TRY YOU HAND AT GRADING COLLEGE WRITING

I'm reluctant to beat what is (on Twitter) already a very dead horse, but today's newest literary feces from Bari Weiss on the once-not-totally embarrassing New York Times opinion page is just astonishingly bad. If you ever wondered what it was like to grade a paper written by a really conceited (Everyone tells me I'm so smart!) 19 year old journalism major, here's your chance.

I decided it is too long, tedious, and stupid to give a full FJM treatment, since that actually requires effort on my part. And I realize (as they anticipate when publishing shit like this) the recourse to "Respect opinions you don't agree with" is strong. But this isn't about opinions and differences surrounding them. This is about the Newspaper of Record, in a misplaced stab at "intellectual diversity", giving regular column space to someone who literally sounds like a teenager. A not insightful, sickeningly proud of herself teenager.

Read as much of this as you can. This is simply awful. It is written at a college level, and not a high college level. "There be dragons" and "That which cannot be named" appear before the end of the fourth paragraph. The cliches and thesaurus-thumbing verbiage are so thick that you can see them coming two sentences in advance. If this were an article about luxury automated socialism for Arizona Cardinals fans, I would still loathe it because it is fucking unreadable.

Why does this person have this platform when equivalent writing can be found in the campus newspaper of any university in the country? Whose cousin is she? Who do mom and dad know? This is either a case of nepotism or Bari Weiss is the goddamn luckiest person on Earth, plucked out of the sea of millions of other people who can sort-of write in sentences but do it with the tone and cadence of a high school senior trying too hard.

And on its merits, even if this weren't juvenile and hard to read, this argument is just fucking ludicrous. "Intellectual Dark Web" is a bunch of people with massive, highly visible platforms. Hack comedian and former gross-out TV host Joe Rogan has the second most listened to podcast. On Earth! Like, out of all podcasts! He was on a sitcom so even your mom and dad know who he is! Literally nobody is silencing Joe Rogan. Or Ben Shapiro. Or Jordan Peterson – you can't go five fucking minutes without seeing his cadaverous mug these days.

Here is a set of supposedly taboo ideas so subversive that one cannot avoid seeing them everywhere, every day. Major media outlets. The high-traffic internet. On university campuses. On talk shows. On podcasts. From the Republican majority in both chambers of Congress as well as the White House and 3/5 of state capitols. And the ideas are SO taboo that…you can name every single thing she is going to bring up by the time you've gotten six sentences into the piece.

Oh let me guess. Feminism is out of control. College kids are snowflakes. Identity politics something something. Immigration is bad. Muslims are terrorists. "Western culture" something something. There, did I get them all?

How does an editor let this happen? Do these people have no self-respect at all? Some overgrown sorority girl sends you a pitch like, "I'm gonna write about how all my friends and all the people who agree with me are REBELS!" and what do you say in response? Maybe the writing is on the wall for the Times to the extent that everyone just shrugs and says "OK, whatever" at this point. I can't tell if that is more or less sad than the idea of an editor reading this and thinking, "Great, this is exactly what I wanted."

Be Sociable, Share!

51 thoughts on “TRY YOU HAND AT GRADING COLLEGE WRITING”

  • Death Panel Truck says:

    Candace Owens, the communications director for Turning Point USA, is a sharp, young, black conservative — a telegenic speaker with killer instincts who makes videos with titles like “How to Escape the Democrat Plantation” and “The Left Thinks Black People Are Stupid.”

    You don't want to know what the Right thinks black people are, Candace. Let's just put it this way: it rhymes with "jiggers."

  • I'm reading a lot of college writing this week, since I teach primarily college writing courses, and very little of it is as vapid as this.

    What I really want to say back to Bari Weiss is, "Maybe their ideas aren't taboo because they're dangerous; maybe the ideas are taboo because they're fucking stupid."

  • This is the Right's "clever" attempt to jiu jitsu the Progressive Left with its own momentum/argument.

    Progressivism demands a voice for the underprivileged, the under-represented. It demands that those who are marginalized must be heard and respected, because only that way will injustice be slowly eliminated.

    The Right looks at that, and then proceeds to come up with such shitty, evil, intellectually bankrupt views (white supremacy, red pill activism, etc.) that, by their very nature, are MINORITY views. (Well, at least among those openly espousing them.) Because so few people will actually openly say things like "Democrats want Black people to be slaves," those who do will be 'minority' figures.

    Then, when the Progressives (and the Sane) say to those people, quite sensibly, "Shut the fuck up, you're espousing EVIL," the Right can say "Ah ah ah! They're a MINORITY VOICE–therefore, you MUST RESPECT THEM, otherwise, YOU'RE the REAL fascists/oppressors/whatever."

    But that's bullshit. First, because these evil voices AREN'T speaking for any minority–they're the mouthpieces of a quite healthy number of staggering fucking racists/misogynists/etc. in this country. They do not constitute an oppressed or excluded community–they constitute a bunch of spokespeople for tens of millions of horrible people who are PRETENDING to be minorities, NOT so they can "win an argument"–but so that they can SILENCE the voices of Progressivism.

    This really isn't that hard. Just because someone SAYS "I'm an oppressed minority" doesn't end the discussion. It demands scrutiny–at least from a fucking recorder of fact–and a minute's scrutiny will tell you that people who have interviewed meetings with their spouses in L.A. restaurants and have time to pose for photo shoots and whose schedules involve millions of readers/listeners and comped airfare to paid speaking gigs around the country ARE NOT AN OPPRESSED MINORITY.

    They're just the bad guys. That's all. They're just the bad guys. And the thing about the bad guys is, the first thing they do, is lie about being the good guys.

  • Ed's clearly taken a class in the Hillary Clinton School of Bon Mots, a sure way to media success, if it's not too deplorable to say so.

  • acousticsouthpaw says:

    Oh, lord! – The semi-colon usage in the 2nd paragraph. Clearly, this writer needs a refresher (or simply a fresher?) on the Oxford comma and thinks dropping in the semi-colons make her (him?) look smart. And, given the inconsistent capitalization and use of quotations marks, I'd venture to guess that this writer's syntactic and grammatical inspiration is none other than 45* himself. Haven't these people heard of Grammarly?!?!

    Full disclose: I could only get to the 4th paragraph before my English teacher brain started to go into spasms.

  • Rob Biemer says:

    I am not an English teacher nor an academic but I tried my best to read the piece of "work" referred to and just could not.

    I may well be wrong but I can't see any part of "the web" being very dark if the NYT is reporting/commenting on it.

    What I did read of that article did serve to remind me that I do recall reading right wing/ conservative discourse that was not some version of Liberals Are Being Mean To Us By Ruining Everything Whiteness And Money Has Wrought.

    That was long enough ago that I now can't remember who or where.

  • Thank you all for reading this piece so I did not have to. Reading your reviews of this ridiculous editorial is all I needed. People wonder why newspapers lose readership – it's because they print utter dreck like this, and expect to keep their respect afterwards. Literate, educated, rational people will stop reading a newspaper when they keep people like Bari Weiss in the limelight and seem proud of it. Well, she's not edgy, NYT editors – she's a reactionary radical who thinks she's a rebel because she goes against her peers. Anti-intellectualism (and every sort of other "-'isms") masquerading as philosophic opposition. Well, the peers she opposes happen to be right. She's just a whiny-butt.

    Whatever happened to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable"? Seems like the NYT is now a journal of the comfortable. Might as well read the WSJ for that.

  • I don't think the NYT edits any of their opinion columns. They just run them as submitted.

  • The accompanying photos are bit, ahem…..overwrought, which makes them fit quite well with the text. Lonely voices calling out from the wilderness.

  • Candace Owens, the communications director for Turning Point USA, is a sharp, young, black conservative — a telegenic speaker with killer instincts who makes videos with titles like “How to Escape the Democrat Plantation” and “The Left Thinks Black People Are Stupid.”

    The left thinks black lives matter. The right believes that's still a matter of debate.

  • terraformer says:

    It's really amazing the contortions Bari et al. go into to essentially launder their beliefs into sanity/respectability. They take reasonable positions with general theme of empathy and engage in twisting, wrenching, and ricocheting of meaning to blurp out a word salad rendering the not-quite-one-third of the populace into fits of "she's god—damn right!" And the remainder are left dumbfounded, worrying about the future of our species.

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    WOO! STAT-US QUO! STAT-US QUO! That's MY establishment, bitches!

    Attempts to appease the mythical "NeverTrump Conservative" can take you to some dark and stupid places.

  • Eric Weinstein's wikipedia page is amusing: Weinstein showed that neoclassical economics was in fact an example of a naturally occurring gauge theory . . . has yet to gain a wider awareness with the few academicians possessing backgrounds in both physics and economics.

    In May, 2013, Weinstein delivered a lecture, Geometric Unity. It was promoted by Marcus du Sautoy as being a possible answer to some of the problems in modern physics.[12] Few physicists attended the original lecture, and no paper or preprint was published. The claims were met with skepticism by several commentators. A repeat lecture was organised the following week with more physicists in attendance. His theory includes an "observerse," a 14-dimensional space, and predictions for undiscovered particles which could account for dark matter. Joseph Conlon of the University of Oxford pointed out that some of these particles should already have been seen.

  • Bitter Scribe says:

    Bari Weiss describes Charles Murray as "the social scientist" and Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Christina Hoff Sommers as "the feminists." That really tells you all you need to know.

    But hey, give her points for originality; she said "politically convenient" instead of "politically correct."

  • This guy is like a part-time blogger with an unfinished article on his hard drive refuting the last 200 years of economics, like half the econ bloggers out there.

  • foxtrotsky says:

    Carrstone, since you're a beginning writer, let me give you a piece of advice. Instead of writing about success, write what you know.

  • "'After his talk, in which he disparaged the Taliban, a biologist who would go on to serve on President Barack Obama’s Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues approached him. “I remember she said: ‘That’s just your opinion. How can you say that forcing women to wear burqas is wrong?’ But to me it’s just obvious that forcing women to live their lives inside bags is wrong. I gave her another example: What if we found a culture that was ritually blinding every third child? And she actually said, ‘It would depend on why they were doing it.’” His jaw, he said, “actually fell open.'"
    The left is pro-Taliban? Did I miss a meeting?

  • Ed, the title of your post is "TRY YOU HAND AT GRADING COLLEGE WRITING." You made an error in the title of the friggin' blogpost.

    Other than that, I agree with your sentiments about Weiss and the subjects of her screed.

  • @ Redleg:

    Beat me to it by the time it took me to make sure it hadn't already been picked up. Sometimes I actually do due process. I always think less of myself, after. {;>)

    @ foxtrotsky:

    Thank you.

  • An alternative tagline for the column:
    "Wannabe Bond villains raving about their master plan to undo civilization appeal to all the frustrated white people living in the real world where they have to cross the street to avoid black people instead of just vaporizing them with a giant laser."

  • carrstone says:

    @foxtrotsky
    See, that's the problem with you progressives: I write about Hillary Clinton and you think I'm writing about success.

  • foxtrotsky says:

    @carrstone: No, that's quite your fault, going back to the you-are-a-lousy-writer thing.

  • Eric Weinstein is almost certainly paying for this press. He has the money, he works for a hedge fund. He and his brother and sister in law are all over this NYT profile and over the "dark web" website despite being obscure ex-professors or hedge fund honchos without much profile (see Eric's wikipedia page for evidence of his non-profile). "Heather Heying" (Eric's sister in law) doesn't belong in the same category as Joe Rogan. How Weinstein got Bari Weiss to put his picture at the top of the NYT profile is a bit of a mystery but it probably wouldn't be the first time a wealthy and vain hedge funder got some good press in the NYT (see the rapturous coverage James Simons receives from the NYT, despite being under IRS investigation).

  • Hazy Davy says:

    Ignoring the writing for a moment…the IDW just continues the effort to paint conservatives as victims.

    This is the War on Christmas.
    This is Universities are leftist indoctrination centers.
    This is Tomi Lahren saying "I won't apologize for being white."

    [Also, the writing bothers me more because of the pride with which she writes so predictably.]

  • carrstone says:

    @foxtrotsky

    Help me here, what does 'that's quite your fault' mean? It's the strange use of 'quite' that's thrown me a bit.

  • Sweet, sweet, innocent Ed. Of course the Editors said “This is exactly what I want!”. Speaking as a WASP myself, quite a lot of the older set are skittish around people of any skin tone, gay people, and non-Christian religions. Trump would not have won any other way.

  • SM!: Than you! We keep talking about the Cletuses (Cletii?) and their ilk, but the real reason for Trump's election was the gated community small town nabobs.

  • @ Carrstone –

    That's British English usage – haven't you read a British-authored book, or watched Monty Python, or James Bond, or anything that doesn't fairly bellow "'MURICA IS NUMMER ONE!!1!", even if it is in perfectly understandable (if accented) English.

    Nah?

    Hm. Yes, quite.

  • carrstone says:

    @Ekim
    No, it isn't quite and I should know, I lived there for quite a few years and have never heard it used in quite that way.

    Which do you think he meant: 'it's quite cold outside', or 'that's quite impossible'?

  • ""People are starved for controversial opinions,” said Joe Rogan…"

    Oh indeed, I hear there's a conservative fellow by the name of Rush Limbaugh who's still trying to land a radio gig.

  • richard nixon says:

    From Noah Berlatsky—

    "For the most obvious and unsettling member of the “intellectual dark web” is surely our president, though nowhere does Weiss acknowledge this. Trump’s brand is exactly the same as the brand that Weiss describes for the intellectual dark web. He presents himself as a brave truth-teller defying the left by stating uncomfortable truths—uncomfortable truths that turn out to be the same old prejudices and bigotry as ever.

  • HoosierPoli says:

    The key point you made, which should be hammered more, is: how the living fuck did she get this job. She went from "associate book review editor" at WSJ to the thought leader sinecure at the Paper of Record. Paul Krugman won a fucking Nobel Prize. Weiss helped someone else write book reports. What the fuck?

  • Ed's reference to college writing threw me off; I expected a ream of solecisms and grammatical mistakes. (depends on which college, I suppose). No, I think there's nothing surprising about this article except context. In People Magazine, wouldn't it be right at home? Or Us? And what's with the big, "artistic" portraits of each of the principals? I thought this must be from the NY Times Sunday Magazine, not one of the weekday editions, since they've become more and more lavishly illustrated. Somewhere the Times took an intellectual nosedive, or found photographers easier to find than competent writers, or something. Now there's the occasional column from the Sunday Review that's worth reading, nothing more.

    As to the subjects, Sam Harris is the only one I've run into, and this on YouTube. He seems to flirt with ideas like a kid who's been told not to play with matches. He doesn't know what they do, is just interested in how uncomfortable it makes the adults feel when he goes near them. Like him, most of the "Dark Web" (hard to call them "intellectual") seem to be interested in attracting attention as a first priority.

    Maybe the left has brought this on itself by its degree of smug tribalism (I think of the father in "Get Out" who proclaims that he would have voted for Obama "for a third term"). Groupthink probably created its own backlash. But that's as inevitable, maybe, as certain types born of social media willling to take any stance at all to rack up the eyeballs.

    Let us know if there's a serious examination of this phenom anywhere, Ed-—with or without the arty photographic portraits.

  • How many times are hacks going to write this article? It's so fucking tedious to read the exact same horseshit over and over and over again, about how "dangerous" and "underground" these horrid ideas are, when you literally cannot possibly escape them no matter where you turn. It's like listening to someone talk about this cutting edge underground band they heard that you've gotta listen to, and it turns out to be The Beatles.

  • Robert V Walker-Smith says:

    As an anthropological exercise, I've been asking carefully worded questions over at the Jordan Peterson subReddit. Like "what does 'set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world' actually mean" and "how can you get to college age without realizing that cleaning your room and telling the truth are good things". Trying to get meaningful answers is like nailing jelly to a cloud. But they're all very clear about the danger posed by cultural Marxism and post-modernist intellectuals.

    There's also a Peterson-mocking subReddit that refers to 12 Rules Goodthink as 'lobsterology', and has personal accounts from apostates from the faith.

    Jim – no, it's like that except the band is Nickelback.

  • "Maybe the left has brought this on itself by its degree of smug tribalism (I think of the father in "Get Out" who proclaims that he would have voted for Obama "for a third term")."

    Okay, NOW, I'm confused.

    Leftists and Obama? I thought he was a ReiKKKwing tool?

  • I worked at a major midwest newspaper that was bought by a very rich person. They let go all the older employees including the popular writers and the place was then swarming with 20 somethings. This did cost them a lot of subscribers (older people) as not many young people read newspapers.

  • I think the 'Dark Web' branding of Weiss's rogue's gallery of RW 'intellectuals' is part of a coordinated push at the NYT to promote RW opinion writers and the authority figures they like to appeal to when cross-referencing each other to make their fucking garbage ideas seem respectable. The recent fawning over Jordan Peterson being the glaring example of bootstrapping intellectual respectability(for later use as appeals to authority) by merely having wealthy conservative opinion writers like David Brooks repeat a description of him as the leading public conservative intellectual in the world (FIRE the PROPAGANDA CATAPULT!).

    I think it dovetails well with the 'Liberals, you aren't as smart as you think you are' counterattack by thoughtful conservatives who hate being called out for their belief/support of the horribly racist GOP.

    This is all a strategy to maintain a frequent reiteration of 'feel better' messaging for racists and racism-adjacent GOP voters that the real problem isn't racism, it is hysterical liberals being too nasty, awful, and frequent when calling out everything they see as racist.

    Why it is enough to make someone vote GOP just to spite those awful awful awful name calling liberals.

Comments are closed.