May 05, 2004

The So-Called “Conventional Wisdom” of

The So-Called “Conventional Wisdom” of “Newsweek” Magazine

We, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” must admit that we dislike reading “Newsweek” magazine. Essentially, this is because we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” actually enjoy reading. As a result, we don’t have much esteem for a publication that doesn’t allow you to skim even one absurdly concise article without being bombarded by sundry bar graphs, carefully cropped photos, and similar eyesores.

Indeed, it seems as if the editorial staff at “Newsweek” magazine has pitched its journal at a “readership” that has the attention span of the average ferret on amphetamines.

To be sure, we realize that the editors of “Newsweek” throw in a couple of Fareed Zakaria and George Will columns to make the magazine appear somewhat intellectually hefty, but we just aren’t buying it (literally and figuratively). After all, this is a journal whose “culture” pages are normally attuned to the latest sartorial excesses of P. Diddly-Diddly.

In addition, our staff can’t decide whether Jonathan Alter or Harold Fineman is more obnoxiously self-impressed on “Hardball.” Their appearances on the show, in fact, mark the only times when we actually prefer to hear Chris Matthews opine.

As you can see, dear reader, there is much to loathe about “Newsweek” magazine. Perhaps we should save up some of our collective rancor for another day. But there is one element of this journal-for-illiterates that really gets our dander up: The so-called “Conventional Wisdom” box, which appears toward the beginning of each penetrating issue of the magazine.

You know the part we are discussing, dear reader: The “Conventional Wisdom”—or “CW,” as it styles itself—offers the “reader” a few people and topics in the news, places an arrow next to these items, and then presents a pithy comment to explain why the arrow in question either points upward, downward, or horizontally—or, as the “readership” of “Newsweek” would have it, “all-sideways-like.”

First, there is the matter of the obvious liberal tilt of the so-called “Conventional Wisdom” box. We know, we know: The smart-set in America conceive of charges of “liberal bias” as of roughly the same intellectual caliber as admissions that one sleeps with his first-cousin. That is to say, it’s so Idaho.

Still, we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” shall run the risk of forever being denied an invitation to Katrina vanden Heuvel’s dinner parties and make the shockingly plebian claim that the self-styled “CW” is less a barometer of the country’s opinions, and more a barometer of the chuckleheaded staff of “Newsweek.”

As such, we humbly suggest that “Newsweek” rename the “Conventional Wisdom” box “Things that the Staff of ‘Newsweek’ Thinks are True” box. Not very catchy, we admit, but it can easily be collapsed into its acronym: TTTSONTAT. If the editorial board could color this nomenclature in a sufficiently iridescent combination of hues, perhaps it could compel even more of its “readers” to gander at the box.

How, you ask, can you tell that the good-ole “CW” isn’t, as they say, exactly a straight arrow? Well, take a look at the “Conventional Wisdom”’s assessment of President Bush. Invariably, the “CW” places a downcast arrow next to his name, proffering some snarky comment about the Commander-in-Chief. In fact, if one relied entirely on the “Conventional Wisdom” box for knowledge of American political affairs, one might conclude that the country has slowly degenerated into a Nazi tyranny. And, we submit, pretty much only the folks at think this. Well, and the major figures in the Democratic Party—depending on which day you ask them.

In fact, the “Conventional Wisdom” box proffers so many downturned arrows next to the President’s name, you’d think that his major problems could be solved by Viagra.

To go by the “CW”’s CW, you’d think that George W. Bush has lower approval ratings than Attila the Hun.

But the partisan nature of the “Conventional Wisdom” box isn’t what perturbs us so much. Rather, we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” aver that the entire enterprise is pointless. What do the prodigies behind the “CW” assume we are going to do with the information they have bestowed upon us? In a recent number of “Newsweek,” for example, the Iraq War got a downcast arrow: Should we invade Luxemburg instead? In another recent issue, Tiger Woods also received a “CW” snubbing: Should we change our collective allegiance to Vijay Singh?

All in all, we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” give the “Conventional Wisdom” box an ignominiously downturned arrow. We are not, however, particularly sanguine that our criticisms will have much of an effect. After all, anyone who “reads” “Newsweek” magazine would have long since given up on this column: It’s got too many darned words.

Posted at May 5, 2004 12:20 AM | TrackBack