Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Owls Are (Still) Not What They Seem

I was reading Gail Collins' column in The New York Times last week and was shocked when I read the following passage:

Hillary’s tendency to describe herself and her supporters as “hard-working” is getting a little irritating. True, we are all in awe of her energy. True, Barack talks about how he’s been running for president for nearly a year and a half as if that was somehow an undesirable way to spend a considerable chunk of the human life span. But she’s making it sound as if the mere effort of pulling the lever for her instead of him is a demonstration of a superior work ethic. Her voters are “all of the hard-working men and women who defy the odds to build a better life for themselves and their children.” His, presumably, are living off their grandfathers’ trust funds and refusing to commit to their girlfriends.
How does Gail Collins know so much about me? Has she been spying on me, following me around Hyde Park, taking notes on my slovenly lifestyle and fear of commitment? I had to get to the bottom of this. I called up R.A. at work and asked her if she had any idea about how Collins knew so much about our lives. "Joel, I told you, you can't call me here. This is my office's phone." she said. Someone had obviously gotten to her first, and shut her up good. Whether they used a carrot or a stick, I didn't know. I guess I was on my own, that it would be up to me and me alone to find out the truth about Gail Collins and her eerie, omniscient ways. So I put on my fedora, turned up the collar of my raincoat, and stepped out into the night in search of answers.

What happened next, I'll tell you about some other time. Suffice to say that there was much bloodshed, there were many dames with dark and sordid pasts, and that Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. put a price on my head so big that every goon and gumshoe in Manhattan is on the look out for yours truly. But I did manage to escape with the truth intact, the dirty, scandalous truth about The New York Times and how its columnists collect data for their articles.

In a word: Owls.

In two: Magic Owls.

That's right. My extensive and risky snooping revealed that The New York Times provides each of its columnists with several magic owls, straight from Hogwarts no doubt, which he or she can unleash upon a naïve and unexpecting public to spy on their comings and goings and then return to report their findings to their master or mistress before presstime. But, like the ancient wizards and sorcerers of old, not all New York Times writers are of equal owl-powers. Some are more skilled than others, and all of them have different owls with different strengths and weaknesses. For example:

Gail Collins has the very small, witty owls who will break into your apartment at night, read your journal, and steal your socks. They then return to her and report that most human beings are not as smart as they take themselves to be, that even alcoholics love their mothers, that everyone loves a good smackdown, and basically that we get the government that we deserve.

Her colleague in wizardry and witchcraft, Maureen Dowd, also has very skilled owls, but her birds are larger, more decoratively plumed, and absolutely stark raving mad. They also definitely have a background in psychoanalysis, but this propensity sometimes leads them a little too far down the road of absurdity, free association, and projecting Oedipal complexes. Also, they have a strange phobia concerning all things Clinton-esque, (including paranoid visions of her coming after them with an ice-pick) which, I suppose, is not without its justification.

David Brooks doesn't have any owls. He just makes shit up.

Of course, the reality is that these columnists only see what their owls want them to see. For example, the newest inductee to the cabal of columnists is William Kristol. Unfortunately, as a kind of "hazing" that all of the rookie columnists must go through, Kristol gets the last pick of all the owls. This means that all of his owls are not only terrible about checking their facts, but also that they all tend to be kind of douche-bags, therefore making his column appear as if it were written by a douche-bag. It's terribly paradoxical, I know, but it is the only possible way to explain the virulent racism, anti-semitism, and general reality denying that saturates his column on a regular basis.

At least, I hope that it's the owls. I would actually rather not comprehend the alternative.

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