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Rhetoric 2, Reason 0

In his "Media Life" column this week, Michael Wolff, presenting his account for the popularity of Fox News, dresses up what we already know about politics and the media to make it sound more insightful than it actually is, and demonstrates his own point at the same time.

What we already know, of course, is that the rational search for genuine solutions to complex problems is boring, dull and bland compared to the clash of clever sounding but otherwise meaningless rhetorical flourishes between two opposing viewpoints. Sound reasoning will, at best (i.e., when it's new to you, but you can follow it anyway), make you pause and reflect; but a witty retort will make you chuckle, at worst. Solving problems is work, but beating the other guy — now that's fun! (We did know that, right?)

So when Wolff takes his sweet time getting around to his conclusion — what we can't do is talk about politics for its own sake. It's way too boring. It's too disconnected — it's too Al Gore. And you can't say, as almost all liberals do, "It's boring, but it's important." That would be bad writing — we can only conclude it's because he knows what he's talking about. He'd rather throw a few content-free pages your way than reveal how simple his point actually is, because he sure isn't going to be boring, either, not if he can help it.

December 3, 2002 12:18 AM

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