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.
Bravo! Well written and totally on target. I’ve ended up exchanging emails with “journalists” for several major newspapers, and the results were always the same. I buried their arguments with so many details they lashed out in anger. I then noted that my previous reply contained “n” facts in support of my argument, but the professional failed to dispute any of them or offered any facts to support their argument. No reply.
It seems clear to me that those organizations which have closed down the comments section simply don’t understand economics.
They believe the advertising will keep the afloat
And then fail to realize that said advertising will dribble away when the advertisers realize there is nobody reading their ads.
As for socialist sites such as Huffpo? I liken them to the screeching of geese overhead. Annoying as hell, but it tells you where the flock is headed.
A PhD in the sociology of theology is slightly more useful than a degree in sitting still if a large part of your income derives from writing for religious publications such as The Catholic Herald. Which Thompson does write for, as well as other, similar publications.
I think you’re also being unfair to him by dismissing, without any evidence, his assertion that advertisers are no longer just interested in page view stats but want more sophisticated analytics, the better to get more bang for their buck. It’s also unfair to criticise Thompson’s observation that commenters have ‘a sharp eye for the fragility of the journalistic ego’, then turn that into ‘the comments have become the place that make the writers cry’ and run with that, as though that was not the very point Thompson was making. Sort of having your cake and eating it, no?
The other point that’s relevant, which Thompson didn’t make, is that in the UK, comments on the big news sites really have to be moderated, a high maintenance job that’s necessitated by the UK having such strict (and if you lose, hideously expensive) libel laws.
Yes, there are some dumb journalists out there in interweb land. But Thompson is a little more nuanced and intelligent than you give him credit for.
i’m convinced i broke the comments at npr
Yes, the comments section often tells the Real Untold Story the journalists left out. Too often, journalists are trying to report as little as possible about politically incorrect stories where “urban youths” are on a rampage or who exactly these people are who shoot up crowds while shouting “Allahu Akbar!” Very often, the media expends more effort not reporting things than reporting them.
It’s virtually impossible to read a mainstream article about firearms, firearm laws, and the enthusiast community that enjoys them without noticing at least two or three glaring, factual errors in every paragraph. Sometimes even in one sentence. They get corrected, and corrected, and corrected some more in the comments section by knowledgeable readers.
And what happens the following week? Another similar article in the same publication with basically the same errors.
No wonder the reporters/editors don’t like comments. When they are made to look foolish and ignorant to their readership it shreds even the smallest amount of credibility they have left.
“Obsequious rumpswabs and toadies.” Just wanted to hear it again.
Well, these poor journalists will fine their egos even more bruised when they are out of work. The comments sections keep people coming back. If you take away the comments, then there is less interaction and there is less reason to read any particular publication or writer. Loss of comments will serve neither the publication, the writers, or the readers. Lose, lose, lose.
The media likes to boast that they will hold the powerful accountable, but believe there is no need for anyone to hold them accountable.
Nice work if you can get it.
The first name that jumps to mind is Shepard Smith, an intellectual light-weight of the first water.
What, exactly, prevents a journalism enterprise from hiring high school grads again? Indeed, what prevents them from hiring high school students? What is killing journalism is the high cost basis compared to the income potential. Why is hiring college graduates, with their higher cost basis, considered a necessity instead of an extravagance? It’s not like the college boys are capable of turning out error free copy or frequently insightful analysis.
Probably too late to post: It’s just shady fun to mock J Majors (talk about a target-rich environment_!), but the smug Spectator poofter has a half-pont in that there seems to be a species of monomaniacal, likely paid, trolls that endeavor to ruin comment threads, particularly in right-sites as a species of agitprop. The answer is, of course. an ongoing active effort to ban/block them. But that adds work/cost as well as value.
Bitingly hilarious and insightful.
I was in a writing program at the local college back in the mid 1980’s. I had lots of classes with folks of various sorts, such as the “creative writing” types, and journalism students. With only one exception, the journalism students struck me as the least intelligent and least intellectually curious of all the writing students. The one exception, a man in his early 30s, had already been working as a newspaper reporter for years, but his employer wanted him to get a degree, for some reason I never quite understood.
Orwell knew what kind of people “journalists” were. They were a key component of “Ingsoc”, the totalitarian socialist party that ruled Oceania. “The new aristocracy was made up for the most part by bureaucrats, scientists, technicians, unionists, publicists, sociologists, teachers, journalists, and professional politicians…they were hungrier for pure power and …intent on crushing opposition.” (1984, p. 206). Orwell, a journalist himself, knew journalists were toadies who lusted after power and prestige. The American version of Ingsoc–the new Democratic Party/ BLM/ OWS/SJW/ crowd–will employ hordes of Brian Williamses and Keith Olbermans to duckspeak the Party Line. Which they do already.
“Most journalists are so stupid, they’d support the repeal of the first amendment, which would put them out of jobs.”
I am convinced that most of them would be just fine working for the Ministry of Truth, doing nothing but regurgitating government propaganda and writing Unpersons out of history. They would be paid bureaucrats and would not have to worry about losing their jobs due to low ratings and declining circulation. They would also not have to spend any time at all even creating an illusion of balance and since they really don’t want to work very hard, they would welcome an end to the irksome task of getting “both sides of the story.” Not that they bother much with it now.
In many ways they already are working for Ministry of Truth. Think back to the many articles this week that you read written around the presumption of Hillary’s pneumonia. While we’ve been watching her fall and struggle up stairs (as I do myself) for years, watching her cough all this year. And now see her actually collapse, and spring back within just a few hours. Voila! We’ve seen for ourselves Fresnel prism lenses, Zeiss lenses, and coughing still. But yeah, frame the stories around pneumonia
Thoughtful and well-written column.
Oh, it gets worse…
“The first time I met a big foot Hollywood Celebrity…..”
I’m pretty sure there’s no more journalism schools, they’re “Communications” divisions now.
Social promotion has supplanted the “Gentleman’s C”
I was TRIGGERED has supplanted “My dog ate my homework”.
I especially like “fatuous” with its element of smugness as in this definition
“Foolish or silly, especially in a smug or self-satisfied way” http://www.thefreedictionary.com/fatuous
Example: Thomas Friedman
I don’t comment on sites that use only Facebook for their comments section, but that’s the point, I guess. Completely transparent form of censorship. Apparently it is thought that if people use their “real” identity, they will be more temperate in their commenting. Although if you take a look over at Huffposts’ comments you can read the most vile things about Anyone Who is Not a Progressive Leftist. I must admit I like to spy on the enemy on occasion. Not too often, though, because it’s nauseating to read what these people think. Sometimes I think, are we even living in the same country?
I don’t READ sites that only use Facebook for their comments section.
But then, I’m cranky.
I get you, but I feel it’s always instructive to know what your enemy is thinking. In a general sense, ya we know, but to see it there, in black & white, and knowing that they actually believe the effluvium coming from their mouths, is a whole lotta ” knowing”.
Oh dear Lord this was funny…in light of one of my son’s describing another of the ESPN “goldfish” crew that hung out on weekends at the golf club he worked at this past summer–drinking, carousing and generally being a complete dick to the entire staff, as well as other members. Seriously, though. live in a town heavily populated by media types and the other operative issue is that most have just enough IQ to be truly resentful of having to live on the economic outskirts, though they may have gone to the same schools as the lawyers, software guys and investment bankers. That resentment shines through in most of their reportage.
Z, you have a treasure trove of ‘jewels’ in this post. I think my favorite is “too dumb to have self-awareness.” I imagine that even a rock has some self-awareness compared to these types of people. I cannot stand those kind of people. That is probably why I cannot watch things like Ron Burgundy. It is not comedy to me. It is torture to my soul.
So glad to see your post! I thought I was alone in not finding Ron Burgundy funny.
I found no humor there; it was agonizing to watch.
Well that escalated quickly…
“The press has always been staffed by obsequious rumpswabs and toadies.”
Not always. Read the reminiscences H.L. Mencken, Charles Anderson Dana, Ben Hecht and a slew of others on the newspapering of their early days, A intelligent high school kid like Mencken could show up at a newspaper office, get hired on for menial tasks, work his way up by diligent curiosity and clear writing to the top of journalism.
His counterparts today are paid for indolence and incuriosity and, as Zman points out, being not overburdened with intelligence.
Thank You, Z man!
I now have a Master’s of Sitting Down
Respect is on the way. I EARNED my degree by reading your blog, sitting down.
All I need now is a really nice frame from Goodwill.
“… Ph.D in the sociology of religion, which is about as useful as a masters degree in sitting still.”
That is pure gold right there.
Anyone with a useful degree has already mastered sitting still.
Most journalists are so stupid, they’d support the repeal of the first amendment, which would put them out of jobs.
As a footnote, here’s Kafka on sitting still:
You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
I’m pretty sure K learned this from the school of life, the only school where anybody actually learns anything.
The funny thing is you hear journos use the word “Kafka-esque” a lot, but none of them have every read a word the man wrote.
Hearing Rachel Maddow compare Trump to Hitler only illustrates that her knowledge of the Third Reich is limited to “Hitler bad. Racist.”
It is always fun, when someone says “Kafkaesque” to nod and say, “Really, in what sense?”
There’s a chance (well, highly unlikely) he may have picked it up from Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Huang Po and others in the Taoist/Zen camp. In any case, it’s good advice!
All of this goes double for academia, as I’m sure you know. Journos, I imagine, have to *actively* practice crimestop, as they’re forced to write in plain English — they’re still dumb as goldfish, but have to have at least a little something on the ball. In my experience, academia is a guild profession and lots of them — 2nd and 3rd generation profs — may well be honestly ignorant of anything outside the ivory tower. And since they speak in a code known only to themselves…. I remember sitting in a seminar room once, everyone serially agreeing that Human Rights can only be achieved when the nation state is no more. When it was my turn, I pointed out that, under this logic, the Normandy invasion was a giant violation of the Wehrmacht’s human rights and FDR should’ve been right there in the dock with Goering at Nuremberg. Fun stuff. There is no stupidity like tertiary-degreed stupidity.
Tertiary-degreed stupidity. There’s a phrase that will impress my friends. They expect that sort of thing from me when I get wound up pronouncing on the fate of civilization. Thank you, Severian.
No sweat. Any enemy of Loki is a friend of mine.
My sister-in-law (a Sociology Professor) recently sent my wife an email with lots of words. My wife forwarded it to me with the headline” “I honestly have no idea what she’s saying.” I couldn’t wade through the emoting nonsense far enough to render a translation.
That’s how you know you’re in the presence of a certified Deep Thinker — when you can’t even discuss their jargon without a whole other set of jargon. The Postmodern Essay Generator has enough publications to make tenure twice over for a reason.
Here’s Twittermeister Iowahawk on the topic of Academyspeak:
“Humanities look at prestige fields like Physics and see incomprehensible symbols and jargon. Then, like a cargo cult, they invent their own incomprehensible jargon and expect the prestige to follow.”
Mmmm… your Sister-in-Law is your wife’s sister, in other words, your wife can’t communicate with her own sister and that sister can’t throttle down the big act even with her own sister.
At Thanksgiving, you and your wife are welcome at my house.
Non-STEM academics never, ever throttle down. They’re also the insufferable people who, in their email sig line, add “BA” or “MA” even though everybody receiving the email knows they got the letters for just showing up.
A lot of my hockey buddies are engineering profs. (real engineering, like civil and mechanical, not environmental) They pretty much do work for a living. Liberal Arts, not so much.
Correction: “Liberal Arts, not at all.”
Academia. Once you get out of STEM it takes a football field packed tightly with PhDs to achieve a cumulative 110 IQ. It’s impossible with people from the School of Education.
I suppose here’s as good as any place to mention, just in passing, of course, that NRO has recently abandoned its anonymous, Disqus-based commenting system in favor of Facebook. If that doesn’t spell it all out with a big middle finger, what will?
One of their former moderators said that Charles Cooke was so distraught over the comments, they feared for his health.
Poor baby! Well, he won’t have any of those to worry him any more.
I used to post this picture of Cooke over there regularly. I may have been the guy who made him cry.
hahaha what a precious Timmy he is! a natural “warrior” 😛
Made me laugh.
Z, that’s brutal, dude. I know German has a word for “a face that needs a fist in it;” is there a similar word for “a person whose life can only be improved by an atomic wedgie?” Karl Horst, can you help me out?
In fairness, the English have different ways. The English endeavor to be interesting, even if it means being silly and pretentious. Americans endeavor to be earnest and candid, even if it means being dull and predictable. Still, the guy is a ridiculous poof.
I never really understood the nuances of that word “poof”…. until now. There’s really no other word to describe the guy in that picture. See, this is why I come here: I learn stuff.
a “poof” is a gay fart
We old round engine jocks (R-2800 & R-3350) call a jet engine start a poof.
“Americans endeavor to be earnest and candid, even if it means being dull and predictable.”
Ah, where would we be without the obligatory insult to those idiotic Americans from a pretentious European?
Talk about “pretentious”…
Severian, you likely have “Backpfeifengesicht” in mind. Unfortunately though, a Backpfeife is just a slap in the face, not the fistblow that you’re thinking of for that supremely qualified fellow. We Germans being essentially a gentle nation, we don’t have a fixed expression for a face deserving the latter kind of treatment.
@ Herzog – “Backpfeifengesicht”?? Klingt ja wie aus einem Heinz Rühmann Film! 🙂 Oder…”Hackfresse”…?
Could you invent one, please?
Oh, that Octoberfest dance performance thing, by men in leather short pants, is called Backpfeife?
Now we know!
@ Severian – “Da will man nur noch reinschlagen.” is probably the closest translation. It means “You want to smash into it”.
Kinda looks like Peter Forsberg. Does he play hockey?
@Karl Horst and Herzog, thanks very much! Obviously I don’t know any German, but it seems to be sublimely useful for both philosophizing with people, and insulting them. (I had a buddy in grad school spend a half hour trying to explain exactly what aufheben means (yes, we’d been drinking at the time). I don’t think I’d really get Hegel anyway, but ….). And again, this is why I come here: I learn stuff.
I love German – studied it in high school and university. I think my interest was piqued by reading Mark Twain’s “The Awful German Language”. His complaint about the famous German “portmanteau words” has never been bettered: “These things are not words, they are alphabetical processions.” Surely such a gifted language could come up with something like FistPunchDeservingFace!
@ Dr. Mabuse – Many people struggle with the German language, it is challenging. Die, Der, Das is horrible for everyone because there’s no sense to it. Also, you may remember ‘Du’ and ‘Sie’ used as the familiar and formal version of ‘you’. Helmut Kohl once said to President Bush in English – “You can say you to me” to let Mr. Bush know it was okay to use the informal ‘Du’ rather than ‘Sie’ which in German makes sense, but in English just sounds silly.
I can still remember and rattle off the list of prepositions that go with each declension: mit-nach-nebst-bei-seit-von-zu-ausser-aus ; an-auf-hinter-neben-im-uber-unber-vor und zwischen. When you learn something at the age of 14 or 16, it sticks with you for the rest of your life. Nowadays, it can take me a whole year to memorize a new phone number!
The first Oktoberfest I went to, the first thing I saw was two Polizei dragging an unconscious man, by one ankle each, face down through a gravel parking lot to their cruiser. When I went in, I asked what happened– they told me that he had used “Du” to the Polizei, so they beat the **** out of him on the spot, with spring-loaded truncheons.
Now THAT, my friends, is a Grammar Nazi. PS, all the Germans thought that the guy deserved the ***-whuppin’, and they didn’t miss a beat on the drinking songs, etc.
LOL! He’s so cool and dashing with his scarf carelessly tied around his neck and his just so facial hair. Ooooh!
I used to waste time dismantling NRO articles in comments when bored. The comments section often contained far more logic and thought than the articles. I haven’t read an article there since the switch.
I’ve stopped reading NRO since the change too. It turned out that the comments were more interesting than the articles.
One of my favorite sites to read comments at was always HotAir.com. Not necessarily due to the caliber of the commenters & their intellectual comments,but because for a decade, these folks were dedicated & had formed a family. It was always nice to check their reactions to everyday events. However, the Salem owned sites forced a move to FB comments, telling their commenters to break the rules of Facebook and risk getting banned, by using a pseudonym acct to allow them to speak freely. These decade long devoted commenters got shivved all on one day & told to get over it. What an absolutely stupid move to destroy your base of readers.
NPR disabled comments, not National Review
I can’t really blame them. They have a lot of very talented thinkers/writers (Goldberg, Williamson, for example, of there very little of value in terms of substance or reason in their comment section, but frequently had a lot of trolls. Reading their comment sections was usually a waste of time and depressing.