Graydon Carter tries so hard to get New York’s liberal establishment to take him seriously – no small task for someone who’s gone from skewering the rich and famous as editor of Spy magazine, the relatively short-lived 1980’s media phenomenon, to toadying to Hollywood celebrities and their imperious agents as editor of Vanity Fair, the glossy monthly that downplays its more serious journalism behind covers that feature scantily clad Hollywood ingénues and headlines seemingly lifted from the National Enquirer. (World Exclusive, shouted the October cover, A 22-Page Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes Family Album.)
These days, of course, there’s no surer way to polish your Manhattan elitist bona fides than by attacking President Bush, the war on terror, the war in Iraq, religious believers and Middle-American patriotism, and so it’s no surprise that in his “Editor’s Letter” column Carter regularly seeks to emulate his intellectual and literary superiors, such as the acute Bushophobe Frank Rich of The New York Times, with screeds depicting Bush as the destroyer of democracy, ravager of the republic, pillager of all that’s decent and good in Blue State America.
But Rich, for all his supercilious airs and noxious politics, at least manages to maintain a detached and dispassionate veneer over his predictable prose, which perhaps can best be described as boilerplate-Democrat with enough pop-cultural references thrown in to glaze even the eyes of Rich’s tiresome colleague Maureen Dowd (who without recourse to titles of movies, names of television characters and lyrics of songs and jingles would have trouble filling half her allotted space).
Carter, though, is incapable of anything beyond the most superficial, fingernail-across-the-blackboard invective, Here’s a representative chunk from a recent column:
It’s no surprise that the Bush administration’s bullying swagger and blithe ignorance have caused much of the Muslim world to hold the U.S. in rock-bottom regard… It could be fairly said that the U.S. is increasingly out of step with the rest of the world. As our neighbors to the south elect left-wing or even socialist governments, we are lurching further to the right. As Europe becomes less engaged to the Church, we are becoming more fundamentalist. Actually, the one region with which we seem to have a lot in common these days is the Middle East. Let’s see. Fanatically religious warmongers in charge? Check. Unimpeachable power held in the hands of a few? Check. Little regard for individual rights? Check. Disdain for the United Nations? Check. Heads of state who are beholden to oil? Check. Even during the World Cup, America seemed so out of touch with the crowd. Other countries had moving football anthems that spectators would sing or hum from the stands. The Americans could muster only a lame, spring-break line: “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”
Where to begin with this bouillabaisse of ravings? Does Carter actually mean to say that South American-style left-wing or socialist governance is something Americans should envy or strive for? Even the editorial writers at The New York Times, coming off a sleepless night and too many shots of Jack Daniel’s, would never put it quite that way, whatever they might feel deep down.
And who are the “fanatically religious warmongers” Carter finds so menacing? Bush, obviously, since the president is a man of evangelical faith who’s against everything that liberal New Yorkers hold dear, but who else, exactly? Any public official or elected representative who professes belief in biblical Christianity? Or just those who hail from Red States or whose social views don’t jibe with those of a sophisticated big city editor whose world revolves around the best tables at the right restaurants and A-list actors agreeing to endless puff pieces with breathless titles?
As for that bit about “heads of state beholden to oil,” here’s where the incoherence of the anti-Bush crowd breaks the bonds of mere partisan foolishness. If that were true, why would the Muslim world be as angry with the U.S. as Carter himself claims? An administration “beholden to oil” couldn’t possibly be an administration that has been unprecedentedly supportive of Israel, nor one willing to rock the foundations of traditional U.S. friendship for oligarchs of oil-producing Arab nations.
Celebrity-oriented journalists should just stick to Oscar party pictorials and leave the Bush-bashing to the big boys.