Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Thing Of Beauty, Appreciated Properly

Since I'm partially responsible for its genesis, I thought I'd mention that today's Tom Levenson piece deconstructing, demolishing, and disintegrating Megan McArdle's latest $1500 food processor-based "Let them eat cake" idiocy is a comfort to me, like apple cider on a rainy winter morning.  Dig him up and shake his hand, appreciate the man.

Oh, snap!  It’s a measure of McArdle’s particular qualities that she manages to transform whatever publication chooses to admit her to its space into that privileged corner of the school steps where the Mean Girls live.

I mean, seriously:  working at jobs we like for money less than that the 1 % can command so warps the character as to turn us unfortunate journalists and professors into hypocritical scolds.  Damn.  I’m short on my month’s quota of vituperation and visible displays of hair-shirt couture.

Of course, this is (a) simple pre-emption:  “I’m not a culinary snob, wielding cash to distract as I chase the lives of my betters.  You’re the snob!  So there!”

And (b) it’s nonsense.  Professors and journalists are not badly paid by any reasonable standard. Roberts himself is a professor of marketing at Baylor, and as of the 2009 mean salary for such faculty was $138,000.   That’s not Prada and hot and cold running Dom rich, but it’s not bad coin by anyone’s standards, and applied to the cost of living in Robert’s Waco, Texas, that’s a sum that will set you up very nicely indeed.

All this is crushing flies with a jack-hammer, I know, but the point is, I think, pretty damn obvious:  McArdle hasn’t or won’t do the work to test the question on the table: whether or not money buys you happiness.  So she throws monkey faeces at the wall instead.

I am not ashamed to admit that I aspire to someday deftly wield a snarkblade in such a manner, sharp enough to pare the truth from the offal with but a subtle flick of the wrist.  Tom then cleans his blade of McMegan's remaining dignity with an offhand motion before sheathing it directly in her own ego.

So one last thought, really an explanation about why it is McArdle so gets under my skin.

That would be because she so diminishes the craft I have spent decades learning and now teach:  how to write about matters of fact; how to be a journalist.  I’ve detailed some, (by no means all) of the kinds of errors of argument and interpretation in this one little fish-wrap piece that make a mockery of the notion of a bargain of honesty with one’s readers.  But I’ve left till now the tic that McArdle displays over and over again that tells you that she simply can’t be trusted.  And that would be her near-constant invocation of strangely generic sources.

Do read the entire piece, as it will be his last McMeganing for a while.  As Jack Nicholson famously said in Batman, if you gotta go, go with a smile.

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