Back in the 1980s and early, early 1990s, when I was young and frivolous, I used to enjoy Vanity Fair, a magazine that allowed you to sneer at and envy the rich and famous, and that had eyeball popping ads. I thought Tina Brown was a good editor for Vanity Fair. When Brown left VF to destroy The New Yorker, I stopped reading VF. A couple of weeks ago, though, I got my hands on the most recent edition (the creepy Tom Cruise baby photo edition) while waiting in a doctor’s office. I was genuinely shocked by how virulently, anti-George Bush and anti-War this silly little fan magazine was. The articles and editorials touching on politics — and there were many — were almost like Frank Rich or Paul Krugman parodies because of their hatred, hysteria and lack of logic.
Graydon Carter tries so hard to get New York’s leftist 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.
Read the rest of this Vanity Unfair critique here.