A generation ago, The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd was an “influencer,” long before that noxious word became common parlance. I didn’t usually agree with her, but when not blowing Hollywood stars, she sometimes rolled out pretty funny one-liners, whether about G.H.W. Bush (“Poppy”), Censorious Tipper, Nancy Reagan or the trailer-park Clintons. She was worth reading. I still do, on occasion, but “MoDo” has lost her juice—like colleagues Thomas Friedman, Gail Collins (no “juice” to start with) and David Brooks. Dowd’s stuck in a time warp—not uncommon for a senior-citizen journalist—but she’s a Times lifer, like, say, the far-less objectionable David Broder was at The Washington Post. (Barack Obama, upon Broder’s death in 2011, typically laid it on thick, calling Broder “the most respected and incisive political commentator of his generation.” Robert Novak received no such commendation from Bruce Springsteen’s Partner in Nostalgia.)
It's possibly a strange contrast—sports vs. politics—but look at the jubilantly-over-the-top flash 34-year-old Jared Carrabis demonstrates on Twitter (431,000 followers) and other social media platforms. Carrabis, who’s made some money from his work—supposedly $1.5 million, not in Dowd’s league, but not shabby—follows baseball (he’s a diehard Red Sox fan who becomes miserably depressed when the team sucks) more closely than anyone I can think of.
He’s on Twitter every day, posting videos of mammoth home runs—not just the Sox, but MLB teams across the board—terrible umpire calls, weird managerial decisions, defensive miscues by the Yankees (though he recently gave the Yanks a rare cream puff, pointing out Gerrit Cole’s dominance so far in 2023) and spectacular outfield catches. I’ve no idea about the Massachusetts-born Carrabis’ personal life, and don’t care, but it appears that baseball—and during the off-season, other sports as well—consumes his waking hours, which are many because if he sleeps more than four hours daily, then I’m Tony the Tiger’s butler. I bring this up because Carrabis, who intentionally or not, rubs a lot of fans the wrong way—not at all a bad trait—is the kind of media bigwig that Dowd and her friends used to be, on top of his own mountain, relishing it, and working even harder to expand his reader/listenership. Carrabis, unlike so many familiar journalists/cable-show say-nothings, has no prestigious college pedigree, and didn’t just passively move up the media ladder. I’m not in the TikTok world, and realize there are many enormously popular “influencers,” so I’ll stick to baseball.
Dowd’s column over the weekend was the kind that had you entered a pub, played darts with a bandana shielding your eyes, would’ve hit a bullseye predicting what she’d write. There’s the Trump obsession, it goes without saying, and a lot of baloney about the former president (“King Leer”), Putin, Rupert Murdoch, J6, “our corroded democracy,” and Succession’s recently-deceased Logan Roy. All connected to Shakespeare’s common, and mindlessly-invoked King Lear, as if a TV character, politicians or media titans are more than barely related to the circa 1605 play. Murdoch, now 94, just settled a lawsuit ($787.5 million) brought by Dominion Voting Systems, which said that Murdoch’s Fox News lied about the company’s attempts to rig the 2020 presidential election. I don’t watch Fox, or any other cable station, but from reading about the litigation Dominion’s had a better case than Alvin Bragg is in his indictment of “King Leer.”
I don’t care either way about Dominion’s victory. It’s this sentence of Dowd’s that bridles, for its blatant dishonesty: “It’s hard for a journalist to argue that a news organization should be penalized, but Fox News isn’t a news organization. It’s a greedy business that freaked out when some Fox reporters actually told the truth about Trump’s lies, and it proceeded to broadcast the lies… Thanks to the despicable lies of Murdoch and Trump, America is now ‘this great stage of fools,’ in Lear’s phrase, howling at the storm.”
Aren’t all for-profit media outlets, including The New York Times, “greedy,” in that executives attempt to make a lot of money for themselves and shareholders? In 2016, during Trump’s improbable rise in GOP politics, which every TV station/newspaper covered relentlessly—more than a normal presidential race—Leslie Moonves, then chairman and CEO of CBS Corporation (he fell to MeToo allegations in 2018), said, “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” CNN’s President Jeff Zucker was seen daily with a smile as wide as Chris Christie’s hips, counting the clicks and dollars that Trump brought in. As far as Murdoch, he’s had a very long career, some ups and downs, but remember he saved The New York Post from extinction in 1976 (and acquired The Village Voice and New York the following year)—saving all those jobs—and bought Dow Jones, Co. (which publishes The Wall Street Journal in 2007, when that company, which the likes of Dowd admire, was in a downturn, again keeping people on the payroll.
I found it weird that not once in Dowd’s column was Ron DeSantis mentioned. It’s confusing for the media as to which GOP tyrant to plump or roast, in an effort to make President Sippy Cup’s reelection easier. I can’t figure it out either, but on this day, April 20th, Trump gets the nod, because DeSantis, an all-but-declared candidate, is doing everything he can to implode. His drumbeat about “woke culture” is now old hat, and his signature on a bill to cap abortion at six weeks in Florida is crazy if he wants to attract independent and Democratic voters who rightfully believe Biden isn’t up to the job.
Dowd’s will ride the Trump Express—first class—until it’s derailed (and Mayor Pete won’t be there for the clean-up). Meanwhile, Jared Carrabis isn’t fretting over world affairs—whether Dowd and her colleagues really “fret” about democracy, etc. is a matter of conjecture—since he’s too busy chasing home runs and an increasingly, and deserved, lucrative career.
—Follow Russ Smith on Twitter: @MUGGER2023