FILTH AT THE TIMES.

An amusing post by Isaac Chotiner at the New Republic blog mercilessly mocks the public editor of the New York Times, Arthur Brisbane, for his recent column deploring the newspaper’s apparently unstoppable slide into vulgarity, his culminating examples (note that I tastefully avoided the word “climax”) being an article that “rather creatively addressed a distinctly feminine obscenity… without ever using the word or resorting to asterisks or other such substitutes” and a review of a book about a man who “wears women’s clothes” and—horror!—”rejects a legal career.” Since I myself am prone to mock the Times for its prissiness (most recently here), I enjoyed the takedown immensely, and I am happy to subscribe to Chotiner’s parting shot: “The real question is why Brisbane continues to write for the paper when he could be monitoring playground language at his local public school.”

Comments

  1. The amount of supporting comments in the Times piece is depressing though.

  2. If my name were Arthur Brisbane I would change it. Apparently no one there has any sense of tradition. Soon this new, phony Arthur Brisbane will pass the real Arthur Brisbane in the Google rankings.

  3. The Arthur Brisbane in the Wikipedia article was wearing an Arthur Brisbane mask when the picture was taken, though I can’t see the join.
    What the fuck is a public editor? Stupid.

  4. What the fuck is a public editor? Stupid.
    A public editor is sort of what everybody else calls an ombudsman, but the Times is above such modish terminology. And yes, it is stupid.
    The first one they had was genuinely independent and often quite scathing about the Times, but that presumably made them itch excessively, and every subsequent “public editor” has more closely approached the lapdog ideal, Mr. Brisbane (if that is his name) having achieved the ultimate goal of being plus Times que le Times.

  5. I know from my own personal experience of having watched “The Thick Of It” that fictional British politicians say fuck every other word, and I’ve no reason to doubt that the show is based on fact. I suppose “Arthur Brisbane” gets all his political information from “The West Wing”, where there is little or no swearing as far as I remember.

  6. I suppose I don’t really understand the enthusiasm for encouraging institutions like the New Yorker and the New York Times to print obscenities. The whole point of an obscenity is that it is supposed to be taboo, why drain these words of their power? Euphemism also encourages creativity. Maybe it is a generation gap. Having grown up most of my life with R rated movies, HBO and popular music liberally filled with “motherfuckers” and “bitches”, I actually find something admirable, if quixotic, in a refusal to print obscenities.

  7. Omsbudsmen and public editors are the media’s craven response to their relaization that they don’t have a media monopoly any more and that no one trusts them. It’s an absurd reaction, because you don’t get your authority back by apologizing a lot.

  8. mollymooly says:

    A public editor is sort of what everybody else calls an ombudsman

    Do you mean other newspapers or other organisations in general? The Guardian’s equivalent is called the “readers’ editor”; dunno about any others. I associate “ombudsman” with public-sector agencies rather than private firms, which have a “customer services manager” or suchlike.
    Of course, grand newspapers like to see themselves as public services rather than grubby commercial organs.

  9. What does a readers’ public editor actually do all day? Is it a full time job?

  10. ONO

  11. mollymooly says:

    ‘The word is pronounced “om-BUDS-man”‘…oh, it must be a different word.

  12. CapnasteBep says:

    Most people never even think about dog anal glands until their pet develops a problem. Learn more about what they are and how they function. The anal stage in psychology is the term used by Sigmund Freud to describe the development at the age of one to two years of age. Around this age the childanal adj. Of, relating to, or near the anus. Psychology . Of or relating to the second stage of psychosexual development in psychoanalytic theory, 100% free anal tube videos with hot anal sex movies hot chicks getting thier asses pounded.

  13. What do dog anal glands have to do with Arthur Brisbane?

  14. Until I looked it up just now, I didn’t know what “dog anal glands” are. Now that I know, I suddenly find the subject of Arthur Brisbane more appealing than it had seemed. That is what the two subjects have to do with each other.

  15. A friend of mine explained that the anal glands are the way dogs communicate. Canine sniffing behavior is conversational.

  16. That’s what I first thought of: canine semiotics. But the internet is full of veterinary advice about how to deal with obstructed, inflamed signifiers. Dogs seem to have a lot of communication issues.

  17. The anal glands must have something to do with what Molly was saying about Arthur’s grubby commercial organs.

  18. gland newspapers like to see themselves as pubic cervices rather than grubby commercial organs.

  19. Thanks for the ombudspersons’ newsletter, Ø.

  20. You know, I was going to remove Mr./Ms. Bep’s spam URL, and then I discovered there wasn’t one. I guess Mr./Ms. Bep just wanted to provide some context for Mr./Ms. Brisbane.

  21. (If that is his/her name.)

  22. WiPe sez: Public Editor columns cover a broader scope of issues and do not have an accreditation process, while in order to qualify as an ombudsman of any standing one must be a member of the Organisation of News Ombudsmen.
    Reading this or this in the light of John Emerson’s comment above is a powerful scorn-inducing experience, I find.

  23. New Ombudspersons have a Gilbert and Sullivan style Ruritanian uniform, with lots of petticoats for the Obudsladies.

  24. J.W. Brewer says:

    It’s probably been 20 years since I voluntarily paid cash money for the privilege of reading a copy, but I certainly don’t think of The New Republic as being notably less prissy/fastidious/goody-goody than the Times or the New Yorker. I found it particularly amusing that the TNR piece euphemistically indicated that Brisbane’s problem with lavishly reviewing the Goulian memoir was merely the wearing-women’s-clothing aspect, perhaps feeling that its own wonk-careerist audience would be scandalized if the rejecting-a-legal-career aspect were mentioned.

  25. ALL.
    He is an Ombudsman!
    BOAT.
    He is an Ombudsman!
    For he himself has said it,
    And it’s greatly to his credit,
    That he is an Ombudsman!
    ALL.
    That he is an Ombudsman!
    BOAT.
    For he might have been an Editor,
    Or a dragged-in for-the-rhyme Predator,
    Or perhaps an Otto-man!
    ALL.
    Or perhaps an Otto-man!
    BOAT.
    But in spite of all temptations
    To belong to other nations,
    He remains an Ombudsman!
    He remains an Ombudsman!
    ALL.
    For in spite of all temptations
    To belong to other nations,
    He remains an Ombudsman!
    He remains an Ombudsman!

  26. Isn’t it kind of ironic that the criticizer prudishly refrains from using the word cunt?

  27. Van: The whole point of an obscenity is that it is supposed to be taboo, why drain these words of their power?
    You mention motherfucker, of course. I’ve recently noticed educated seventeen-year-old girls saying “Fuck, yeah!”. When I was young (1960s-70s), fuck was a word teenaged girls would mutter darkly or use as a swearword, but it looks to me as if they’re now using it as an assertiveness tool, maybe a bit like a tattoo but less longlasting. That’s quite interesting, certainly something I’d like to maybe read about in the NY Times. So the power I’d like to drain is that of censorious people like this so-called Arthur Brisbane, who thinks it’s fine for the NY Times to have a policy about the words you and I can be allowed to read in the paper. It should be up to the free market to decide whether words retain their taboo. I can’t think of anything of any value that ever came out of prissiness or censorship. I find Brisbane’s views contemptible, I loathe his appearance in the photograph, and I’d go out of my way to avoid meeting him.

  28. Vanya: Euphemism also encourages creativity.
    Obscenities that cease to be taboo will be replaced by newly-coined words. Motherfucker seemed a quite shocking new expression at one time, edging out asshole or something equally creative but older, probably. These words are as creative as any euphemism, with the added benefit that they don’t creep me out the way euphemisms do.

  29. they don’t creep me out the way euphemisms do.
    I like “creeps me out”, hadn’t encountered it before. It sounds like a teenage-girl euphemism for “chaps my ass”, as we say down home on the range.

  30. I haven’t encountered chaps my ass except in the sense “Are they chaps?” “Chaps, my ass! It’s my Aunt Agatha.”

  31. chaps my ass = angers me, annoys me
    creeps me out is something else, I think

  32. chaps my ass = angers me, annoys me
    creeps me out is something else, I think

    You’re right. Teenage girls are usually unwilling to display any kind of strong, identifiable emotion (Gefühlsregung), because that would be uncool. I’m guessing that “it creeps me out” means “I find it disgusting/disturbing”.
    In contrast, those born on the range are unwilling to display any kind of emotion that is not identifiable and strong. Thus my confusion. By “range” I do not mean “electric range” or stove.

  33. Teenage girls are usually unwilling to display any kind of strong, identifiable emotion
    Really? My experience is that strong identifiable emotion is one of their specialities, but I know you had a lot of sisters so you may know more about this than I.

  34. Excessive horses throw off teenagers’ emotional calibration.

  35. I’m guessing that “it creeps me out” means “I find it disgusting/disturbing”.
    I think you’re right. Let’s ask Crown. Of course, he might be using the expression a bit differently from the girls. I experienced his emotion as both strong and identifiable, but we’ll see.

  36. I’ve recently noticed educated seventeen-year-old girls saying “Fuck, yeah!”.
    Evidence enough of their impending Rhodes Scholar standing!
    but it looks to me as if they’re now using it as an assertiveness tool, maybe a bit like a tattoo but less longlasting. That’s quite interesting, certainly something I’d like to maybe read about in the NY Times.
    How about a national “Wash Their Mouth Out With Soap” day. I’d read about that!
    I’d go out of my way to avoid meeting him.
    Who’s being prissy now?

  37. Really? My experience is that strong identifiable emotion is one of their specialities
    In my modest experience (I have only one sister remaining, of two, but she is not the source of my impressions of teenage girls), the strength of the emotion displayed is simulated, and is intended to be understood as such. This is part of the routine that also ensures that the origin of the display is unidentifiable. Melodramatic is the characterization that springs to mind.

  38. Yes, Hozo’s got a good point, it does sound prissy. All I meant was that this Arthur seems (to me) like a terrible bore, and I’d rather run a mile than be pinned in a corner listening to his views on…well, anything. As for “fuck, yeah” don’t forget that Bill Clinton, the man who made oral sex in the Oval Office a public discussion, was a Rhodes scholar.
    “It creeps me out” means the same as “I find it (euphemism) creepy”. I’m a bit surprised that nobody else knows this expression. Is it really that obscure or are you having me on?

  39. I don’t think I’d heard the expression before, but it sounds like something American teenage girl characters in movies or TV sitcoms would say. I must admit that my only direct experience of English-speaking TGs was gathered in the ’60s.

  40. Aha, when you yourself were a teenager. Perhaps you’re thinking of the pre-teens, the ones who mobbed the Beatles. You see them as melodramatic, but even the older ones can’t evoke faked emotions half as well as when they do the real thing. I don’t know what effect these girls have on their boyfriends, but by God, they terrify me.

  41. I don’t know what effect these girls have on their boyfriends, but by God, they terrify me.
    Not for nothing are men reputed to be oblivious of other people’s feelings, unaware of their own etc. A different reproductive strategy would not work, things being as you describe them.
    Of course male obliviousness can be put to good use in other ways, but I will spare you the operative details.

  42. Crown, the transitive verb “creep out” is not obscure to me at all. I just wanted to let you speak for yourself.
    Stu, you are familiar with “give me the creeps”?
    Now I am wondering how Merriam-Webster would define either of these expressions.
    I note, by the way, that the past tense of this “creep out” is not “crept out”. Same as in baseball with “fly out”.

  43. the past tense of this “creep out” is not “crept out”. Same as in baseball with “fly out”.
    Good point, I would have thought so too. But how does one come to see these things as other people do ? Some sort of “slang declension pattern recognition” ?

  44. I’m not saying that I “would have thought so”.
    I believe that this verb “creep” is a different word from the familiar old verb “creep”. The former is derived from a noun related to latter, but they are different verbs in some sense, as evidenced by what we’re talking about. Likewise for “fly”. There are probably not-so-slangy examples of this phenomenon.

  45. I’m not saying that I “would have thought so”.
    Your point being ? Perhaps I should have written “I would have thought so”, so as to prevent any offended-by-the-word-“too” misunderstandings. But even then you might complain I was imputing that you merely “thought so”, instead of actually “knowing so”.
    I trust you are not dosing me with my own nit-picking tendencies ?!

  46. Do you really mean “imputing”?

  47. I believe that this verb “creep” is a different word from the familiar old verb “creep”.
    I creep, I crept vs I am creeped out, I was creeped out may have something to do with intransitive verbs, but the Wikipedia article is too hard for me to understand. It’s presented very much like a math explanation (he said, knowing this would tempt the others…)
    I’m off to do some manual labour.

  48. We discussed the irregular behavior of irregularities in one of my favorite posts, particularly notable for this bit, which I think captures the spirit of the blog nicely:

    I think of LH as having a foreground program and a background program. When there is a current linguistics chew toy, the talk is very focused and on topic; when the immediate discussion winds down, there is a background playful poking at the information to see what latent bits can be stirred up or whose memory can be jogged. Sometimes you can see something more clearly when you look away for a moment.

  49. “It creeps me out” is well known to me, even here in televisionless non-Americaland. My daughters and their coevals use it to refer to things that apparently make their flesh crawl, give them a frisson of revulsion. The shorter form is “Ewww”. Unfortunately.
    The irritating thing about newspapers too delicate to use the word “fuck” is that almost no-one under …name an age – I can’t think of one… can be accurately quoted in the vernacular. It’s silly. But if there are new words, and what they are; that are appearing that cannot be spoken, I don’t know.
    All of us living with Derek & Clive fans are quite accustomed to “cunt”, almost without any leavening “the”s, for example…
    Inform me, please! What are the new words?
    When I was little my mother wouldn’t say “damn” and had to ask for the only thing she drank (a screwdriver) by a euphemism: she called them “plumbers’ friends”. Even though that is a different tool entirely.

  50. When I was little my mother wouldn’t say “damn” and had to ask for the only thing she drank (a screwdriver) by a euphemism: she called them “plumbers’ friends”.
    I didn’t know that plumbers are particularly fond of vodka. They must find it hard to wrench themselves away from their screwdrivers when it’s time to go home from work.

  51. Rodger C says:

    “gland newspapers like to see themselves as pubic cervices rather than grubby commercial organs.”
    Surely you mean crevices?

  52. I didn’t mean that, but I wish I had.

  53. I think of “creeps me out” as an exact synonym of “gives me the creeps”.
    I think of “the creeps” as an approximate synonym for any of the somewhat archaic expressions “the willies”, “the heebie-jeebies”, and “the whim-whams”. On the other hand, I think one could say “I’ve got the whim-whims” or “I’ve got the heebie-jeebies” but could not really say “I’ve got the creeps”.
    A search reveals that a Dickens character says “it gives me the creeps”, referring however to some physical ailment.

  54. Public cervixes?

  55. well, cervixes is what I meant by cervices, but I’m ready to let this sub-thread go

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