Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The New New Journalism, ie Freaking Nonsense

I just tried to look at the New Yorker's new website. As magazine websites go, it's nicely done. Blah design blah interface blah. Once I started reading I remembered that the New Yorker provokes my rage issues.

But still, I wind up looking at the thing. In an attempt to avoid becoming what the NYPD calls an Emotionally Distressed Person, I'll bleed off some bile here. The New Yorker's regular features are as bad as any blog in terms of intellectual content and honesty. That they come with the imprimatur of the New Yorker stamped on them makes it worse. Take this article about the looming consolidation of satellite radio by James Surowiecki as an example. His shtick goes like this:

1. Introduce a topic of the day. This is often a financial concern peripheral to something people actually care about. No one gives a rat's ass about satellite radio regardless of whether or not Sirius and XM merge. This is why Sirius and XM want to merge, so they can fuse the vanishingly small market share that they currently split. People do care about market consolidation and squeezing out the little guy though. This, the conventional wisdom, is Surowiecki's boogeyman.

2. State the conventional wisdom. Here is where we get into the facile meat of any New Yorker essay that's not straight-up reportage. Surowiecki will define conventional wisdom here so that (in step three) he can knock it down. This is fine rhetorical work, except Surowiecki cherry picks whatever data he uses to build the definition of "conventional wisdom." The point of this, ultimately, is to present "conventional wisdom" that looks faintly stupid in the august pages of the New Yorker even before Surowiecki knocks it down. In this essay he reaches back to the bad old days of government activism in anti-trust law. According to Surowiecki telling, during the years after WWII the government was power-drunk on anti-trust law, squashing sensible mergers of shoe companies and supermarket chains that in no way threatened the free market or the economy at large. He goes on to point out that in this case, satellite radio networks compete with terrestrial radio networks. See, it's actually an all out melee in the airwaves. Every broadcaster for himself. AM, FM and hi-definition radio trading blows with satellite on a daily basis. I mean obviously. When Surowiecki reaches the point at which he knocks down this conventional wisdom, New Yorker Readers from Amsterdam avenue to Telegraph Hill will break their own arms patting themselves on the back because they are just as smart as the great James Surowiecki.

Of course there is no perceptible competition among terrestrial broadcasters. But, uh, let's not talk about it. Right now we're slaying the dragon of conventional wisdom.

3. Suroweicki now says that the conventional wisdom is wrong. Why? Because he said so.

4. Now, having upended conventional wisdom, Surowiecki paints a fairy-tale vision of what will happen when we all smack our foreheads and realize how dumb we've been. In this case, Bob Edwards and Bob Dylan will join hands with the starting defensive line of the Pittsburgh Steelers and descend from the heavens into your one, single, satellite radio receiver. Howard Stern leads the way, astride a humming Sybian. They'll do it for cheap and your auditory cultural options will swell like fibroid tumors.

What fucking nonsense. And every article by Surowiecki, that guy with the afro, and the other one who blabs incessantly about his annoyingly precocious kid goes the same way.

No comments: