Paul Ryan: naive, inexperienced?
August 18, 2012 6 Comments
Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.
As far as I know, neither I nor Virginia Heffernan is a philosopher in the professional sense, but I would submit that Lewis’s dictum is just as valid for bloggers. And so it is that I must report on the Yahoo writer’s latest hit piece, because it is bad blogging.
Like her other columns, Heffernan’s latest meanders through obscure pop culture references, though fewer than usual. This time, the most outlandish example is of some dusty blue book that every American must have owned circa 1970.
The author’s alternately snarky and earnest jaunt down memory lane serves an end of course. In this case, it is to tie herself to her subject, the estimable Paul Ryan. He is one year her junior, and as such is the first of Generation X to contend for the vice presidency.
Heffernan proceeds to portray her college years as a perigee where she flirted with but ultimately moved away from a Jack Kempian conservatism. Looking for bonus points with those harboring an unflattering memory of the Reagan years, she offers television character and teenage Republican Alex Keaton as a possible analog for Mr. Ryan.
By the end of the piece, it is clear than in so many words Heffernan has endeavored to say that compared to herself, Paul Ryan is naive and inexperienced in the ways of the world. But for all of her musings on Generation X, she’s only managed to grasp the one elementary tool of commendation that the relativistic, existentially-driven Baby Boomers left behind: anecdotal evidence, the mere telling of personal experience.
Heffernan supposes that Mr. Ryan never faced a hard day in his life. Meanwhile, she had some undescribed encounters that delivered her from a simplistic, uncaring worldview. Maybe she saw a sad, hungry puppy shivering by the side of the road. That is why, unlike the experientially impoverished Mr. Ryan, she was able to grow out of an infatuation with that extreme ideology called fiscal restraint.
What a condescending take. Did Heffernan fail to research that Paul Ryan discovered his father dead in bed when he was 16? Or that his Alzheimer’s-stricken grandmother moved in for care shortly thereafter? Indeed, the teenage Paul Ryan worked at McDonalds. Those earnings, along with Social Security survivor’s benefits, allowed him to go to college. And when he got there, he supported himself further with a side job selling hot dogs for Oscar Meyer. Does this sound like some sort of silver spoon background, or the picture of naivete conjured by fictional teenage Republicans of TV yesteryear? Contrary to her boast, it is Ryan, not she, who is the old soul.
Rather than offer commentary of value, Heffernan merely pollutes the national conversation with solipsistic bubble gum blogging. She permits her readers to dismiss the latest Republican candidate as heartless, aloof, and extreme. And in the same moment, they are left with fond recollections of leg warmers and ’80s prom hair. Given the state of the entertainment establishment, this is hardly a novel achievement.
As I’ve warned before, Yahoo! News is more an entertainment outpost than an outlet for truth.