The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

From the Home for Elderly Bloggers: Disrespectful Young Whippersnappers! UPDATE: Ten Cents a Column Inch

Posted on | May 13, 2012 | 49 Comments

Of course, I refer to Jonah Goldberg who, at the tender age of 43, is a callow parvenu — a mere stripling! a rookie! — by comparison to my superannuated 52-year-old self. Nevertheless, Goldberg is old enough to resent the pretensions of still younger punks:

“It is a simple fact of science that nothing correlates more with ignorance and stupidity more than youth,” the National Review Online editor said in an interview. “We’re all born idiots, and we only get over that condition as we get less young.” . . .
“My view is, they’re going to run the country some day, so we should really explain why they’re so frickin’ stupid about so many things,” he said.

Via Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, who is a few years older than Goldberg, but still not as old as me. In fact, I didn’t realize how old Ed was (I’m guessing 48 or 49) until I started researching and discovered that he’d been working for four years as a tech writer in Southern California before losing that gig in a 1988 downsizing. “Peace dividend” and all that.

Rather than go the Michael Douglas Falling Down route — we can picture Ed rampaging across L.A. with a 9-mm — he first drove a cab for a couple months before landing a job in a call center, which “accidental career” he pursued for 18 years before his success with Captain’s Quarters finally landed him a full-time political communications gig.

All of which is to say, Ed paid his dues.

These young punks nowadays? They ain’t paid no dues. Act like they invented the dadgum Internet! Them and their Tweetdecks and “social networking” and what-have you. By cracky, when I was their age, a computer had punch-cards and was the size of a Buick! Dang smart-alecky upstarts want to tell me about this here “blogging” stuff, do they?


Excuse this geezerly outburst. Here at the Home for Elderly Bloggers, they’re understaffed on Sundays, and I get a mite cranky when the nurse doesn’t show up for my daily sponge-bath . . .




I find myself accused of having “waged a war on young bloggers,” which was not at all my intent. The problem is the “flattening” effect of the Internet, which is both an opportunity and a trap.

The opportunity, of course, is that self-publishing permits anyone to put their stuff out there on the Internet and, potentially, reach a worldwide audience. Thus, if this post gets linked at Instapundit — which I certainly hope it will — then little ol’ me can reach a readership as large as anything else linked at Instapundit. Similarly, I could Tweet this to Ann Coulter and, if she re-Tweets it, then I reach her vast readership.

However, this “flattening” of hierarchy is somewhat of an illusion. Any random bozo can get up in my face on Twitter, but if this random bozo has only a couple hundred followers, so what? Ignore ’em. And just because I’m linked by Instapundit or re-Tweeted by Ann Coulter, this does not make me a law professor or a best-selling author.

The “flattening” effect of the Internet is therefore a potential trap, in that people can become confused about a virtual world that is somewhat chaotic and apparently egalitarian.

Ace of Spades, who has craploads more traffic than me, has talked about the absurdity of being “blog-famous,” which no one should ever confuse with actual fame. At any gathering of conservative bloggers, Ace is the coolest guy in the room, whom eveyrbody wants to hang out with. But when he goes to the store to buy a Diet Coke, he’s just another guy at the cash register.

Our little niche of the online world — conservative politics — is small enough that getting to that Big Fish/Small Pond point, where you are kind of fairly well-known, isn’t really all that difficult. But being fairly well-known among conservative bloggers won’t buy you a cup of coffee at Starbucks, let alone pay the rent, and finding some way to parlay this trip into an actual job that pays the rent . . .

Well, it’s a mighty hard dollar. The point of my rant (which was what the young lady first asked me about) was mainly just to continue a bit of shtick I always do, riffing on how old I am and how I was hitting deadlines for a living when these kids — and to me, Jonah Goldberg is still a kid — were still in high school, or grade school, or not even born yet, depending what they were up to in 1986.

But there is truth in humor, and there is here a point to be made about the “flattening” effect of the Internet: It used to be, if you wanted to write for a living, you had to apply for a job and get hired at a newspaper or magazine or whatever. You would be hired in at the very lowest level, and assigned to do scutwork, and if you didn’t like it, tough — your boss had a stack of resumés in his desk drawer, and more arriving every day, and your low-level young self was certainly not irreplaceable.

Remember, I was born two years after the peak of the Baby Boom; ambitious and inexperienced young people were a dime a dozen when I was starting out. So you took a lot of crap from your bosses, and hustled your butt off just trying to hold on to that low-level job.

There were no online job banks, no Craiglist, no e-mail, no Facebook, no free self-publishing software or cheap laptops to enable young writers to reach a mass readership sitting in their parent’s basements. My daily traffic at this blog exceeds the circulation of the weekly newspaper where I started out as a $4.50-an-hour staff writer, and it took me more than 11 hard years in the newspaper business before I made it to The Washington Times as an assistant national editor, by which time I was a 38-year-old married father of three.

In the Old School, there was a clear hierarchy in journalism, and very few ways to circumvent that hierarchy, so if you wanted to get ahead, you had to work your butt off, and nobody was going to do you any favors: Get the damned job done, or get the hell out.

The whole concept of “bosses” and “employees,” it seems, has been undermined by the Internet. Your resumé is now more or less constantly “in the mail,” as it were, because you can post it on one of those job-search sites and be reached by anyone looking for someone with your particular skill-set. And it is amazing to me how young people in the political world change jobs so rapidly. You see a 20-something at CPAC one year, and they’re working for Think-Tank X. You bump into them at the next CPAC, and they’re working for Lobbying Outfit Y. The next year, they’ve hired on as a staffer for Senator Z.

Evidently in 21st-century D.C., if you haven’t changed jobs three times by the time you’re 26, you’re considered sluggish and lacking ambition.

This rapid churning is enabled by the Internet, and when you talk about “young bloggers,” this returns us to how the Internet undermines hierarchy. “Young bloggers,” for the most part, have never had the experience I had, grinding it out on deadline, writing about a bunch of crappy local news of interest only to a relative handful of readers, under the direct supervisory authority of an editor who might fire you if you screwed up. The collapse of the Old School publishing environment is not your fault, but it has deprived you of the immense value of that experience, and there’s not even anybody who will bother to try to explain to you why that experience matters, for fear of being laughed off as an obsolete fuddy-duddy.

Being young and ambitious and impatient for success — hey, I can relate. Been there, done that, and still as ambitious and impatient as ever. But you have no right to accuse me of having “waged a war on young bloggers,” when I’ve always done everything I could to encourage anybody who does good work.

The “flattening” effect of the Internet is in large measure an illusion, and you’ve got to focus on what’s real. You can try to jump to the head of the line, but if you get to the head of the line that way, you’d damned well better be able to show you deserve to be there.

Finally: You’ll note that I’ve linked Robert Novak’s memoir Prince of Darkness. Why? Because if you’ll read that book — and you really should — you’ll find that Novak remarks that when he made it to the Washington bureau of the Associated Press, he was the only man under 30 in the bureau, and most of his colleagues were over 40. By that point, Novak was 26 had been a working journalist since he was a teenage stringer covering high-school sports for the Joliet Herald-News at ten cents a column-inch.

On page 25, Novak makes an important revelation of self-awareness: “I am not a person who is easy for a lot of people to like. No stirrer-up of strife is ever popular.” Indeed. Blogging is a form of journalism, and it is unfortunate that it is more difficult for kids to get those entry-level jobs, even at 10 cents a column inch, so that they might have the kind of experience Novak had. But fortunately, one thing hasn’t changed: Journalism isn’t a popularity contest, and even unlikeable people — stirrers-up of strife — can succeed if they do good work.

P.S.: In case you never heard of this Novak guy, he was kinda important. Ask @TPCarney.


49 Responses to “From the Home for Elderly Bloggers: Disrespectful Young Whippersnappers! UPDATE: Ten Cents a Column Inch”

  1. Lisa Graas
    May 13th, 2012 @ 6:38 pm

    Well, my 11-yr-old, as I have noted, knows more about good and evil than most adults in politics seem to, and thusly would make a better leader than most of them. The problems hit at a certain age and then continue on for a while. We’re not “born stupid.” We are all supposed to become as little children. So says Jesus, and I believe it.

  2. vermontaigne
    May 13th, 2012 @ 6:41 pm

    I like it when they’re understaffed, Stacy. That just makes it easier to sneak out to the front stoop and smoke crack.

  3. banshee
    May 13th, 2012 @ 6:42 pm

    🙂 you’re a whippersnapper to me, if that helps!

  4. McGehee
    May 13th, 2012 @ 7:08 pm

    He was talking about being open to faith. In other areas we most certainly are born stupid.

    Also savage and self-centered. Nobody is born civilized, we only get that way by discovering that living otherwise hurts.

    Or at least, we used to.

  5. Adrienne
    May 13th, 2012 @ 7:08 pm

    You’re the whippersnapper in my world.  I’m old enough to be your mother…

  6. Lisa Graas
    May 13th, 2012 @ 7:28 pm

    So, Aristotle, Plato, St. Thomas Aquinas and the rest of his friends, the saints of the Catholic Church, they’re just misguided in saying that everyone is born open to faith and knowing certain “truths” that are, as the Founders said, “self-evident”? I tend to disagree. I think it’s important that we not just spout willy nilly, but be careful in how we express ourselves.  I wasn’t born a “savage” and neither were my children.

  7. gahrie
    May 13th, 2012 @ 8:03 pm

    If so, you are the exception. Children are born as savages and barbarians, and must be civilized by the adults in their lives.

  8. Lisa Graas
    May 13th, 2012 @ 8:12 pm

    No, we are all born knowing “truths” that are “self-evident” but corrupt adults turn their kids into savages by letting them watch crap on tv and by cursing in front of them and by acting like idiots in front of them in other ways, etc.

  9. AnonymousDrivel
    May 13th, 2012 @ 8:39 pm

    Goldberg’s right, of course. We’re all born stupid. That’s not the problem. It’s all those born exceptionally stupid. Most of them enter the MFM. The rest campaign as Progressives/Liberals some of whom were also born evil. It’s a toxic cocktail the mere stupid have to learn to combat.

  10. Dad29
    May 13th, 2012 @ 10:10 pm

    These young punks nowadays? They ain’t paid no dues.

    Whassat, sonny?  Whassat ‘twitter’, or ‘twatter’, or ‘twotter’ stuff?  Email/Female?  Gimme a good old-fashioned stylus and wax-pad anyday!

  11. Dad29
    May 13th, 2012 @ 10:13 pm

    You confuse undisciplined with ‘ignorant’.  Lisa is right; it ain’t called ‘the natural law’ for nothing.

  12. Greg Hlatky
    May 13th, 2012 @ 10:33 pm

    “Youth is a kind of infirmity.” – James Gould Cozzens

  13. McGehee
    May 13th, 2012 @ 10:44 pm

    So, Aristotle, Plato, St. Thomas Aquinas and the rest of his friends,
    the saints of the Catholic Church, they’re just misguided in saying that
    everyone is born open to faith

    You’ve misread my comment by 180 degrees. Jesus said to become like a child, which I said meant to become more open to faith.

    The rest of your objection is a victory of doctrine over empirical observation and I won’t waste your time or mine on it.

  14. darleenclick
    May 13th, 2012 @ 10:45 pm

    sheesh, I learned touch typing on a manual typewriter and used to be able to take shorthand at 120 wpm.

    I’ll go get my walker now …

  15. McGehee
    May 13th, 2012 @ 10:47 pm

    Natural law isn’t known naturally, but discovered by observation of nature.

    Animals don’t know natural law; they comply with it because they are not made in God’s image and therefore have no choice. We, having free will, must choose to learn the truth before we can abide by it.

    Past doctrinal teachers who argued otherwise were mistaken.

  16. robertstacymccain
    May 13th, 2012 @ 10:48 pm

    Thanks. Glad to know I’m not the oldest geezer on the Web. Insty and I are about the same age, but he’s been at this particular thing over a decade.

  17. JeffS
    May 13th, 2012 @ 11:22 pm

    Who are you calling a whippersnapper, sonny?  Don’t praggle with me, or I’ll quang you proper!

  18. Much Like Professor Glenn Reynolds, John Edwards Has a Law Degree : The Other McCain
    May 13th, 2012 @ 11:30 pm

    […] addthis_share = [];}Having been raked over the coals on Twitter by a young blogger upset by my curmudgeonly rant, now I find Instapundit categorically disparaging the entire notion of journalism as a […]

  19. Adjoran
    May 13th, 2012 @ 11:31 pm

    I don’t resent or dismiss the young at all.  A few of them are genuine prodigies in any given field.

    What ticks me off is the widespread attitude that their opinion is equal to everyone else’s just because they have it, a product of the “your truth is true for you and just as valid as reality” nonsense the gummint schools have been pushing for decades.

    It is related to the reason our students are at the bottom of industrialized nations in math, science, literacy, geography, and foreign language proficiency, but right at the top of the world in self esteem.  In my day, you got your self-esteem the old fashioned way, by earning it through accomplishments, hard work, and intense study.

  20. richard mcenroe
    May 14th, 2012 @ 12:20 am

     Wrote my first three novels on a cast-iron Underwood manual.

  21. gahrie
    May 14th, 2012 @ 12:28 am

    We are born into a state of nature. We need civilization to secure our rights. Thus we form a social compact, and teach that contract to our children.

  22. Alan Kellogg
    May 14th, 2012 @ 1:08 am

    You youngins and your fixation on pride.

    Alan Kellogg, 58

  23. robertstacymccain
    May 14th, 2012 @ 1:09 am

    SELF-ESTEEM! How dare you say that not everybody deserves a gold star!

  24. tranquil.night
    May 14th, 2012 @ 2:08 am

    There’s a great difference in tone with how Stacy approaches imparting his wisdom and experience to youth & the out-of-touch, immature & demagogic rants of the ‘esteemed’ Ed & Jonah.  Stacy your post is probably the most productive to come of this little waste of time and bandwidth. If either of those 40-going-on-140 dinosaurs ever want to debate the state of American you & youth issues instead of sniping from their lame little irrelevant bully pulpits, they should know that an activist nobody, that isn’t in politics for profit and therefore absolutely nil concerned with group-think, with only a couple hundred twitter followers (since that’s how we measure social hierarchy value now I guess) is ready to be the smartest guy in the room. How embarrassing for them in advance!

    So shove the “We’ve been there and know it all” fallacy, “Conservative” demagogues.  Let’s talk about that demon-possessed Boomer generation and I’ll use total sweeping generalities like Jonah and Ed.  Sorry Stacy, unfortunately by the established rules of debate, it’s logical to declare that Y’all’re the Devil.

    Now get off my ideological lawn.

  25. Quartermaster
    May 14th, 2012 @ 7:47 am

    It’s actually worse than that as what she said is a result of taking Christ out of context.

  26. Quartermaster
    May 14th, 2012 @ 7:53 am

    I had an email exchange nearly 10 years ago with little Jonah when he was being systematically taken apart and humiliated by the Paleo-cons. The poor boy almost became a tar baby. He was a callow, under edjumacated rube then, and he really isn’t much different now. He is where he is because of his mommy’s involvement with a certain chubby Whitehouse intern and the reportage of same’s involvement with Billy Jeff. He is certainly living proof of his assertion about idiocy and youth. He may, in the not too distant future, show that curmudgeons can be idiots too.

    In case you haven’t deduced it yet, my esteem of little Jonah is not of the highest level. He needs to get off all our lawns.

  27. Bob Belvedere
    May 14th, 2012 @ 8:09 am

    Two words: ‘Original Sin’.

  28. Bob Belvedere
    May 14th, 2012 @ 8:10 am

    I’m fifty – is it too late for you to adopt me?

  29. Bob Belvedere
    May 14th, 2012 @ 8:13 am

    I can remember when I got my first electric typewriter and thinking how it would be easier on my fingers.  But the biggest thrill was when later I got to use one that had the correction tape – wow.

  30. Bob Belvedere
    May 14th, 2012 @ 8:15 am

    Hey!  What are you doing?  Keeping score?!?

  31. Bob Belvedere
    May 14th, 2012 @ 8:15 am

    ‘Pride: In The Name Of Love’

  32. Pathfinder's wife
    May 14th, 2012 @ 8:28 am

    One name Rousseau (and look at all the damage that sucker did).

    Another name: de Sade (who was essentially pointing out what would happen if you followed Rousseau to the letter…and he was right).
    I don’t think Jesus would be too cool with that outcome.

  33. Pathfinder's wife
    May 14th, 2012 @ 8:34 am

    I think you are mistaking some philosophies for some others.

    We are all born knowing how to suck on a nipple, dirty our diapers, and to bawl like a banshee if we’re uncomfortable — that’s about it (which makes sense, considering that infants have bigger fish to fry, for them, than contemplating “natural law” and the disposition of the universe, outside their own; and which in a certain philosophical sense could be deemed the time when we are at our most innocent due to those factors).

    But I digress.  I think you have your philosophies mixed up.

  34. Pathfinder's wife
    May 14th, 2012 @ 8:46 am

    He was right, and yet he took it to a point that made him wrong: the operative phrase would have been emotional maturity, and I’ve seen 60 yos. who were such big babies my 5 yo. is likely more grown up and conscientious of others vis a vis ethical behavior.

    So yes, most young people (including the older people commenting on it) are horribly immature and “stupid” because they lack experience and the knowledge that (hopefully) comes with it.  They will often make mistakes due to this.  Barely trust them with the keys to the car, let alone a nation.
    But that (sadly) does not mean such a condition is reserved just for them…and older people are not so easily forgiven, as they should know better!

  35. Pathfinder's wife
    May 14th, 2012 @ 8:50 am

    True to a point…but even “back in the day” there were those who got their self-esteem through things other than the ones you describe.

    A lot of this “self-esteem” movement was an attempt to try and level the playing field thanks to idiots who liked to play favorites with students to a disgusting level (which was good for no one).
    Obviously, this attempt to enforce “feel good” rather than encourage basic, ethical  (and adult — hahahaha) behavior out of the adults in charge backfired rather badly…

  36. Nestor
    May 14th, 2012 @ 9:51 am

    […] yesterday Stacy thought it might be fun to channel his inner curmudgeon after Jonah Goldberg’s rant against the Political Establishment’s sucking up to the […]

  37. Mary Rose
    May 14th, 2012 @ 10:38 am

    You are so right about “paying your dues.” I work for a forty-ish guy who basically went from being an assistant at a high tech company to starting his own biz on the side when he was around 25. He never held a managerial position. Anywhere.

    So basically, he goes from being someone’s go-boy to thinking he’s king of the world. Fast forward 15 years later, and he’s still as ignorant as tree knob as to what makes for managerial success.

    His latest piece of brilliance: creating a new product without any input whatsoever from marketing (me). 

    Which is why I’m working like a maniac trying to get my own freelance marketing/copywriting gigs. People who don’t understand the value of learning the ropes and being mentored have no clue how this will affect their own long-tail success. At my age, I don’t have the patience for working with such types. 

  38. Journalism Is Really Hard Work « That Mr. G Guy's Blog
    May 14th, 2012 @ 10:53 am

    […] Robert Stacy McCain, journalist extraordinaire, explains the ins and outs of blogging and the “flattening” effect the internet has had on the field of journalism; I find myself accused of having “waged a war on young bloggers,” which was not at all my intent. The problem is the “flattening” effect of the Internet, which is both an opportunity and a trap. […]

  39. Lisa Graas
    May 14th, 2012 @ 1:21 pm

     Your two words don’t trump my two words: Natural Law. Babies aren’t savages.

  40. Lisa Graas
    May 14th, 2012 @ 1:22 pm

     Example: Kids are taught to be cannibals. They won’t naturally be cannibals unless they are taught to be.

  41. Lisa Graas
    May 14th, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

     My 11-yr-old knows abortion is wrong. All kids know that. I guess if she looked at babies the way you do, she might consider not thinking abortion is wrong. That is my point. Maybe you don’t understand because you’re a grown-up?

  42. Pathfinder's wife
    May 14th, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

      Lisa: my view of babies and their comprehension of the world and “truth” does not automatically make me a “baby killer” because one does not of itself lead to the other. I
     am not a believer at all in the concept of infants having some knowledge of self-evident truths, nor do I buy into Rousseau and his tabula rasa claptrap (which has often been a bane on Western existence imhao).  That does not create an attendant desire for or even condoning of infanticide.You can get mad at me all you want to; you can disagree — but please do not try and use such a leap of logic  in an attempt to win an argument.  Thank you.

  43. Pathfinder's wife
    May 14th, 2012 @ 6:17 pm

    What are they then?  

    They certainly aren’t saints and sages straight out of the womb either.
    If they were, and if adulthood was only so much corruption and filth, then why would we be teaching them anything at all?

    And what is this “Natural Law”?  I’ve been out in nature — it’s pretty vicious. I’ve seen kids from inattentive houses too, not abusive or neglectful, just left them to their own devices in the morality and ethics, or manners, department, sometimes from laziness more often from some belief that children were somehow more morally superior than parents and as such not in need of discipline — pretty savage, downright nasty pieces of work (in truth, they were often the worst and most hardcore of delinquents).  

    Might I posit the notion that the reason why your 11 yo. is of such upright character is due to your teaching them to be that way?  Would they be of the same character if you did not do this?

  44. Lisa Graas
    May 14th, 2012 @ 7:37 pm

     “Past doctrinal teachers who argued otherwise were mistaken.”  /// LOL!  Well, guess what. I think they were right, as the Founders were when they said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” Whatever.

  45. Lisa Graas
    May 14th, 2012 @ 7:38 pm

    I am so done here. Wow. Natural Law used to be universally believed among all Americans…..and then later, all conservatives, and now…I guess you have to be a Santorum supporter to believe it. Just wow.

  46. Pathfinder's wife
    May 14th, 2012 @ 11:12 pm

    Natural law is a theory that states that there are laws beyond man-made ones, and the implication is that they derive from certain, universal truths (if I remember my Plato correctly).
    It is not connected to some great, all encompassing knowledge we are born knowing (that would be where you are getting Rousseau tangled up in there, and that is a mistake imhao) — it exists, and people can learn to ascertain natural law…but it is not implicitly known to us  (in fact I think Hobbes states that men are more inclined to disregard natural law when left to their whims in a primitive and untutored state).

    So perhaps there has been some misunderstanding, and I for one apologize…but natural law in and of itself has not been considered something we are born knowing and the concept that we are is not germaine to the concept (again, that would be Rousseau and his ilk).

  47. ‘Having Persevered Through Those Days of Horse Drawn Computers . . .’ : The Other McCain
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    […] Old Ed Morrissey blogged about that spry young whippersnapper Jonah Goldberg, inspiring me to Crotchety Geezer mode, which offended somebody . . . . But danged near everything offends somebody nowadays, it seems. As […]

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  49. Inez Feltscher
    May 16th, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

    Just curious… I presume as a mother you have spent much time watching kids interact with one another on a playground. How you could not think that children are, in the state of nature, cruel little savages is beyond me. 😛

    The Founders had neither a truly pessimistic (Hobbesian) nor optimistic view of human nature. We are, as Hamilton wrote, stuck between the beasts and the angels.