Friday, September 02, 2016

David Brooks and Ron Fournier: Scary Monsters and Super Creeps

Today, Ron Fournier follows up his award-adjacent August column in The Atlantic bidding farewell to this Business we call "Show" --
You Can Go Home Again

After two-and-a-half decades in Washington, D.C., a political journalist heads back to Detroit to join in the revival of his native city.
-- with a soon-to-be-award-contiguous September column in The Atlantic bidding farewell to this Business we call "Show:
A Farewell Guide to Political Journalism

Lessons gleaned from 30 years of covering American politics—from Bill Clinton to Donald Trump.
I will pause for just a moment to note that "gleaning: is an interesting choice here, given that its original meaning was --
...the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest.
-- and that for years Mr. Fournier has been making a living selling the stale, leftover stubble of Beltway common wisdom.

 But I suppose that's neither here nor there.

Pause over.  Moving on.

Now a lesser man might be tempted to write a short essay entitled, say, "Oh For Fuck's Sake, Leave Already", but I don't know any lesser men, and anyway, now that a paying gig has opened up at The Atlantic that could be filled by eight lines of code that spits out "Both Sides do it.  K'rrupt Duopoly!" in the face of every Republican atrocity, I'm going to keep my swears to a minimum until they definitely reject my resume.

What I will say is that the long list of Shalts and Shalt Nots Mr. Fournier lays out for future journalists to follow in order to win the inspire respect and fear of their sources --
I mentioned a particular journalist known to be an easy mark inside the White Houses of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Afraid of confrontation, eager to please, and lazy, this reporter printed whatever minor bits of news and color aides fed him, without skepticism or criticism. I didn’t respect the guy. Nor did most other reporters forced to compete against a patsy who benefited from a policy of mutual-assured promotion.

“He’ll gobble up what we feed him,” I told my partners.

One groaned. Another winced and said, “Yes, but nobody will buy it. Nobody respects him. They’ll know it’s just a press release.”

Until that moment, I assumed the people we covered in politics valued pushover journalists. I thought this particular reporter got ahead by going along. That might be true on the small stories, but not for the stuff that matters.
But I left the meeting knowing that if I ever returned to journalism, I didn’t want to be taken for granted liked the first reporter. I wanted to inspire in my sources what Balz had earned from my partners—respect and fear.
-- seem to have been boosted from the Mike Royko collection at the Newberry Library and bears little if any relationship to anything that Mr. "Both Sides Do It! K'rrupt Duopoly!" has done since the Cheney Administration.

And speaking of pundits who Donald Trump has completely broken...

Down the block, Mr. David Brooks of The New York Times (who bade farewell from the Real World years ago) is shocked and saddened to learn that after 30 years of winning elections by pandering to braying, bigoted assholes. the Republican party has nominated a braying, bigoted asshole to run for president.

Because what sort of next-level, Nostradamus brain-wizard could possible have seen that coming.
But this year, it seems, everything has been stripped down to the bone. Politics is dividing along crude identity lines — along race and class. Are you a native-born white or are you an outsider? Are you one of the people or one of the elites?

Politics is no longer about argument or discussion; it’s about trying to put your opponents into the box of the untouchables.

Donald Trump didn’t invent this game, but he embodies it. His advisers tried to dress him up on Wednesday afternoon as some sort of mature summiteer. But he just can’t be phony.
Mr. Brooks then explains "identity politics" as if speaking to a six-year-old, which must make the readers of the New York Times feel they've gotten their dollar's worth.

However, since David Brooks is David Brooks, he simply could not quit the field without swinging past the Holy Mother Church of Both Siderism to light a votive candle in honor of Ron Fournier getting out of show business:
Identity politics, as practiced by Trump, but also by others on the left and the right, distracts from the reality that we are one nation. It corrodes the sense of solidarity. It breeds suspicion, cynicism and distrust.
Which makes me suspect that Mr. Brooks has not read or heeded Mr. Fournier's farewell address to the D.C. Punditocracy.  Because, according to Mr. Fourier, two of the most important principles any pixel-stained wretch must adhere to if they want to live a life of honor are:
Write with authority. Don’t use crutches like “critics say” when the truth can stand on its own. If the president has said something that is factually wrong, just write or say, “The president is wrong.” If you can show the deception is intentional, tell your audience, “The president lied.” Don’t strain for balance or equivalence in a story where there is none.  The truth is rarely black and white or evenly balanced between poles...

Don’t follow the herd. Journalists in Washington tend to chase the same stories based on the same assumptions to reach the same conclusions. Resist the temptation because it’s boring and bad for your career. The way to advance in journalism is to be distinctive, which means telling stories that nobody else is telling, which starts by asking questions nobody else is asking, which can only be done if you ignore the convention wisdom and group think, which takes guts. Take a chance. Take control.
Yes, Mr. Ron Fournier actually wrote this in his final column for The Atlantic, and no editor set it on fire, pissed on the ashes and then returned it to Mr. Fournier in a commemorative coffee mug for a rewrite. 

So since no one seems to be paying the much attention to what appears under The Atlantic banner, I'm thinking my plan to get the publisher drunk, then showing up the next day and acting "hired", may actually have a shot at succeeding.

If I can keep my "fucks" to a minimum.


Neo Tuxedo said...

The Village is Laputa. The country is Balnibarbi. Donald Trump is the Lindalino super-magnet dragging Laputa out of the sky. It's just that simple. It's just that complicated.

(No, I haven't been taking Robt lessons; it's just that, like Miles Vorkosigan, I make these funny leaking noises when I'm thinking, and sometimes it's just too much trouble to unpack.)

Susan of Texas said...

This is how you get hired at the Atlantic: you let Bradley know that you are eager to be whored out to corporations.

You also need to let him know you will betray the group you belong to in favor of the powerful. If you write on economics, you will support corporations. If you write on religion, you will support conservative god-humpers. If you write on race, you will confine yourself to past racism and turn a blind eye to the racism of your religion and economics colleagues.

That is the company that won't ever hire you. Thank god for that, or they would have you write hundreds of posts on uselessness and inevitable failure of progressives.

That is *absolutely certain.*

bowtiejack said...

Good, good stuff.
Particularly loved "the stale, leftover stubble of Beltway common wisdom."
I assume somebody must have broken it to you a long time ago, but your problem is the same one as that guy in HG Wells' "The Country of the Blind". So enjoy the weekend and maybe, uh, catch a movie?

trgahan said...

Funny how Brooks never defines the other side of this "crude identity politics" that, of course, didn't exist until this year....the only thing that is more absurdly funny is when Sullivan calls a Democrat, any Democrat, a Neo-Marxist.

I mean, we have a braying bigoted asshole carnival barker nominated by the widest margin in party history VS. who exactly?

African American's who don't want to be shot over simple traffic stops? Citizens who don't want their water leaded? People who want government to work FOR them instead of just giving billionaires tax cuts and deregulating corporations?

Robt said...

The respectable thing to do would be to say best wishes to Ron F. in his journalistic retirement journey. Just that Just that saying it would be failure of Ron's advice that is career making or breaking.
The advise of,
" when the truth can stand on its own. If the president has said something that is factually wrong, just write or say, “The president is wrong.”

Ashamed he could not apply that creddo to those of his own ideology. As he bellows importance of writing about that which no other is addressing. This is the mantra of the right. "Hey, did you hear? and no one in the media (liberal media of course) is talking about it?
If I could take Ron's advise here and say,
Ron you are wrong! You have been so wrong, so many times. The reason I say this is because telling you your wrong *when you are) is talking about something that not many folks are. At least in your journalistic conservative herd mentality.

I figure the Atlantic replacing Ron with Driftglass is somewhat equivalent to replacing Justice Clarence Thomas with Justice Thurgood Marshall.
So if you take him out and get him drunk to be able to show up as hired. Better have some slutty pics of him to back it up.

keith gargus said...

Besides being 100% irony deficient, Fournier lacks any self awareness. In fact, he seems to have stumbled through life in an unconscious state.

dinthebeast said...

"But he just can’t be phony."

What am I even supposed to do with a sentence like that?

-Doug in Oakland

Lit3Bolt said...

@ keith gargus:

Well, it's because we were never allowed to see what the real Ron Fournier thought. Ron Fournier treated journalism as a Muppet Show vocation, not as a calling with high pretensions or duty to the public. Everything must follow the TV formula of gossipy, baseless accusations and untested, unfounded assertions, all aiming at the lowest common denominator of political information and historical knowledge.

So that's why driftglass snarks away, but doesn't get an invite to write for an actual paycheck. It's too raw, too real, and doesn't insult the intelligence of his readers. Where's the audience of people who remember what happened last week? That's far too small. Besides, you can't entertain and inform at the same time. We had our best TV Muppets with Charisma scores of 3 try it, and it was impossible! So of course it cannot be done. *ignores Daily Show and Colbert Report*

Caoimhin Laochdha said...

Don’t use crutches like “critics say” when the truth can stand on its own. If the president has said something that is factually wrong, just write or say, “The president is wrong.” If you can show the deception is intentional, tell your audience, “The president lied.” Don’t strain for balance or equivalence in a story where there is none.

In other words, be objective. "Neutral" is typically as biased as, well, being biased. "Neutral" means giving equal credence to the facts of climate change vs. arguments that otherwise falsely claim that climate change is a hoax.

I cannot name a single source for objective news on either a U.S. tv network or any other publication of national or regional importance.