Nothing is more profoundly depressing to journalists, or anyone who writes for a living, than looking at the kind of shit The Market rewards and comparing it to one's own attempts to put something decent and useful out into the world. I imagine every fiction writer slaving away on what they believe is the very best novel they can produce feels a cold, bitter spite welling up inside of themselves every time they realize EL James and her "The vampire fucked the other vampire very erotically, with his erect vampire member" fanfic are worth a billion dollars.
There are a lot of bad opinion columnists in the world, but none as bad as Bari Weiss. The reason Bari Weiss infuriates writers so much is not simple jealousy – she writes for the New York Times and she's terrible! – because a lot of shitty writers have good, high-paying jobs for major media outlets. Half of her NYT colleagues could be described the same way. It is the fact that aside from having terrible opinions, her writing literally is indistinguishable from a college newspaper opinion writer. You could go to any campus in the United States, pluck out the eagerest sophomore from the Opinion page, and stick that person in the NYT and not miss a beat. Her writing is so thick with the tropes one thought were clever and edgy at age 20 that, unless you were an undergrad journalism major at some point, I'm not sure I can explain it to you.
This week her column for the Newspaper of Record, the hallowed Gray Lady, is literally "How I spent my summer vacation." Woman goes on vacation, comes back from vacation, writes a piece about how the place she went on vacation "has a lot to teach us."
I don't know about you, but the last time I wrote "What I did on my vacation" I was 10.
To be certain, all that differentiates Weiss from other bad writers like David Brooks, Bret Stephens, Megan McArdle, and the like is her total lack of polish and erudite "New York Timesy" writing skill. The others share her dumb, juvenile opinions but their employers pay them for their ability to write up dumb, juvenile opinions in an Ivy Leagueish, Upper Crust, Country Club sort of way. It's the George Will trick – they are paid to say things a certain audience wants to hear in a language and manner that allows them to consider it an intelligent, worldly point of view. They want someone to make the opinions sound respectable. Thoughtful, even.
That is the whole point of someone like David Brooks or Ross Douthat, or older, less relevant past stars of the printed word like Mr. Will or Peggy Noonan. They are to modern politics what courtiers were to the courts of European monarchs; they exist to flatter. To tell people of a certain worldview that said worldview is proper, correct, respectable, intelligent and – importantly – widely shared. Yes m'lord, you are most wise! The people certainly agree with you!
And I don't understand how Weiss fits into that world. She writes literally like a child. What is the audience for this? Tech Bros want to read Megan McArdle, not Tomi Lahren. Bankers want Ross Douthat, not Charlie Kirk. People of a certain level of wealth and cultural awareness / class want to feel smart, so I understand the lucrative market for writers who can tell them that the things they believe are good and correct and widely shared in a way that makes them feel smart. What they don't want is someone who failed to progress out of writerly adolescence making them feel like they're in high school listening to a moron soft-sell upper class authoritarianism.
I get the grift. But even in the context of the grift Bari Weiss makes no sense.