Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Newt York Times Style Manual

I really need to write something about Willard Mitt Romney at some point. I hate feeling like I'm beating up on the nerd in the classroom.

The first sentence made me want to take a pickaxe to my eyes.
Ideas erupt from the mind of Newt Gingrich — bold, unconventional and sometimes troubling and distracting.
The person who wrote this sentence is named Trip. Trip Gabriel, in fact. People aren't really named Trip, are they? Is it a nickname for something, perhaps? Or was he born while the family was on vacation?

This isn't a complaint about Gingrich. Really. The complaint here is about the way he and his statements are portrayed. Gingrich does not have ideas. They do not "erupt" from his mind. His "ideas" are neither "bold" nor "unconventional" let alone "troubling" and "distracting". Paul Krugman recently quipped that Newt is a stupid person's idea of what a smart person sounds like, a marvelous bit of snark that also happens to be an apt description of the disgraced former House Speaker. Lacking any discipline over his pants or his mouth, Gingrich simply lets fly whatever comes in to his head. It doesn't have to be related to reality. It doesn't have to be thought through with care. Spouting stuff more quickly than people can take in isn't a sign of intelligence. It's the mark of a bullshitter who understands that by the time something he or she says is taken apart and looked at thoroughly, he or she will be on to five other topics, equally swamped with the distinct odor of the cow pasture.

The same "mind" which insisted that child labor laws are stupid and the people are taking vacations on their Food Stamp allotments also opined that the Columbine High School shootings were a direct result of Democratic domestic policies, and that Susan Smith, the multiple child-murderer from South Carolina, was an example of Democratic policies in action. Forgive me for not thinking too highly of Gingrich's "mind".

Trip is writing from the typical playbook. Gingrich is the smartest guy in the room. He likes to show off how much he knows. He spouts ideas because his mind is fertile and imaginative, thinking outside the boundaries of usual discourse and accepted opinion. The entire piece is rife with these basic elements of Newt-speak.
Mr. Gingrich’s tendency to speak bluntly, provocatively and sometime impulsively may be part of his emerging appeal at a time when conservatives seem intent on sending a no-business-as-usual message to Washington. It helps with his attempts to foster an image as a candidate eager to bring about change.


Longtime aides to Mr. Gingrich said he fosters work environments where people feel free to think out loud. The ideas he offers in public are not ad hominem but grounded in such lengthy brainstorming. But because his ideas are often unconventional, they require detailed explanations; expressed as a sound bite, they backfire.
This entire enterprise is in the same vein as an article in Time magazine, written by "historian" Joe Meacham (he has written a history of the Jacksonian era, which instantly saved me all that money of buying a book by someone who could write what Meacham did). Such public obeisance to a figure as ridiculous as Gingrich makes one wonder about the stability of the entire political class. Considering the German's have a far more sober take on the Republican Presidential candidates than anything in the mainstream American press, it at least suggests that familiarity doesn't so much breed contempt as it does idiocy.

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