An Epitaph for Journalism — Mystery Quote: Who’s being dissed, and by whom.*
I’ll give the revealing link below the fold, but for now, read this and tell me which publication(s) are being described, and by which media critic.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity.
And who is taking lumps here?
The quote works as a general purpose attack, so it’s hard to say if the Washington Post’s op – ed stable is the problem, (too generally grotesque to bother linking) or the Times’ daily reinforced willingness to cloak bad writing and worse thought in the ponderous columns of the grey lady (formerly) of 43rd…or that which supports the efforts of its “Business and Economics Editor”– She-Who-Is-Always-Wrong. And so on.
There is no shortage of targets, and perhaps we should just accept the excerpt on face value as an all -comers DeLong-like “why, oh why….” I certainly wouldn’t argue with the sense of general fatigue and rage to which this passage speaks.
But who is howling?
*Never resist a chance to use “whom” in a headline. Or so my momma taught me.
**Go to about minute 3:35 for the relevant quote.
So who is the source?
Full marks if you guessed Mr. Gonzo himself, Dr. Hunter S. Thomson.
Go to BoingBoing to read the full text of his job application letter to the Vancouver Sun — written on October 1, 1958 (when yours truly was just two weeks old.)
Two points: First, journalism has always succored the powerful — and hence has had need of useful idiots to publish arrant nonsense as the wisdom of the day, which was and remains the root cause of Thomson’s and his heirs (and my) rage at the persistent power of the MSM. What is different now is the ubiquity of media, and the sophistication with which the message is made and disseminated. (See a soon-upcoming post for more, he promised, hopefully not hollowly.)
And second: Hunter was there before us. Doesn’t matter how slick the turn of phrase (I’m still pleased with yesterday’s “sexually terrified old hack”, for example) Hunter did it first, and better. (And of course, before him, that misanthropic Olympian of invective, Mencken,*** and before him Twain, and …you get the idea.)
***Like the source post from which I steal this, I can’t resist providing you this excerpt, which, for all its Get Off My Lawn quality, captures the essence of Thomas Friedman to a tee:
In my day a reporter who took an assignment was fully on his own until he got back to the office, and even then he was little molested until his copy was turned in at the desk; today he tends to become only a homunculus at the end of a telephone wire, and the reduction of his observations to prose is commonly farmed out to literary castrati who never leave the office, and hence never feel the wind of the world in their faces or see anything with their own eyes. I well recall my horror when I heard, for the first time, of a journalist who had laid in a pair of what were then called bicycle pants and taken to golf: it was as if I had encountered a studhorse with his hair done up in frizzes, and pink bowknots peeking out of them. It seemed, in some vague way, ignominious, and even a bit indelicate.
Image: Follower of Jheronimus Bosch “The battle between Carnival and Lent, alt. The Dance of Fools,” c. 1450.