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January 02, 2013

Tina Brown Tries Again, Fails

Another post swiped from @benk84. No one wishes ill for Mrs. Clinton, but this is Tina Brown at her most insipid.

The idea of losing Hillary has seemed especially unbearable at this political moment. It’s as if she has become, literally, the ship of state. She stands for maturity, tenacity, and self-discipline at a time when everyone else in Washington seems to be, in more senses than one, going off a cliff—a parade of bickering, blustering, small-balled hacks bollixing up the nation’s business. She’s a caring executive too, and that takes its own emotional toll. What a disgrace that John Bolton and his goaty Republican ilk accused Her Magnificence of inventing a concussion to get out of testifying at the Benghazi hearings. Bolton is not fit to wipe her floor with his mustache.

Her determination to defy fatigue and keep going beggars belief....

It’s not just Washington’s antics that make us value Hillary the Stoic more than ever. These are scary times. Everyone feels terrified of economic and societal volatility. The pace of change from destructive innovation and cutthroat global competition and demographic shifts and media proliferation is making us a nervous, increasingly medicated nation....

In an era of quicksand, everyone is looking for a rock, and you’re one we depend on...

I should note that that final elipsis (...) is in the original. That's how she ends her article, dot dot dot. Like, portentously. Like, the question mark at the end of a suspense film.

Like, she's trying to hard and we can see the flop sweat.

This squeaking fart of a piece reminded me of this pre-Christmas article about Newsweek publishing its last print edition, and Tina Brown's desperate attempts to find "the zeitgeist." It's a key word for her-- she seems to think her metier is to sense the zeitgeist, or at least fake up an argument about what the zeitgeist is that will be discussed by other people.

She's been failing at this a great deal. I guess many would say she always failed, but earlier in her career she had least had the cachet to get her burblings talked about by other idiots. Now the other idiots seem to have caught on.

Betrayed by the Zeitgeist she once channeled, Tina Brown invokes it one last time

By Matt Haber


In an interview with Michael Kinsley in the Nov. 26 issue of New York magazine, Newsweek editor in chief and magazine legend Tina Brown gave a big-picture reason for the magazine's failure: "[E]very piece of the Zeitgeist was against Newsweek," Brown told Kinsley, a quote so telling, New York's editors even saw fit to tease it on the magazine's cover, the word Zeitgeist framed by inverted commas.


Back to Brown. Here she was arguing that the spirit of the current times is against these kinds of large, macro interpretations of daily life, the very things Newsweek tried to do every week, and that Tina Brown has been doing for her entire career: that is, pronouncing the Zeitgeist.

It's a conundrum. Tina Brown's pronouncement of the Zeitgeist here was that the death of Newsweek is an emblem of the Zeitgeist's rejection of magazine editors' pronouncements. It's therefore got to be her final pronouncement of the Zeitgeist, if it wasn't, by her own pronouncement, one too many.


The Zeitgeist, it would seem, betrayed Tina Brown after she spent the last three decades, as editor of Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Talk, The Daily Beast and then Newsweek, invoking it weekly or monthly. She packed the word itself in headlines, display copy, and in the bodies of her writers' work constantly. At The New Yorker, Brown found the Zeitgeist in many places as well, in everything from the tales of Bill Clinton to the tale of Joey Buttafuoco. For Brown, the Zeitgeist could be summoned anywhere, from anything that caught her eye during a given week.

But with Newsweek, her eye finally faltered. Or the Zeitgeist wasn't where she was used to finding it anymore.

The author suggests that with the flood of opinion and context and viral videos, "finding the zeitgeist" is a game open to millions, and, confronted with competition, (this is my gloss) Tina Brown turned out to be not particularly good at it.

In other words, there's no need for a Newsweek to explain What It All Means (serious capital letters included), when so many of us are doing so constantly and fluidly online.

And what is the Zeitgeist, after all? It's just a faux-elevated version of the desperate magazine writer's go-to fake story, the Trend Story, in which two incidents of the same thing happening Define an Era (for this week; two more incidents will Define the Era next week, as deadline approaches).

But then, Newsweek was always this way:

[I]t's worth remembering that as far back as 1969, Esquire's Chris Welles compared the magazine to its closest competitor, Time, and concluded that "Newsweek is much more anxious to make broad pronouncements about the significance of the week's events, to practice the art of the 'hype,' by which the routine is blown up into the incredible and the sensational. It is filled with 'crises,' turning points' and 'watersheds,' especially in the 'Violin,' Newsweek's slang for the lead story in the magazine."

Ah, there's the word: Hype. Audaciously drawing grand (and almost completely unsupportable) conclusions from small things. Carnival barking in print form. Everything's the Most Important, the Latest, the Best. News You Can Use; Is Your Hair-Dryer Giving You Brain Cancer? Tune in next paragraph to find out.

There's a lot of that on the internet (and look, there's a lot of that here). I guess it turned out that Tina Brown didn't have a skill so much as she had an inclination, and it turned out many thousands of other people had the same inclination, and the same level of skill. Her One Great Big Trick -- making splashy but daffy claims about What It All Means -- turned out to be a pretty small trick, easily duplicated.

I suppose glibness -- making superficial connections and writing about them, superficially -- is a type of skill, but it's not a particularly difficult skill, and it's not particularly useful.

Maureen Dowd does this too, of course. She was once the Reigning Queen of Soft, Superficial Zeitgeist pieces. People stopped reading her a dozen years ago, though. If Tina Brown's main gig were as a writer, rather than as an editor/executive, people would have stopped reading her 12 years ago, too. Maybe we all kind of hated Tina Brown, but no one ever asked us about it.

Who's Editing Tina Brown -- Meghan McCain? A commenter underlines this, which I completely missed:

It’s as if she has become, literally, the ship of state.

She's got the ballast for it, I guess.

digg this
posted by Ace at 01:32 PM

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