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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

facts or factoid, it doesn't make any difference to Frank Bruni

I find the whole GOP presidential frosh tryouts great fun. One of the things they bring out is how bad, how completely and hopelessly bad, our political reporters and commenters are. Case in point: Frank Bruni's column intoday's NYT.   Bruni, and the NYT, have been doing their best to blow on the flames, dim as they are, of Fiorina's popularity - thinking that this will certainly countercheck that Trump! So this is the kind of thing you get: 

But here comes Carly Fiorina, and her brand is aced-it-already and know-it-all. I’ve seen this firsthand.
For a magazine story in 2010, I followed her around and interviewed her over several days. Someone would mention a flower; she’d rattle off a factoid about it. I’d ask her about a foreign language that she’d studied; she’d make clear that she’d dabbled in two others as well. Her husband would tell a story; she’d rush to correct him and fill in the details.
Now, as a reporter, it was Bruni’s job, apparently, to accept at face value any bullshit he was presented with. The flower and its factoids, that is bizarre: what, did Fiorina discuss the evolution of the Sago palm? And what is it with fact and factoids, or are they (oh, I know this answer teacher! I know it!) approximately the same thing for the NYT’s ace reporter? And what foreign language was it, exactly. And how did she “dabble” in two others. Could she actually speak, converse, in a language other than English? Did Bruni talk to her in that language?
Yes, Bruni’s bizarre anecdotes, offered to reinforce the point that here is a woman who is all policy paper, seem exactly the kind of thing that a candidate would do to impress that most gullible of species, the Timesman. But gullibility, as any conman knows, depends upon the subject’s unconscious vanity. In this case, of course, the vanity is institution wide: it is the vanity that the reporter’s are also all policy paper. It is an odd thing that after decades of press fiascos, from the swallowing of every bit of ratbait put out by the Bushies about Iraq’s “threat” to the US to the notion that the economy was rock solid in 2007 and 2008, which was the grand narrative of the NYT business pages at the time, people like Bruni still think the general public is in awe of them – that they are authorities, no less. The reason they aren’t authorities has something to do with the inability to distinguish between facts and factoids, and the inability to either name a flower or a language or to judge competence in either biology or Spanish – presumably the foreign language under discussion – or French, or Chinese, or any other language.

Bruni’s column was about what a dolt Governor Walker is. But what it proves is what a gull Bruni is.  

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