The first time I met a big foot journalist, this was back in the 1980’s, I was struck by what appeared to be the shallow stupidity of the guy. It was not the normal dullness you get from low-IQ people. It was sort of a confident stupidity. It was not just that the guy did not know what he did not know; it was that he was sure he knew everything there was to know, despite not knowing much about anything. In time I came to understand that most big foot journalists are no different from beauty pageant contestants in that a blithe dimness is an asset.
The reason for this is the news is mostly a performance. The big foot “journalists” play a role for their publication. ESPN, for example, has as guy they call Ian O’Conner and his job is to be the tweed jacket intellectual. They kit him out in jeans, a sports jacket and turtleneck. The viewer is supposed to accept him as the brainy, thoughtful sports guy, who gives “perspective” to the news. In reality he is as dumb as a goldfish. The average beauty pageant contestant would be embarrassed for him. Ian is too dumb to have self-awareness so he gladly plays the role.
It’s not just sports where you find these blithering morons. Tucker Carlson the other day said that modern journalists, and by that he meant political reporters, are just stupid rich kids. The parents have done well so they send their smart kid off to law school, while the dull one is sent off to journalism school. The result is modern journalism is a culture dominated by Ron Burgundy, nitwits too dumb to realize they are stupid. An example of which is here in this blog post at the Spectator.
I’ve just invented these comments, but if you’ve been anywhere near a newspaper website over the past decade they’ll sound familiar. These days, however, they’re a bit harder to find.
That’s because ‘below-the-line’ comment threads are being killed off by the media outlets that set them up. With a sigh of relief.
Malicious creeps have had their microphones turned off, mid-rant. So have countless monomaniacs who aren’t malicious but who have been sucking the life (and profits) out of the publications that host them. Clever, polite people have lost their platform, too, but I’ve yet to meet an editor who feels their pain.
One of the more remarkable things about opinion writers for mainstream publications is that they are staggeringly ignorant about what goes on in their own offices. Comment sections kill profits at news sites? If I did not know better, I would assume this was a gag, but reading the rest of the post makes clear the guy writing it thinks it is true. The reason news sites added comments is to attract readers. They did this because they were hemorrhaging money. How does he not know this?
For five years I was editor of Telegraph Blogs. Every day, from the moment we switched on our computers, we had to live with the drone of the ‘underpants brigade’, as one colleague called them.
To the casual reader, these Y-front warriors were obvious fruitcakes. But they had a sharp eye for the fragility of the journalistic ego. When a blogger confirmed their prejudices – never very difficult to do – they would smother him with plaudits. Certain writers started nipping below the line to confer with their troops; they would return with their self-esteem nicely restored but touched by madness, clutching a goodie bag of fresh conspiracy theories.
This is modern journalism in a nutshell. You have the fishbowl of semi-retarded people hired to do a job a high school boys used to do. Now, instead of high school grads, journalism employs middle-aged men with advanced degrees in nonsense specialties like sociology. Damian Thompson has a Ph.D in the sociology of religion, which is about as useful as a masters degree in sitting still. But, you can be sure he has killed many hours boring his colleagues with tales of his days at university.
The reason news sites are killing off comment sections is two-fold. One, it is usually where you get the bits of the news story our betters edited out in order to maintain the narrative. The “Minnesota man” in the story is identified in the comments as Jorge Gonzalez, an illegal from Guadalajara. It’s where the “suspect wearing a red shirt” is identified as a black guy named T’Q’ull Ferguson with a Facebook page full of pics of him holding a handgun and a bong. The comment sections have become a leak in the system.
The other problem, especially for opinion sites like The Spectator, is the comments have become the place that make the writers cry. Sure, there’s lots of inane chatter in the comment threads, but it is also where some smart people post corrections and point out the many glaring logical errors. Guys like Damian Thompson have fragile psyches so seeing their mistakes highlighted for everyone to see, right under their posts, is a source of constant distress. Look at the first comment under that blog post.
When you live in the snow globe of opinion journalism, the outside world is horrifying. That’s why you went into the snow globe in the first place, to get away from the cold, pitiless world of reality. The Spectator is a collegial place where peers josh with one another, engage in witty repartee, but always respect their “shared dignity.” Those angry Dirt People in the comments with their facts and reason just don’t get it. Many of them don’t even have a PhD. They are ruining it for everyone!
The media’s new war on their readers is part of the general unrest we are seeing in the West. People in the media have long viewed themselves as the fourth estate, part of the ruling class, but policing the ruling class. This was always nonsense. The press has always been staffed by obsequious rumpswabs and toadies. The reason for that is noticing is dangerous in the mass media so only the most blinkered and stupid thrive. Suddenly, these dullards are learning that the rest of us have no respect for them.