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December 20, 2012 3:03 PM   Subscribe

The 50 Worst Columns of 2012. (Don't worry, it's from AtlanticWire, so there's no Daily Mail hiding here)
posted by mippy (64 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
crosses fingers for Tom Friedman sweep
posted by Diablevert at 3:05 PM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


As I'm from the UK and not American, I have a question about this column.

Now, the university life here differs in many ways - we don't have sororities/fraternities, we can drink from 18, people don't date but go to the pub and get off with each other and go to bed if it feels right, and nobody cares less what sports anyone's involved in unless it involves the boat race - but how ironic is this? I gather from reading The Feminine Mystique that it was pretty common for young, bright women to enter college, meet the man they intended to marry and retreat to life within the home, but is this still a cultural trope in 2012? I know there are many women who still follow the principles of The Rules, and many women who have dreamt of a lovely big wedding from an early age in a way I haven't, but planning your education around the number of eligible batchelors seems...odd.
posted by mippy at 3:07 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Crtl-F "Sue Ann Levy"

Huh. It wasn't for her lack of trying. Maybe next year, Sue!
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:09 PM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


David Brooks' column endorsing Romney. His main reason for supporting Romney was because, with him as president, the Republicans would not be such dicks, thereby leaving the country in better shape.

Really that was his reason, boiled down.
posted by Danf at 3:12 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


how ironic is this? I gather from reading The Feminine Mystique that it was pretty common for young, bright women to enter college, meet the man they intended to marry and retreat to life within the home, but is this still a cultural trope in 2012?

To the best of my belief, that article was the young Georgian woman's Modest Proposal. like its predecessor, it walks a knife edge of plausibility.
posted by Diablevert at 3:25 PM on December 20, 2012


It's satire but also one that sterotypes a large swathe of the female population at the college. Her sense of humor needs calibration. From the above article:

"Be on the lookout for my next column, 'How to trap a man by saying you're pregnant.'"

"Just kidding."


Satire is effective when you speak truth to power. It's mean if it's not.
posted by zabuni at 3:30 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's really, really something that doesn;t exist in UK universities in my experience. There's the idea that you might go and be able to reinvent yourself a bit and meet lovely, unsuitable boys and generally get to put it about a bit if you want to, but not that you go with the intent of marrying yourself off. (Some of my friends are still partnered up with the person they met at uni, many are not. I had terrible taste in men from 18-21 so that's probably for the best.) It's more the stuff you want to do before life, and relationships, get serious. Mind you, I think dating is more formal in the US, and people seem to settle down earlier there.
posted by mippy at 3:34 PM on December 20, 2012


So, I'm going to put the spike in racist asshattery purely down to the election, but what's with the spike in sexist asshattery? Last gasp of the MRA types?
posted by Artw at 3:35 PM on December 20, 2012


So, I'm going to put the spike in racist asshattery purely down to the election, but what's with the spike in sexist asshattery? Last gasp of the MRA types?

Cross with racist asshatery about white women not having enough babies?

I thought this was also a reason. It speaks to the fact that articles like that are linkbait for people.
posted by zabuni at 3:40 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mind you, I think dating is more formal in the US, and people seem to settle down earlier there

Eh, I wouldn't say a Georgia college is a good proxy for the US. I would say that marriage is more frequent here --- even among my urban East Coast friends, most people tend to get married after a while, especially if they want to have kids --- but it's more of a late 20s early 30s thing. Whereas a cousin of mine graduated nursing school at 21 and got a job in Texas and found herself bored out of her skull because most people her age were already married. The South is different.
posted by Diablevert at 3:50 PM on December 20, 2012


If they had to mine the Red and Black to make their 50 they were really reaching.
posted by jfuller at 4:08 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I dunno, man. Teenagers come up with these idealized life scripts — "Okay, I'm gonna go to college when I'm 18, and I'll meet a guy and get married after we graduate, and I'll publish my first book of poetry when I'm 21 and my first novel by the time I'm 25, and we'll have two kids, one boy and one girl, and this is what our house will look like, and..."

For a lot of people in their first couple years of college they haven't actually yet had to confront the idea that you can't just plan all that shit out ahead of time.

So I mean it's honestly pretty rare, even in the South, for women to be like "Yeah the only reason I went to college was to meet a man" and not be at least partly joking. (It does happen — especially in ultraconservative churches — but even then for a lot of women it's more like "I want to go to college, but I'm worried people will give me shit about it, and if I tell them I'm just doing it to find a husband then they'll have to back off.") What you do see a lot of, all over the country, is like "Okay, college and marriage are the next two checkpoints on my Dream Life Plan Schedule, so I'd better get to work on both of 'em."
posted by and so but then, we at 4:24 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's really, really something that doesn;t exist in UK universities in my experience.

It's enormously common in mine, but that's just another anecdote.

More generally, the increase in the percentage of women attending University had been asserted to be one of the factors in the decrease in social mobility in the UK over the last forty years. David Willets' THE PINCH describes this, for example.
posted by alasdair at 4:26 PM on December 20, 2012


Ah, but if you mean "people go to University to meet a mate" - no, I agree, I don't think that's a common motivation (or if it is, it's not an overt one.) If you mean "people go to University and meet a mate" then I think that is very much the case. Sorry.

However, I will note that for some social classes in some contexts sport and pairings and gender roles are much more common: I suspect if either of us had been to Eton our understanding of the University life might be different, and yes, getting a nice chap or gel might be one of the more explicit goals, along with working out whether we want to go into law or banking or politics.
posted by alasdair at 4:30 PM on December 20, 2012


No Margarte Wente, Christie Blatchford or Stevie Cameron? Or George Jonas, Don Martin, or Mark Steyn?
posted by KokuRyu at 4:50 PM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Phil Mushnick in the New York Post on Jay-Z Phil Mushnick isn't even capable of couching his racism anymore. "Why the Brooklyn Nets when they can be the New York N------s?" he asks, apparently not happy with the team's new direction under Jay-Z. "The cheerleaders could be the Brooklyn B----hes or Hoes. Team logo? A 9 mm with hollow-tip shell casings strewn beneath."

Like with that Belvedere Vodka ad, I feel the need to ask how many sets of eyes had to have seen this in order for it to go to print, but I realize the answer is, "it doesn't matter how many, they work for Newscorp."
posted by Navelgazer at 4:52 PM on December 20, 2012


KokoRyu - Mark Steyn is on the list.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:53 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


God, I hate newspaper columnists. At best they provide some good gossip about the goings on in government, but that's about it.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:57 PM on December 20, 2012


Maaaan, that Ross Douthat one just about made me shoot fire out of my eyes when I read it.
posted by COBRA! at 4:58 PM on December 20, 2012


19 comments and no jokes about the worst columns being Ionic and Doric?

MetaFilter, I am disappoint.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:14 PM on December 20, 2012 [16 favorites]


If they had to mine the Red and Black to make their 50 they were really reaching.
No kidding. If we're taking this list seriously (and please, let's not) it's pretty unfair for a journalist to include a tongue-in-cheek article by some 19- or 20-year-old in the campus paper as one of his Worst 50 columns alongside pieces by the likes of Ross Douthat. I think a number of other columns on the list are likewise completely mischaracterized in his summary of them. And it seems he did his best to include something by every popular NYT columnist, regardless of how well the "Worst 50" label fit.
posted by phoenixy at 5:14 PM on December 20, 2012


Oh, John Derbyshire. I'd thought that your review of Lolita, in which you apologized for Humbert Humbert's child rape, would be the worst thing you'd ever write, but you really outdid yourself with that race column.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:31 PM on December 20, 2012


Is the implication that Corinithian is the good column? 'Cause that's obviously wrong.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:34 PM on December 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Needs the one suggesting Colin Kaepernick sets a poor example as a quarterback because he has visible tattoos.
posted by drezdn at 5:36 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I gather from reading The Feminine Mystique that it was pretty common for young, bright women to enter college, meet the man they intended to marry and retreat to life within the home, but is this still a cultural trope in 2012?

For some people, sure. Ever heard of the MRS degree? (pronounced Em Are Ess)
posted by orrnyereg at 6:31 PM on December 20, 2012


So, I'm going to put the spike in racist asshattery purely down to the election, but what's with the spike in sexist asshattery?

Reddit.
posted by NoraReed at 6:43 PM on December 20, 2012


Man, that Douthat column made me insane. In a radically overpopulated world, we finally get a small, limited decrease in population growth...and it took the greatest economic disaster since the Great Depression to do so...and it'll probably go away once the economy recovers...and Douthat immediately starts screeching for more babies. Seems to me to be the general Catholic hatred of happiness and pleasure at work. My hunch is that he's most unhappy about the fact that people are getting the fun of sex without the burden of kids.

Noonan is a self-parody. She almost doesn't even count anymore. Morris is so grotesque that he almost deserves his own category.

And that Brooks argument--"elect a Republican because the House Republicans will then act less crazy"... i.e.: elect our man or the country gets it...my God, my God...

McArdle...meh, she's no good. But I think many liberals dismiss her general type of point too quickly. Doesn't work with 5-year-olds of course...but fewer people would have died at, e.g., VA Tech if people had fought back in an organized way. I'm a liberal, basically, but I don't understand that subset of liberals who seem offended by the very idea of self-defense.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 7:19 PM on December 20, 2012


A number of these are hilarious, or they would be if they weren't real.

I wonder about this one though:
Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian on Zero Dark Thirty Without having seen the film, Glenn Greenwald decided that Kathryn Bigelow's fictionalized account of the hunt for Osama bin Laden glorified torture. Based on hearsay, Greenwald wrote that the film "uncritically presents as fact the highly self-serving, and factually false, claims by the CIA that its torture techniques were crucial in finding bin Laden." Someone told him Zero Dark Thirty isn't meant to be a documentary, right?

I can't know for sure because I haven't seen the movie either. But three Senators, including John McCain, have seen the movie and have denounced it. McCain, who was a tortured prisoner of war, said the movie sickened him.

Maybe it isn't a documentary, but its subject is very much in the news, and the role, usefulness, and appropriateness of torture is hotly debated and very much misunderstood. I say that this column brings up a good point and should not be on this list.
posted by eye of newt at 7:32 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's cliched to say that reading something made you dumber, but that article about how Bryce Harper played baseball the way conservatives do politics and was a sign that Mitt Romney would be triumphant might have actually killed some neurons.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:38 PM on December 20, 2012


I don't understand that subset of liberals who seem offended by the very idea of self-defense.

The very nature of McArdle's point presupposes that X amount of people attempting to bum-rush the shooter will die before he/she (um, I mean, definitely he) is overpowered. It is offensive to assume that people should just expect that at any moment they might have to die to stop a dickhead with a gun. Instead, people should assume that they can move about in public without fear of being assaulted by a dickhead with a gun.

How can you not understand what makes that assumption offensive?
posted by to sir with millipedes at 7:41 PM on December 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


McArdle...meh, she's no good. But I think many liberals dismiss her general type of point too quickly. Doesn't work with 5-year-olds of course...but fewer people would have died at, e.g., VA Tech if people had fought back in an organized way. I'm a liberal, basically, but I don't understand that subset of liberals who seem offended by the very idea of self-defense.--Fists O'Fury

McArdle wasn't writing about VA Tech. She specifically mentioned young kids, and was addressing the Sandy Hook Elementary disaster. I don't even want to think about how many more deaths there would have been if a number of 5 to 9 year olds thought they could rush a gunman using a semi-automatic. There's self-defence, and there's common sense.
posted by eye of newt at 7:49 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Glenn Greenwald, art critic, gets some discussion here. FWIW that article seems to me like a perfect summation of the aspects of his shtick that are ridiculous.
posted by Artw at 8:08 PM on December 20, 2012


Everyone on that list is still going to have a well paying job despite their hacky musings.
posted by Renoroc at 8:13 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Everyone on that list is still going to have a well paying job despite their hacky musings.

I can either depress myself with this thought, or I can take comfort that I need not be a good writer, or even an intelligent one, to get a good writing job.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:17 PM on December 20, 2012


They completely misread Richard Cohen's piece praisng Mitt Romney's skills at lying. It was not a pro-Romney piece!
posted by chinston at 9:12 PM on December 20, 2012


Yeah, I don't see the argument for why Richard Cohen's column is bad. I also don't see the argument against George Will's column, other than the ad hominem point that he's a white person talking about race.
posted by John Cohen at 11:23 PM on December 20, 2012


It's enormously common in mine, but that's just another anecdote.

Weird - we went to the same university. Anecdata for you there.
posted by mippy at 1:24 AM on December 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Do you hear the people sing? singing the song of angry men
posted by ReeMonster at 1:27 AM on December 21, 2012


For some people, sure. Ever heard of the MRS degree? (pronounced Em Are Ess)

Well, no, that was my point. In my case I went to university to meet new people as much as to learn, but there was no life plan behind it. Of course it could be different for everyone - as alasdair says for some university is essentially finishing school, for a very small proportion of the population - but it's not really a stereotype/trope here. Possibly because alcohol consumption is.
posted by mippy at 1:29 AM on December 21, 2012


Metafilter: Everyone on that list is still going to have a well paying job despite their hacky musings.
posted by aesop at 2:23 AM on December 21, 2012


Glenn Greenwald, art critic, gets some discussion here. FWIW that article seems to me like a perfect summation of the aspects of his shtick that are ridiculous.

His follow-up here. It seems pretty reasonable, he's clear that he wasn't reviewing the film, but writing about the implications of a major plot point within the film (see also his updated original post).
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:33 AM on December 21, 2012


Maybe it isn't a documentary, but its subject is very much in the news, and the role, usefulness, and appropriateness of torture is hotly debated and very much misunderstood. I say that this column brings up a good point and should not be on this list.

Which would have been fine if he decided to write a column about torture, as opposed to a column about a movie he did not see and yet threw all kinds of accusations at. It should have never made it past the editor's desk.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:13 AM on December 21, 2012


Everyone on that list is still going to have a well paying job despite their hacky musings.

I'm pretty sure that Derbyshire, at least, is pretty much on forced retirement now.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:36 AM on December 21, 2012


The local "newspaper" likes to put both conservative and less-conservative writers on its Opinion page, for balance I suppose. Victor Davis Hanson appears frequently. The first time I read one of his pieces the possibility that it was hoax crossed my mind. I could not believe that someone actually wrote it fully intending every word.

It was not a hoax.
posted by tommasz at 6:47 AM on December 21, 2012


zabuni, I don't normally check n+1 but that was a hilarious link.
posted by postcommunism at 7:41 AM on December 21, 2012


McArdle...meh, she's no good. But I think many liberals dismiss her general type of point too quickly.

No, not really. There really isn't such a thing as dismissing old 2x4's points too quickly, as the McArdle brand is consistent in its willfully stupid thuggery. Self defence by unarmed tackling opf psychos with guns as a serious proposal, ie you're willing to let grade school kids die just so that gun loons can keep their masturbation aids is about the prime example of both her maliciousness and dimwittedness.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:41 AM on December 21, 2012


Friedman, Cohen, Will, Brooks -- who's still reading these guys?
posted by Rash at 7:43 AM on December 21, 2012


Friedman, Cohen, Will, Brooks -- who's still reading these guys?
posted by Rash


The school where I work has had both Friedman and Brooks on campus as featured speakers, and still has big posters up commemorating that fact. I die a little every time I see them.
posted by COBRA! at 7:56 AM on December 21, 2012


I sometimes think there's a type of aging liberal who not only loves The Social Animal and Bobos in Paradise, but has further been convinced that Brooks is a kind of intellectual butler who curates for them the modern zietgiest.

I worry that force of popularity means they're not wrong.

or maybe I'm just projecting based on people I know
posted by postcommunism at 8:01 AM on December 21, 2012


Wait, no Jennifer Rubin?

Well. There's still the Buffalo Beast's Fifty Most Loathsome People list. (Fingers crossed.)
posted by newdaddy at 8:03 AM on December 21, 2012


I need not be a good writer, or even an intelligent one, to get a good writing job.

You do have to give up your soul and your pride, however.

Speaking of which, George Will is worried that making it easier to vote will mean more people that he doesn't like will be voting. I think that's what he's saying. It's hard to tell.
posted by emjaybee at 8:08 AM on December 21, 2012


emjaybee, I'm half-willing to double down on the thought: "Well, a good inheritance for my children is worth pride and damnation." But I don't actually want to be remembered as a lackey, so I won't.

George Will has tried to defend the poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his column. That alone has made me not listen to much of what he says.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:16 AM on December 21, 2012


If we're taking this list seriously (and please, let's not) it's pretty unfair for a journalist to include a tongue-in-cheek article by some 19- or 20-year-old in the campus paper as one of his Worst 50 columns alongside pieces by the likes of Ross Douthat.

Yeah, and there are not one but two written-by-undergrads filler articles in there, the one about going to college to get married and then another one (which I didn't bother to read) about tax policy. That the articles are sophomoric shouldn't surprise anyone.

At least at my alma mater, the "opinion" pieces in the campus rag were pure filler, typically cooked up by some junior member of the newspaper staff the night before the deadline. Some pretty dumb stuff got printed. But they don't have online archives so thankfully anyone who went into Real Journalism in later life is probably safe, unless someone starts combing through the microfilm collection.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:34 AM on December 21, 2012


Also, if you're going to include undergrad campus paper material, this is clearly the worst column of the year.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:37 AM on December 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


this is clearly the worst column of the year.

That's amazing:
The agony, the torture, the fading chances of satisfying my morning wood…no!

It’s back.
Look at the picture of himself which that young man has chosen to accompany those words.
posted by postcommunism at 8:44 AM on December 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, if you're going to include undergrad campus paper material, this is clearly the worst column of the year.

Wow; that is pretty bad
posted by TedW at 8:44 AM on December 21, 2012


I quite like Doric columns.
posted by jb at 9:02 AM on December 21, 2012


For some people, sure. Ever heard of the MRS degree? (pronounced Em Are Ess)

When I first heard this, it was being said outloud by someone like that, and I was so confused as to what it was: a Masters of Research Science or something? If so, why only women?
posted by jb at 9:03 AM on December 21, 2012


That Temple column should be appended to its author's resume. It manages to be even more stupid than it is offensive.

But I'm still partial to this bad column from BC's student paper.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:04 AM on December 21, 2012


Ctrl-F'ed myself. Unscathed yet again!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 3:40 PM on December 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't right-wing columnists use a Right-Wing Editorial Generator? I imagine it as looking something like the novel-writing machines in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, though a computer program is more likely: select "Liberal Academics," "Political Correctness," and "Oppression of Conservatives," then set the outrage level to 6. Select "Population Decline," "Feminism," and "National Superiority," set the outrage level to 9.

Brooks, now, is somewhat less predictable and sometimes worth reading.
posted by bad grammar at 3:51 PM on December 21, 2012


How did this not make the list?
posted by SisterHavana at 9:53 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm glad I'm not the only one to notice how moronic the NYT has gotten.
posted by savvysearch at 7:04 AM on December 23, 2012


The old gray lady was always going to go senile someday. It makes me sad.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:08 PM on December 23, 2012


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