Why does the New York Times want me to go away? I love the Times; I root for it to succeed. But last week, they gave me Bill Kristol, whose first column was an embarrassing pileup of clichés and propaganda. People are talking about the Bradley effect, and the Matthews (Chris) effect, in explaining Barack Obama’s loss to Hillary Clinton Tuesday. I’ve been thinking about the Kristol effect. With the first four words of his column, “Thank you, Senator Obama,” he gave a lot of New Hampshire Democrats a reason to vote for Clinton. Then there’s the ongoing personality disintegration of the phenomenally talented but emotionally curdled Maureen Dowd, whose chakras can’t be cleansed often enough for her to cover the 2008 election fairly. It’s hard not to think that, alarmed by Rupert Murdoch’s imperial conquest of the Wall Street Journal, the Times is scrambling to the right, and leaving behind the paper’s core readership.
The latest example is Caitlin Flanagan, cut loose belatedly by the New Yorker (as Kristol was let go by Time), now in the Times lamenting the victimhood of teenage girls as she sees it through the exhilarating movie “Juno.” This is Flanagan’s sad shtick: From her easy-to-doubt, alarmist oral sex epidemic piece in the Atlantic, about the ease with which teen girls of our day allegedly bestow blow jobs on young men, through her sad, shrill Op-Ed column today, she’s consistently missed the boat about this generation of teenage girls.
I admit I take Flanagan’s mixed-up column, and her whole fictionalized sad-mom writerly persona, a little personally, because I’m a mother, too. And my amazing daughter, Nora, turns 18 today, a day I won’t let be diminished by Flanagan’s silly column. I confess to being in awe of this generation of young women because of Nora and her friends. I’ve never seen such smart, creative thinking about life and choices and morality and social justice and even, yes, boys. I hate to personalize things too much, but I would also add that Flanagan, who’s built her career persona around alarmist tales of mothering, has twin sons. It’s tragic to me to think she sees girls as such victims; I hope her boys aren’t picking up on her pessimism.
Happy birthday, Nora, and all of the 1990 babies, boys and girls, who will change our world. Two pieces of advice: Use sunscreen, and don’t read Caitlin Flanagan (or Maureen Dowd). Ever. You ought to read the Times, but maybe skip the Op-Ed section until they work out this latest set of kinks.