Spawn of Dowd: The planet’s least likely job!

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2011

This just in from Maureen Dowd’s silly-bill "research assistant:" The liberal world seems unable to notice. But the New York Times’ political writing is relentlessly fatuous. Dumb.

Just consider this morning’s Political Memo by Ashley Parker, one of the fatuous newspaper’s hottest “political” writers.

Parker is 28 or 29 years of age. She seems to be a graduate of Penn. And even at her tender age, she seems to have mastered the silly-jill style of her post-journalistic newspaper. Here’s how she starts today’s flyweight piece about Romney:
PARKER (10/29/11): Mitt Romney likes rules.

The former governor of Massachusetts likes following the rules, explaining the rules and pointing out to others when they, heaven forbid, break the rules. At the most recent Republican debate in Las Vegas, Mr. Romney inadvertently cast himself as the Enforcer when he tried mightily to ensure that every candidate received their allotted response time.

“Rick, I’m speaking, I’m speaking, I’m speaking, I’m speaking. You get 30 seconds. The way the rules work here is that I get 60 seconds, and then you get 30 seconds to respond, right?” Mr. Romney said, all while Gov. Rick Perry of Texas interrupted and talked over him.

“Anderson?” Mr. Romney said, turning pleadingly to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who was moderating the debate. (Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota beseeched the moderator by his first name, as well, and it has become something of a running joke among the traveling press corps to call out “Anderson? Anderson?” when things go awry.)

At the same debate, Mr. Romney turned to Mr. Perry and explained, “You have a problem with allowing someone to finish speaking, and I suggest that if you want to become president of the United States, you got to let both people speak. So first, let me speak.”

He delivered the line as if the only thing standing between both himself and Mr. Perry and the presidency of the United States was a lesson or two in manners for polite society.
Where do they get these people?

For our money, Romney’s conduct at that debate was far less striking than that of Perry, who had plainly decided to talk over Romney, or than that of the hapless Cooper, who simply stood there pickin’ and grinnin’ as this nonsense unfolded. But it shouldn’t be a question of who was “at fault” in this utterly pointless affair. This style of “reporting” is utterly vapid. If we liberals can’t see that (and plainly, we can’t), we too are part of our failing nation’s existential problem.

Parker is typically silly today, both in her topic selection and in her presentation and judgments. But so what? On-line, her piece appears under her own marquee (“PARKER ON THE TRAIL”). In the hard-copy Times, it scores a large presentation as a “Political Memo.”

Parker seems to be on the come at this upper-class pseudo-newspaper. For us, this raised an obvious question: Who is Ashley Parker?

This morning, through an incomparable search, we achieved a partial answer.

Who the heck is Ashley Parker? As it turns out, Parker boasts one of the least likely resumé lines ever achieved on the planet. Brace yourselves! For five years, Parker served as “research assistant” to prize-winning Maureen Dowd!

Tell the truth: Would anyone ever have guessed that “research” was involved in a Maureen Dowd column? Let alone the level of research that would have required a full-time assistant? On April 3 of this year, Parker sat with Anthony DeCurtis to discuss life as Dowd’s top assistant. The forum was conducted by the Kelly Writers House, a Penn organization.

Luckily, the session was taped. In an unexpected gift to posterity, the first 8:23 has been posted on YouTube. (Headline: “Ashley Parker talks about working with Maureen Dowd.”) If you click this invaluable link, you can watch this empty-headed young post-journalist telling the world how great it was to work for someone as special as Dowd.

(Parker on Dowd: “If she wasn’t such an amazing boss and an amazing mentor and an amazing person to work with, I would not have stayed for as long as I did.” Our reaction to that? Unlikely! If you watch the full tape, you will hear an unintentionally comical story about the way Dowd helped Parker get her first piece published at the Times, under the aegis of the “On Language” column. Please! Young strivers don't walk away from big-time connections like that. Although the burden of all that reserarch really must have piled up.)

That tape is highly instructive about the mental horizons of the folk who populate the successor to the American press corps. At the aforementioned link, you can also read a preview of the Parker event. Presumably, the piece was written by someone within the Kelly House orbit:
KELLY WRITERS HOUSE: Ashley Parker is a reporter for the New York Times and a distinguished Penn alum. While at Penn she won both the Rolling Stone Journalism Award and the Nora Magid Prize. She was hired as Maureen Dowd's assistant at the Times, and, to the surprise of no one who knew her in school, soon became a hilarious recurring character in her boss's award-winning op-ed columns. In her own writing and reporting, Parker has defined a smart, sly voice, whether analyzing with anthropological zeal the arcane language of her younger sister ("The Ling"); chatting with then Democratic nominee for president, Barack Obama, for a profile of his ever-present "body man" Reggie Love; or limning the works and days of "All the Obama 20-Somethings" for the Sunday Times Magazine. Parker will be discussing her work at the Times, and the thrills and perils of forging a career in the fraught world of contemporary journalism.
For the record, Parker’s role as “a hilarious recurring character in her boss's award-winning op-ed columns” was, in fact, extremely limited, although you'd never know it from watching Parker pimp this nonsense with DeCurtis. Second point: When this profile refers to Parker’s “smart, sly” voice, it actually means to say “fatuous.”

No modern nation can run on this fuel. We want to note, as we often do, the gender politics here.

We’ll take a guess. We’ll guess that the Times is grooming Parker as a type of Dowd successor. Within the throwback sexual culture of our modern “press elite,” this is the type of role that is typically reserved for women. The New York Times has two female columnists, Dowd and Collins. Each specializes in the folderol that comes from the type of press personage we would call the fatuous witty girl. (We choose that noun advisedly.) At present, the Washington Post is developing its own version of this throwback type in the person of Alexandra Petri. You can read her latest silly submission in today’s Post. Click here, then click once again.

It’s hard to imagine these papers hiring men to write this particular type of drivel. Unless, of course, you consider Frank Bruni, the Times’ first openly gay columnist. Among its various upper-class ills, our modern press elite seems to be committed to a strange type of throwback gender politics. Women and gays are for silly-bill shit. The straight men pretend to be serious.

We strongly recommend that tape. Who on earth would ever have dreamed that Maureen Dowd had a research assistant! A modern nation can’t function this way.

Left alone, yours won’t survive.

In fairness: In fairness, Parker started with Dowd in 2005. This means she didn’t serve as “research assistant” on the topic of the embarrassing clothing worn by Howard Dean’s dowdy, embarrassing wife. On the other hand, most of the work for which Dowd was trashed by public editor Clark Hoyt in 2008 was penned during Parker’s smart, sly tenure. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/23/08.

Hoyt complained about the gender-trashing Dowd had dished to Candidate Hillary Clinton and to Candidate Obama. He said this about Dowd’s gender-trashing of Clinton: “[T]he relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on Clinton...left many readers with the strong feeling that an impermissible line had been crossed.”

Did Parker, with her famously “smart, sly voice,” conduct the “research” for those columns? In the part of that session presented on tape, DeCurtis didn’t ask.

44 comments:

  1. This post remindes of the Galloping Meatball theory of management. If a meatball is hired to a high position, the meatball will want an assistant. For that position, s/he will naturally choose another meatball. As this continues, pretty soon you've got meatballs galloping throughout the organization.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I could only watch very little of Ashley's You Tube performance. Her constant insertions of "like" in her chatter undermined whatever credentials she may hope to earn as a journalist. She is probably working for the NY Times because no respectable high school paper would likely have a position for her.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh man, I'm with Buffalo Harold. I had to stop the tape at 1:13 after I'd heard about 75 "likes" and 99 "uhs" and more "sort ofs" and "kind ofs." Young people who are attempting to be professional really need to kick that habit, or the only people who will be able to tolerate them will be people their own age.

    Sad.

    And I'm not even that old - early 40s. I think we're the last generation before the "like" generation.

    ReplyDelete
  4. There is no evidence that Gail Collins was forced into her writing style. It appears to be something she chose for herself. Same goes for Modo(though, unlike Modo, I often find Collins amusing). To say that there is a sexist, female place reserved for that kind of writing strikes me as backwards attribution. It appears more like something that has sprung up recently on its own with too few examples to declare a defining pattern. After all, it isn't such a stretch to go from a gay fatuous columnist to a straight male fatuous columnist, is it? How far behind do you really think David Brooks is?

    The problem isn't fatuous columnists per se, it's that we have a news culture in which people who care about facts and go out of their way to clarify them are considered odd. As Bob Somerby I believe has noted, Paul Krugman used to be quite the unpopular boy at the Times for rudely pointing out problems with Bush's economic numbers. If he hadn't been so spectacularly vindicated by events there's a good chance he'd be gone.

    Jill Abramson is the new Executive Editor of the NYT. Rather odd choice for a "throwback" culture, no?

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  5. @Hieronymus

    Gail Collins wasn't forced into her writing style -- she was promoted because that was the writing style she had. Not a complicated system, nor any explicit compulsion; it's just that there's a very *particular* voice which the female op-edders at the Grey Lady seem to have...

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