By Craig J. Cantoni
Jan. 16, 2007
Many years ago, I stopped reading new weeklies and most other mainstream publications, replacing them with sources of news, information and analysis that are not agenda-laden and insulting to one’s intelligence. If it had not been for a recent visit to my doctor, I wouldn’t know that the national print media has become much more vapid, banal, superficial, unoriginal and statist over the intervening years.
The choice of reading material in the doctor’s waiting room was Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, Time, and US News & World Report. Remembering that US News used to be more balanced politically than Time, I chose it. Bad choice. I should have read Family Circle and learned how to bake a cake. Instead, as you will see momentarily, I didn’t even learn something as useful as a cake recipe.
It is clear why Americans have more years of schooling than ever before but believe more claptrap and canards than ever before, especially about economics, foreign trade, public education, race, the environment, and health care. That’s because they’re reading comic books like US News, which has a circulation of slightly more than two million. When this circulation is combined with the circulation of such peer publications as Time, Newsweek and Reader’s Digest, it means that 25 million Americans can’t tell “shit from shinola,” to borrow an expression my working-class dad used to use.
Don’t get me wrong: It’s not as if conservative talk radio is full of shinola instead of the other stuff. The most pedantic human being who ever walked the earth, Sean Hannity, has an audience alone that numbers in the tens of millions.
Tellingly, at the other end of the IQ spectrum, the nonpartisan, non-statist, non-copycat magazine, Reason, has a circulation of only 60,000. Well, at least 60,000 Americans can tell shinola from the other stuff.
Speaking of the other stuff, let’s return to the waiting room and look through US News.
The magazine had a feature story on the 50 things that Americans could do to improve their lives. Written at a See Spot run level, it included such advice as leaving a smaller environmental footprint and reading Al Gore’s book on global warming.
Funny thing, but the magazine’s environmental advice didn’t include not buying magazines printed on paper coated with kaolin clay to make them glossy. Because it is mined in large open-pit mines, kaolin leaves a huge environmental footprint.
According to US News, another way of improving your life is to do community service. How original. How communitarian. No mention was made of how government has crowded out mutual-aid societies and corrupted nonprofit community-service organizations with public money.
In fairness, the magazine did have a very original recommendation for improving your life. It recommended that you should learn about the glories of Islam.
Well, on second thought, maybe it wasn’t so original after all. It was just more of the same diversity drivel found in the mainstream media.
Note to US News editors: Thanks, but I prefer to read the truth about racial diversity from such authors as Thomas Sowell, who, as a black intellectual, says insightful things that you won’t say in your magazine.
Turning to the last page of the magazine, I read an editorial by the magazine’s editor-in-chief and chairman, Mortimer Zuckerman, who is a graduate of Harvard Law School, which might want to change its entrance requirements and curriculum.
Full of leftist misinformation and disinformation about the economy and the wealth gap, Mortimer’s editorial advocated nationalizing the American health care system. It included this non sequitur: “Think about the fact that raising a child to the age of 18 will cost over $200,000 for a middle-income family--and that doesn't even account for college tuition, now a required ticket for admission into the middle class. Perhaps that's why for the first time, according to the Census Bureau, households headed by single people outnumber those headed by married ones.”
No, Mortimer, single households outnumber married households because women have been given incentives to marry the state instead of the fathers of their children. I know it is gauche to talk about this at Manhattan parties, but single-parent families and out-of-wedlock births are the primary causes of poverty, school dropouts, behavioral problems and academic difficulties.
Anyway, thanks to US News & World Report, I know what I’m going to do to improve my life. I’m taking a good book on my next visit to the doctor and not touching the stuff that is the opposite of shinola.
An author and columnist, Mr. Cantoni can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.