Making money from newspapers is a tough gig. But the more affluent your readers, the more luck you’ll inevitably have. The New York Times hired David Brooks to massage the egos of the middle class elite with meaningless columns that reinforce their feelings of superiority – a sure fire way to attract brands desperate to reach the top earners in America. Calling upper middle class white people the “Composure Class”, Brooks famously wrote that “wealth settled down upon them gradually, like a gentle snow,” a clever metaphor alleviating responsibility of the haves and place it squarely on the have-nots. In Brooks’s world, the rich are rich because they are better. And that’s something the rich love hearing.
The Washington Post caters to a similar audience, hiring equally nauseating columnists like Kathleen Parker to pander to high paying advertisers. Which is all well and good given newspapers and journalists need to make a living.
But every now and then it’s worth pointing this out – that columnists like Brooks and Parker are not meant to be taken seriously. They’re professional space fillers brought in to attract ad dollars, not serious journalists or thinkers with important insights into society. While Brooks and Parker no doubt believe they have something interesting to say, any moderately discerning reader will quickly ascertain that they are not saying anything at all.
Gawker’s chief smack talker (and very good journalist) Hamilton Nolan has taken it upon himself to dissect Parker’s latest pantheon to rich white people column on ‘courage’ for the new year, and the results are, well, devastating.
Here are Nolan’s best take downs, sentence by sentence:
1. The Founding Fathers
Kathleen Parker: The Founding Fathers were, above all, courageous as they challenged a king, fought and died for freedom and created a country from scratch with little more than mettle and intellectual vigor.
Hamilton Nolan: If this isn’t exceptional, then we have lost the meaning of words.
2. The Economy
Kathleen Parker: Depending on whose prognostications one believes, we are either rebounding, by dribs and drabs, or perched on the precipice of economic ruin. Let’s figure we’re somewhere in between, which falls short of inspiring. What is certain is that our economic standing in the world is damaged, our credit and credibility are weak, and business confidence is still in limbo.
Do weak economies and moral decay go hand in hand? We certainly seem poised to find out.
Hamilton Nolan: “I have absolutely no idea where our economy is, or where it is headed,” says Kathleen Parker. “Let’s just say it is in the middle of where various people say it is. Despite the fact that I have announced I have no real idea of whether or not this is the true state of our economy, I will now declare that it is ‘certain’ that our current economic state is bad. I will then spout a platitude about ‘moral decay’—and, as a final thumb in the eye of my readers, fail to even affirm my belief in this bit of weaksauce cliche.”
3. Miley Cyrus
Kathleen Parker: From Miley Cyrus’s naked cavorting on a wrecking ball — well, one can at least admire her metaphoric succulence — to Anthony Weiner’s Twitter projections of His Very Own Self, we have lost all sense of decorum, that voluntary commitment to behavior that combines a willingness to consider others first (at minimum keeping our clothes on), enforced through the exercise of self-restraint.
Hamilton Nolan: Imagine how much research must have gone into digging up these two examples of cultural decay of decorum.
4. Shopping Malls
Kathleen Parker: I suppose what I’m lamenting is the loss of our national imperative to do and be better. Where once we fashioned ourselves according to best behaviors, we now accommodate ourselves to the least. Take a look around a mall, if you can bear to enter. Valium recommended.
Hamilton Nolan: I suppose what I’m lamenting is the fact that thousands of journalists have lost their jobs in the past five years and yet here is Kathleen Parker, still gainfully employed, drawing a quite comfortable paycheck every week in order to write paragraphs that suggest we “Take a look around a mall, if you can bear to enter.” Malls are dead, Kathleen. No one is there except grumpy middle-aged people like you. The teenagers are all hanging out on the internet now, writing prose superior to yours.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.