I WAS in the basement last evening, changing cat littler boxes, when the full force of that David Brooks Tuesday column hit me. This is one of the many drawbacks of routinely writing shit down: things tend to morph into academic exercises, or alternative courses seem more reasonable. Not that this blog would ever do anything either academic or reasonable. I mean metaphorically.
Maybe it had something to do with the Sorta CEO salary cap ("And this time we expect the Honor System to work!") announced earlier, and the predictable loathsome toadying faux-balanced "reporting" on the "controversy" that followed on local "news".
One really must look at the bush leagues to get the full picture of what thirty years of the Happy Chatter and Relatively Exorbitant Salaries Breeding Program has done for the quality of our lapdogs. It is abundantly clear that any form of reporting--beyond the routine tales of lower-class brigands, celebrity worshiphate, and the never-fails-to-wow-'em-for-three-days-running discovery of a House With Animal Feces Everywhere--that any reporting, I say, which cannot be approached in the same spirit of unbridled enthusiasm which would have met the announcement, at the Closing Ceremonies of the Games of the XXIII Olympiad, Los Angeles, CA, that President and Mrs. Reagan had decided to adopt Adorable Girl Gymnast Mary Lou Retton, make her an instant millionaire, and marry her off to Magnum P.I. himself, Mr. Tom Selleck, is simply alien to them. I don't think breeding is necessarily too strong a word there; watching the younger reporters on this story was like watching a dog you're talking to after inhaling helium. It wasn't as though the concept of a CEO salary cap were objectionable to them, or even a foreign concept. It was as though they'd never heard the words before. Channel 8 has a couple of middle-aged anchors whose careers date to the early years of Happy Talk; behind their eyes was a sort of misty half-remembrance of the sunny greenspaces of the Early Geraldo Era, the happy time when real reporting was replaced by the fake, before being abandoned altogether. When they could feel something. It was like watching a wheelchair-bound nonagenarian remembering his lost tricycle. People who make lots of money are not supposed to be the subjects of downer reporting! unless they're flighty celebs, or people who Used To Make A Lot Of Money But Don't Anymore.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that local "news" has had to play along with Mitch "The Munchkin of Miracles" Daniels for four years, touting his phony budget numbers, propping up his image as Entrepreneur-in-Chief, and reporting that the closing of Delphi Electronics in Anderson was ameliorated by Mitch's eleventh-hour offer to throw union employees into the White River, which ain't that much of a hydraulic threat, exactly, but the shit Delphi dumped into it for decades would have killed 'em all before they'd floated to Noblesville. And between last April's kickoff of the Constant Barrage of Highly Profitable Nonstop Fact-Free Mitch Daniels Reelection Campaign Commercials, and his glorious re-ascension to the Booster Seat of Power in November, they'd had to tout Indiana's Economic Miracle to the very people it had already collapsed on. Of course now that we really do need a miracle they seem to have lost his cell number.
Yet the odds of any of these people ever being plagued by a $500,000/year salary cap are nil, and they know it. It's Indianapolis. There are precisely two local news success stories: David Letterman, who had other talents, and Jane Pauley, who had one: being attractive without being threatening. (She is a beacon of hope for local hairdos, however; she was so awful local wags--okay, me and my friend Kelly--called her Jane Palsy. Couldn't read two lines without fumbling one. The moral of the story, kids, is she improved. Try it some time.) Some Chicago station or other wanted sports gasbag Chet Coppock, for some reason, and some other sports pretty boy (who was, seriously, promo'd for his looks while he was here; must've been Channel 13) moved to CNN. That's it. If you're a local teleprompter reader in Indianapolis your big career expectations are a) getting to fuck race car drivers; b) being chosen to conduct a five-minute fungo session during Fred Thompson's forty-five minute Presidential campaign; c) getting to write a cookbook, local-flavored mystery fiction, or heart-warming tale of your conversations with your faithful dog who is now deceased, which will be published by some vanity-press operation and never appear in a county not contiguous with Marion; or d) getting to cut to the head of the line in some restaurant which doesn't even deserve to have a waiting list. Still, the possibility that some members of our newly-licensed beggar class might have to fly commercial someday was treated like the vague passing of some touchstone of The American Way of Life.
Although, as Roy points out, there is some evidence of a hesitation to risk the populist riptide, but it appears to come from the news management, not the "talent"; here we are fortunate in being able to compare the current response with the one seven months ago, when the price of filling up their family Panzers hit $130, and are thus aware that, wisely, not all the emotion's been bred out of 'em. Otherwise they might start letting their hair go.
Anyway, I'm in the middle of cleaning out the cat boxes, and out of the blue I think: Motherfucking Brooks pulled another Applebee's salad bar/Red Lobster $20 entree routine, and I let him off. Covetous staffer/regulation authors seethe while having to clean their own gutters and decide to Stick It To Da Man in response. And I'm there with a snootful of cat crap, and I think, first, out here where the Real People live, the place Brooks has supposedly nailed down again and again, to the grudging delight of "Liberals", most people enjoy doing this sort of thing, and even compete at it, even if they don't particularly care for one job or another. It wouldn't even occur to me to hire somebody to clean those litter boxes, and I'm the laziest man on earth. And those who don't, or can't, hire people to do it for them. There're grass mowers and painters and housemaids and gutter cleaners at work almost constantly in our little barely managing suburban enclave. But Brooks put it down to not having household help! I've never had household help; I might've changed my mind had I known you could order them to clean gutters, repair furnaces, or corrugate tin. You can put that one right alongside the idea that Real America just loves it some Fat Cat, a notion that owes everything to thirty years of Reagan mythologizing and the canny setting of middle class on poorer like some political cockfight, and nothing to actually knowing any Real Americans. Maybe you should have given this a bit more thought before you destroyed the middle class altogether, but then you wouldn't be the same charming, gouty face-stuffers who imagine the household help tends the gutters, waxes the town car, and trims the topiary.
Real phoniness is bad enough, but it's the fake phoniness that really struck me. Envious Congressional staffers have been crafting legislation since Shay's Rebellion. And from the time David Brooks could tell gabardine from vicuña they've been handing all those hated rich people tax break after tax break. That's his experience. Although, in fairness, maybe the trees in Ward Three just now rose above roof height.