When The Washington Post headlines a story “A half-century of deep, hopeless intellectualism,” there’s a puff piece underneath. It’s not about Obama’s globe-trotting genius since the age of two. It’s a rave for The New York Review of Books, a leftist literary rag. (It's not The New York Times Book Review. This comes out about 20 times a year.)
Post writer Neely Tucker oozed all over “legendary editor Robert Silvers” and how “circulation is at an all-time high of 150,000.” Then came the "oh, so hopelessly smart" waterfall of gush:
Ah, yes. The Review. That tabloid-sized organ of the nation's intellectual discourse, discussion and harrumphing on art, literature, history, international politics and American society. Home to the essays of Mailer, Didion, Sontag, Havel. Where books and ideas have been pinned and examined like bugs on an insect board since 1963.
Hopelessly smart, unapologetically progressive. Clubby. Sometimes called staid, if not dour. Also, unique, unparalleled and often brilliant. Also, it's been blasted for not having nearly enough women writers.
You don't read a 4,000-word article about, for example in the current issue, a biography of Titian and an exhibition of Tiziano if you're worried about a time peg. (Also, if you need it explained that Tiziano Vecellio, a 16th century Venetian painter, is also known as Titian, then maybe the Review is not the mag for you.)
This sort of depth, and the quality of the people writing for it, has made a Review byline a résumé definer. If one wishes to be thought of as a certain type of writer - of heft, style and a certain gravitas - a Review byline is pretty much the gold standard.
Remnick, the New Yorker editor, was posted in Moscow for The Washington Post in the 1980s. He got a telex from Epstein asking him to review an Boris Yeltsin's autobiography. The feeling of reading that telex, he says, is with him still: "It was like being anointed, in some way."
"The idea isn't that you write for them because of the clip," he says, "because `a clip' infers that you might want to use it to get somewhere else. There is no somewhere else."
The Post headline on C-6 is "The definitive voice of criticism." In the 50th anniversary issue is a typical piece of left-wing hackery from Paul Krugman, chewing on conservatives like he's been awarded a guest shot on "Hardball." Conservatives hate science, if you hadn't heard, when it comes to the horrific global warming threat:
"Markets alone will not solve this problem," declares Nordhaus. "There is no genuine `free-market solution' to global warming." This isn't a radical statement, it's just Econ 101. Nonetheless, it's anathema to free-market enthusiasts. If you like to imagine yourself as a character in an Ayn Rand novel, and someone tells you that the world isn't like that, that it requires government intervention-no matter how market-friendly-your response may well be to reject the news and cling to your fantasies. And sad to say, a fair number of influential figures in American public life do believe they're acting out Atlas Shrugged.
Finally, there's a strong streak in modern American conservatism that rejects not just climate science, but the scientific method in general. Polling suggests, for example, that a large majority of Republicans reject the theory of evolution. For people with this mind-set, laying out the extent of scientific consensus on an issue isn't persuasive-if anything, it just gets their backs up, and feeds fantasies about vast egghead conspiracies.
Hence my worries about the usefulness of books like The Climate Casino. Given the current state of American politics, the combination of self-interest, ideology, and hostility to science constitutes a huge roadblock to action, and rational argumentation isn't likely to help. Meanwhile, time is running out, as carbon concentrations keep rising.
Unapologetically progressive? Perhaps. Hopelessly deep? Please. This is MSNBC pap.