world in 1992, when Lozada was still just a senior in college.
(Perhaps for obvious reasons, the Washington Monthly doesn't make Boo's prophetic piece available on line.)
Lozada's mammoth review concerns a new tome by David Garrow. In his review, Lozada sticks his long Dowdistic nose deep into the underwear drawer and, like one of "the four extant mammal species of the suborder Vermilingua (meaning 'worm tongue') commonly known for eating ants and termites," he never withdraws his big long nose from that perfumed location.
The underwear drawer in question belongs to Barack Obama—rather, to a much younger such person, to the Barack Obama of the 1980s. When the rewards become too vast within the tents of a nation's "press corps," this seems to be where the noses of such grasping folk end up.
At any rate, Lozada's review captures one of the major obsessions of the upper-end mainstream press corps of the Clinton-Gore-Clinton era. In part because the Chaits, the Dionnes, the Drums, the Maddows never pushed back against this conduct, Donald J. Trump is in the White House, and your national discourse lies in ruins.
It would be hard to summarize the leering vapidity Lozada assembles in this pathetic piece. Did we mention the fact that his review runs almost 2700 words? That he never quite gets his big long nose out of that underwear drawer?
The blame for this may lie in part with Garrow himself, whose book isn't available yet. The blame may lie with Sheila Miyoshi Jager, as associate professor at Oberlin who seems to be crying, three decades later, because the young Obama asked her to marry him only twice, when he apparently should have made the traditional third attempt at the prize.
Whatever! Jager seems to be out of her mind, though Lozada never seems to notice. In a scathing review in the New York Times, Michio Kakutani seems to suggest that the same can be said of Garrow himself.
Without being able to see the endless book in question (1460 pages!), we can't evaluate the extent to which Garrow himself stays in the underwear drawer. But Lozada enters it in his first few grafs and never chooses to exit.
Funny this! Garrow won a Pulitzer Prize for Bearing the Cross, an 800-page history of the whole freaking civil rights movement. In that book, he managed to restrain himself from living his entire life inside Dr. King's drawer.
On one early page of that book, Garrow discusses Dr. King's romance, early in graduate school, with a young "white" woman he wanted to marry. Somehow, Garrow managed to do this without suggesting that the episode meant that Dr. King was an Uncle Tom, a self-hating black, a person lacking an inner core or a horrible person in general. On pages 375 and 376 of that same book, Garrow briefly discussed Dr. King's later (extra-marital) "sexual athleticism" without spinning out of control and consigning Dr. King's soul to eternal damnation.
Although we haven't read his new book, it sounds like Garrow wasn't able to restrain himself in these ways in his new book, which Kakutani describes as a literary nightmare. One thing is quite clear, however. Lozada seems to care about nothing but life in the drawer.
Let's pray this is peak Lozada! As he noses around where a man of his low moral intelligence doesn't belong, he draws the dumbest, ugliest judgments from the dumbest and weirdest types of "evidence."
These associate professors today! Lozada builds an endless review around the recollections and claims of a 53-year-old associate professor who seems to be out of her freaking mind, or something somewhat like it. Thirty years later, Jager still seems to be yammering and complaining about the fact that Obama didn't ask her to marry him for the required third time.
Thirty years later, Lozada laps this puerile nonsense up. He fingers himself as he goes on and on and on, displaying the product about which Boo gave warning decades ago.
Lozada has long been a weirdly unintelligent, callow presence at Outlook. Yesterday, he thoroughly jumped the shark. We ask you to consider the possibility of putting his ridiculous piece into this primal framework:
When the rewards are very large, the wrong kinds of people will perhaps be attracted to journalism. When the people at the top of a newspaper are lounging around in $20 million summer homes, the values within such organizations will possibly rot away, in the manner observed over the past thirty years.
When the Dionnes, the Chaits, the Beinarts, the Drums refuse to warn liberals about this rather obvious process, we the liberals will fail to see what's happening right before us. In an action which will engulf the gods in laughter, we will stage our heroic march on January 21, 2017—roughly twenty-five years too late, exactly one day after Trump has taken the oath!
Alas! When we peek behind the curtain, we see a long line of Lozadas. Boo issued her warning long ago, but a long line of liberal careerists refused to repeat what she said.
Dearest darlings, use your heads! Such things simply aren't done!
When we peak behind the curtain, we also see a long line of Harold Hills. They very much like to mug and clown, providing us with the type of pleasure Twain described at the circus.
They like to pretend to consult the professors. They like to say they gave us Our Own Rhodes Scholar. This makes us feel smart and good.
They huddled in their summer homes on Nantucket just down the road from their owner, Jack Welch. Inside that grasping, clutching world, they developed the culture of Trumpism long before Candidate Donald J. Trump came along.
As in River City of old, we liberals can't seem to see who these people actually are, and our leaders refuse to tell us.
Tomorrow, we'll present the most comical story from this long line of cultural clowns. People are dead all over the world because of such comical conduct.
Tomorrow: The three faces of Rachel's TV