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TWILIGHT OF THE PRESS CORPS GODS! Lady Collins made us think of Carol Leifer’s old joke: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, JULY 15, 2010

No Howler on Friday: We’re off on a mission of national import; it takes us to Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Federal functioning will perhaps be enhanced. But there will be no HOWLER on Friday.

TWILIGHT OF THE PRESS CORPS GODS (permalink): We were considering several topics for today’s hurried, get-away HOWLER.

We considered discussing Michael Winerip’s interesting report about the state of Teach for America.

We still plan to discuss this “meta” piece from Tuesday’s Science Times—a piece which attempts to determine if gravity “is real.” (Or is it “an illusion?”)

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported on the city’s 2010 test scores. And in this editorial, the editors made a half-hearted attempt to discuss Senator Kyl’s recent remarks on the deficit. (Senator McConnell’s remarks weren’t discussed.)

We still plan to discuss Ezra Klein’s recent work (one Sunday column, two blog posts) about the way election results can be predicted on the basis of rising disposable income.

As Roseanne Roseannadanna said, “It’s always something!” But then, we read Gail Collins’ latest column, found in this morning’s New York Times. Why is our society in such a world of hurt? Why are we stuck in a headlong decline? It’s hard to overlook the continuing work of this well-known columnist, a pillar of the press establishment for lo, these many years.

Back in 1999, Collins was snarking and sneering and playing the snide at the expense of Candidate Gore, just like the rest of her cohort. By now, she has lowered her sights a great deal. Today, she discusses Levi Johnston, as she did in last Thursday’s column. (“My Boyfriend’s Back.” Just click here.)

Last week, she pretended to have a point. This week, her piece is Pure Snide.

We never fail to be amazed by the inanity of this establishment mainstay. Columns like today’s should be sent to the Smithsonian. In future centuries, people may want to study the way upper-class “journalists” fiddled as their society burned.

Today’s inanity is profound. For six years (2001-2007), Collins headed the editorial board of the New York Times, the nation’s most famous newspaper. But so what? As unemployment drives along; as economic recovery sputters; as fights are waged about countless real topics; this high lady of the Times opens her column like this:

COLLINS (7/15/10): Today’s additions to the category of No Good Can Ever Come of This:

“Mel Gibson is on the phone.”

“The Bachelorette is close to selecting the man of her dreams.”

“Bristol and Levi are back together.”

Let me go out on a limb and say that Sarah Palin was probably not happy to learn about her oldest daughter’s re-engagement to her baby-daddy via an eight-page cover spread in Us Weekly.

That’s right! As Americans suffer from coast to coast, Collins writes, as she did last week, about 20-year-old Levi Johnston. And about Bristol Palin, 19.

Collins writes about teen-agers. Quickly, the snark and the snide assert themselves, as often occurs with this lady:

COLLINS: The story of how Bristol went from suing her ex-squeeze for child support to accepting a new engagement ring is, like everything about this couple, stupendously unremarkable. They met to discuss custody arrangements. They took baby Tripp out for a walk. Bristol made fun of Levi’s hair. “It was nice,” he recalled.

Levi went home. And texted words of love.

“The next day we started hanging out and, literally, we have hung out every day since,” Bristol concluded.

Not exactly “Wuthering Heights” or “Jane Eyre.” (“Reader, I hung out with him.”) Not even “Twilight,” although, like Levi, the perpetually teenaged Edward Cullen never managed to get through 12th grade.

Darlings! This lady has read Charlotte Bronte, and Bristol Palin is no Charlotte Bronte! (Lady Collins, who isn’t a teen, is also conversant with Twilight.) Bristol’s story is “stupendously unremarkable,” we are told—even as this famous high lady devotes her whole column to it.

As Collins continued to roll her eyes at a trio of teens and near-teens, we thought of Carol Leifer’s old joke. But first, a further sample of a high lady’s hauteur:

COLLINS: Johnston has proved to be the only person in the world who can make me feel sympathy for Sarah Palin. He told Us Weekly that he broached the subject of marrying Bristol at the same family meeting where he apologized to Sarah for telling the national news media that she was money-hungry, insensitive, a bad housekeeper, an indifferent mother and a bad shot. Astonishingly, the Palins didn’t immediately welcome him back into the clan. “They want me to get a career and an education and prove I can take care of Bristol before we can even think about getting back together,” he recounted.

Finally, an issue on which the entire nation can unite. We can’t agree on how to fix the economy, but we are as one when it comes to fixing Levi. Get thee to a G.E.D. tutor.

[...]

Levi has broken relations with his sister, Mercede, over her insistence on telling “my side of the story” on The Official Blog of Mercede Johnston. The home page includes a request for donations and a list of recent posts, including, “Time to set the record straight,” and “No I will NOT sit down and shut up!” Her grievances seem to center on Bristol, who she claims got pregnant on purpose and then tried to turn her brother against his family.

Darlings! Levi lacks his GED! And his sister—his younger sister—is just a big silly twit too!

Last week, when Collins wrote about Levi, she pretended to fold in a message about the best way to avoid teen pregnancy. This week’s column makes no such pretense. This morning’s column is simple snark, from its start right through to its end. In this column, Lady Collins, 64 years of age, clucks and snarks at a couple of teens, and at a big dope who’s 20.

The sheer inanity of this project defines one part of our age. “We can’t agree on how to fix the economy,” Collins notes, pretending to care (see above). But then, when upper-class “journalists” simper this way, it ain’t real hard to see why.

For the past several decades, your society has groaned beneath the weight of this trivia-soaked “journalistic” elite. Lady Dowd has always been their avatar, ever since she noticed that Walter Mondale didn’t know who to hug first (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/30/10). But right there on the same op-ed page, Lady Collins peddles this nonsense twice weekly, fiddling as our communities burn.

We hope she’s devoting her body to science. Some day, when science has advanced, science may want to examine brain slices to learn where inanity comes from.

Question: What do typical Times readers think when they encounter such columns? Have we all become so addled that we see this as political commentary? Meanwhile, if you’re a liberal, we’ll only say this: When conservatives see derisive work of this type, they are hardened in their sense that they shouldn’t pay any mind to the world which brought Collins forth. This makes it harder for seek consensus. But can you really blame them?

Back to that Carol Leifer joke, the one which popped into our head as we read Collins’ column this morning:

Carol used to tell a joke about the way people pretend to throw a ball, then laugh when their pet dogs are baffled. We thought of Carol’s punch line as we read today’s column. Her punch line went something like this:

How far down the evolutionary scale are we willing to go to find someone to whom we can feel superior?

For Lady Collins, the answer is clear. Lady Collins is pleased to announce that she’s brighter by far than Levi Johnston’s (teen-aged) sister.

We hope arrangements are being made to study this lady in the future. Her columns will help our ancestors know how we came to ruin.