Margaret Wente “reports” on the misery of latte lovers

Margaret Wente “reports” on the misery of latte lovers

Writing a regular column for a major newspaper is unbelievably hard work. And far be it from me to gainsay the efforts of someone who manages to crank out that much content several times a week. The best columnists appear to be satisfied with ignoring the currency or “newsworthiness” of their observations in favour of broader themes that, irrespective of the news, make the column relevant.

Take Friday’s effort by David Brooks in The New York Times. He wrote about Lincoln overcoming his penchant for narcissism (manifested by suicidal tendencies) and thereby making himself an attractive political figure.

It would be nice to have a president who had gone to school on his own failings. It would be comforting to see a president who’d looked into the abyss, or suffered some sort of ordeal that put him on a first-name basis with his own gravest weaknesses, and who had found ways to combat them.

Obviously, it’s not fair to compare anybody to Lincoln, but he does illustrate the repertoire of skills we look for in a leader. The central illusion of modern politics is that if only people as virtuous as “us” had power, then things would be better. Candidates get elected by telling people what they want to hear, leading them by using the sugar of their own fantasies.

It’s not exactly quantum theory, but it’s gently and elegantly put, and it made me think—which is exactly what it’s supposed to do.

On this side of the border, we have our own coterie of scribblers. Compare the above example to Margaret Wente’s May 31 column, wherein she gleefully reported that, on the whole, conservatives are “happier” than liberals because they take solace in the eternal verities: marriage, faith, philanthropy, unfancy coffee, etc. Her lede:

Here’s a bit of bad news for all my latte-loving, liberal-leaning friends who believe that jobs in retail stink, traditional religion is for morons, and income inequality has made society a lot worse off.

You’re a miserable bunch.

I don’t mean miserable, as in contemptible. I mean that as a group, you are not particularly happy people. In fact, you’re far less likely to be happy with your lives than, say, a gun-owning truck driver who goes to church, shops at Wal-Mart, and makes half the money you do.

Leaving aside Wente’s self-serving logic, if you have a minute, look up the number of times she’s used such terms as “latte-loving” to describe her idea of the urban constituency she’s trying to school. The practice is way past hackneyed, even pushing into the realm of Rain Man–like autism. Columns that preach to a cardboard cut-out choir are the quintessence of the Globe’s lower-middle-brow ambit.

But hey, like I said: it’s a tough job and somebody’s got to do it.

The art of growing up [The New York Times] • The happiness… gap [Globe and Mail]