Though I do not see her as the anti-Christ that many bloggers do, Maureen Dowd is largely a glib, fatuous, fantasy-liberal boob.
In a rare case of demonstrable sentience, however, Dowd has gone 1-for-2 in her latest columns. On the 13th she exhibited an actual sense of how blogs work and a modicum of respect for the format in calling bullshit on the various Democratic presidential candidates’ attempts at bloggy spontaneity and candor:
- In a lame attempt to be hip, pols are posting soggy, foggy, bloggy musings on the Internet. Inspired by Howard Dean’s success in fund-raising and mobilizing on the Web, candidates are crowding into the blogosphere – spewing out canned meanderings in a genre invented by unstructured exhibitionists.
It could be amusing if the pols posted unblushing, unedited diaries of what they were really thinking, as real bloggers do. John Kerry would mutter about that hot-dog Dean stealing his New England base, and Dr. Dean would growl about that wimp Kerry aping all his Internet gimmicks. But no such luck.
Instead, we have Travels with Tom, Tom Daschle’s new blog recounting his annual August pilgrimage around South Dakota. Trying to sound uninhibited, he says he has “no schedule and no staff” and promises readers “amazing experiences” with “fascinating people.”
On Aug. 7, he revealed, “I visited the Orthopedic Institute in Sioux Falls today and was given an informative tour.” The next day, “I continue to be impressed with small business people who struggle to offer their employees health insurance.”
Bob Graham dubs himself “the original blogger” because he has filled more than 4,000 color-coded, laconic notebooks over the last 30 years with a running diary of his every move, from ingestion of morning cereal to debarkation from a plane. (A typical Graham entry: “3:20 p.m. – Take bus to hotel.”)
Boring crap is boring crap – microcosmic minutiae CAN be compelling if the writer imbues its revelation with personality, fresh perspective, and some manner of insight. Or it can just be boring crap. Dowd, to her credit, knows the latter when she sees it. And how’s this for subverting the spirit of blogging, which is nothing if not personal:
- John Kerry has given more grist to critics who label him aloof and insincere by assigning staff members to write his cheesy blog. (It’s like trying to prove you’re a sportsman by making an aide go fishing for you.)
She even came up with a pretty good joke. Damn, you can’t write ANYONE off these days – if Maureen Dowd can write a good column, I may have to actually pay attention to assholes like Andrew Sullivan and Atrios. Shit.
But with today’s column, Dowd is back to form, meaning I can forgo Sullivan and Atrios, thank God.
She is discussing the blackout, but of course – could this possibly be any more trite, obvious, contrived or pointless?
- Thursday reminded us of the tenuousness of our romance with technology; we spend our days using a thicket of high-tech equipment without a clue about how it actually works or what to do when it doesn’t.
We have BlackBerrys that are also telephones and Palm Pilots that are also cameras and cellphones that also send text-message mash notes. We take it on faith that the power will come on when we switch on computers to send e-mail around the world instantaneously from our air-conditioned, well-lit, cable-TV-equipped, key-coded, A.T.M.-financed worlds, without ever knowing that our power might be originating in Canada – eh? – or looping eerily around Lake Erie.
Now comes news that our foamy lattes are steamed by the antiquated, overloaded system at Niagara Mohawk? I thought we’d already seen the Last of the Mohicans.
One groaner after another.
- Washington is a welter of blame. Democrats fingered the Republicans for catering to the oil industry; Republicans fingered the Democrats for being cowed by the environmental community. The only illumination in the blackout was this: Pols have been holding the energy bill hostage to their special interests.
This is just churlish piffle: we also learned that people can respond in a very civilized manner in a crisis, and even show concern for their fellow man, reinforcing positive messages from 9/11. Our own Jan Herman notes this:
- New Yorkers got a taste of what William Sydney Porter meant when he called their town Baghdad-on-the-Hudson. “There’s more poetry in a block of New York,” said Porter, otherwise known as O. Henry, “than in 20 daisied lanes.” Last night during the great Northeastern blackout of ’03, he could have said “than in all the lights of the city.”
If the city’s friendliness under duress wasn’t poetry, it was something like it. People who rarely talked to each other before sat on their front stoops chatting by candlelight. It could have been the turn of the 20th century. Let’s make an annual holiday of it. Keep the electricity running, but set aside one day of the year to turn off the lights across North America.
David Greenberg sees the same in Slate:
- With the odd exception of Ottawa, Ontario, none of the major metropolises hit by Thursday’s blackout faced social disorder on a large scale. In New York City last night, street life was not a fearful tableau of pandemonium but a convivial scene of neighbors and strangers sharing candlelight, radio news, and small talk.
In fact, Greenberg sees a real seismic shift evidenced in this blackout vs. the looting that took place during NYC’s blackout of ’77:
- Perhaps most important, New Yorkers (and other city dwellers) have a greater sense of investment in their metropolis. Large numbers of immigrants, who have a stake in their businesses and communities, have changed the face of the city’s neighborhoods. And while inequities still burden poor black neighborhoods, the deep sense of grievance that once gripped them has abated. A virtuous cycle has taken hold, in which civic pride has led all manner of New Yorkers to care more about their city.
Dowd, it would appear, sees only the darkness, which would be small-minded enough, but she ends her column with this jaw-dropper:
- This has got to be giving terrorists ideas as they watch from their caves. Osama may be plotting on his laptop right now, tapping into the cascading effect of an army of new terrorists signing up every time we kill or arrest a terrorist.
She’s seems almost cheerful at the prospect, and the last phrase is simply inexplicable: should we not arrest or kill terrorists? Should we give them cookies and ice cream? Should we reason with them, try to pay them off? Invite them to lunch? Perhaps we should all go for a swim in the swamp rather than drain it.
While her momentary flash of sense was refreshing in her blog column, I do feel the earth returning to its axis as Dowd’s blackout column proves that she is still an unreconstructed idiot.