I was better off sniffing glue from a paper bag than reading the New York Times today

August 13, 2010

I think people read newspapers or watch the news on TV solely to feel emotions in a setting where they are comfortable having them.  People died in a flood, oh I feel sad.  Our sports won again, yay I feel happy.  Politicians are dumb, rawr I am angry.  Little easy to open packets of emotions that really have no bearing on your daily life that you can feel on your own without having to involve another person that you know.

I say this because it’s clear that the purpose of American news is definitely not to inform people.  My latest evidence comes from a recent New York Times article by Matt Bai about Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).  At first glance, it appears just to be another fluff piece, par for the course in the NY Times, but this section stands out:

Mr. Ryan, as you may have heard, is the Republican star of the moment. A 40-year-old from southeastern Wisconsin serving his sixth term in the House, Mr. Ryan has been getting a lot of attention for his “Roadmap for America’s Future,” an unusually austere proposal to vanquish the federal debt by, among other things, partly dismantling Social Security and Medicare as they currently exist.

Republicans admire the boldness of Mr. Ryan’s vision, even if his proposals are a little too bleak for the campaign trail. “He’s not saying the world’s going to be full of butterscotch sundaes,” is how Jeb Bush described the plan to me recently. “He’s saying: ‘Eat your broccoli. And then maybe you don’t get to eat at all for a few days. You don’t get steak — ever.’ ”

And at no point in the rest of the article does Bai attempt to elaborate on the details of what sounds like the worst plan ever.  You can’t just throw out a line like that and just drop it.  I don’t care if the world won’t be full of butterscotch sundaes but I’d like to get in at least two or three decent meals a day, depending on when I wake up and what I have planned.  How good of a plan could this Road Map be if it invokes the metaphor of people being deprived of food for a few days?  This sounds like a plan that should in no way, shape, or form even be considered.

Imagine I came up with a plan and someone described it to you like this: “On Monday, you carve your name into your flesh with a rusty penknife for a bowl of imitation All-Bran with no milk.  Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday all you eat is butter out of another man’s asshole.  And Friday you get a raw brick of Ramen noodles and skull-fucked by a thoroughbred.”  Wouldn’t you want someone to elaborate on why this horrific plan involves all these horrible things?  Wouldn’t you want to know why a race horse is going to fuck you in eye socket, even in a metaphorical sense? And wouldn’t you want to know why this plan is supposedly making me so popular that some dumb twat in the New York Times is committing the journalistic equivalent of tonguing my taint?

But no, Matt Bai doesn’t bother telling us the merits of such a plan, or if the contents of said plan are even true.  He bails out on his responsibility to actually inform his readers about something with this cop-out:

Let’s leave aside for now the debate over the viability of the road map, which, as a practical matter, doesn’t stand a chance of being enacted as is, anyway. The more pertinent question is whether Mr. Ryan is the kind of guy who just wants to make a point — or whether his road map represents the starting point in what could be a serious negotiation about entitlements and spending.

If I penned an article in the New York Times centered around my plan to fix global warming by building a giant robot cat to push the earth further away from the sun and I wrote “Let’s leave aside for now the debate over the viability of this giant robot cat plan, which, as a practical matter doesn’t stand a chance of being enacted as is,”  you’d tell me to go fuck myself for wasting your damn time.  As well you should.

So this Road Map that is getting Paul Ryan all this glowing attention, which is making Matt Bai write this article in the first place, is just escapist political fantasy?  Like it’s the Twilight Saga except with less vampires and shirtless men and more tax cuts for the rich and cat food for grandma?  Or is Matt Bai trying to tell us that this is a modern version of “A Modest Proposal?”  Is Paul Ryan trying to be ironic in coming up with a plan that even his political ally explains in the bleak terms of forced starvation?  See, you can’t do irony if you’re actually saying things you believe, and we’ve been given no indication from Matt Bai that Paul Ryan doesn’t believe what his Road Map says (in fact, it lines up with his party’s platform perfectly).   Maybe if the reporter writing the story did his fucking job instead of being a stenographer jerking off to the erotic bipartisan dreams that somehow get him hard I’d know the answer, but thanks to Matt Bai I’m now dumber than when I woke up this afternoon and thought it would be a great idea to take a bath with a plugged-in toaster in my hands.

Oh, and as it turns out, Paul Ryan’s roadmap actually lets rich people eat steak all the damn time while the rest of us making less than $100K a year don’t even get handfuls of millet (in fact, it looks like we lose the millet we didn’t have to begin with). Why did I have to go elsewhere to learn this? Why couldn’t I have found the same article?

For this abortion of words, Matt Bai should be forced to not eat for a few days.  Not because we would delight in his hunger pains but because we can’t trust him to use a fork without hurting himself or others.



  1. i’m pretty sure you need to submit this directly to the NYT as an editorial. or The Voice.

  2. I thought butter came from cows? And why aren’t my erotic dreams bipartisan?

  3. This is why I do so badly on the weekly BBC quiz. Because I figured this out about “news” several years ago, so I don’t watch or read it much any more.

    Why waste the time? I’d rather have some erotic dreams.

  4. A couple of times I’ve quoted Aldous Huxley’s remark about radio dramas (he said it in the 1930s) offering people daily or even hourly “emotional enemas.” I think this is the first time I’ve seen someone articulate out loud that this colonic effect has been transferred to news programming.

    If someone can find Paul Ryan a shovel, I have some flower beds I want dug. I’ll pay him what I pay my gardener, since they sound about equally smart, and we’ll see how he feels about paying taxes on that. It might be his first experience of real work, judging from the way he maps roads.

  5. Surely it’s not too late for the glue?

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