Backwards Ran The Schizophrenia, Until Reeled The Mind

Or, two, two, two magazines in one! When Wolcott Gibbs coined his famous satire of the breathless tone of the early Time magazine writers of the 1930s (also parodied in the writing of the brilliant “News On The March!” faux-newsreel in Citizen Kane), he didn’t know the half of it.


On Saturday, I mentioned Time magazine’s “Why Main Street Hates Wall Street” cover. The actual article begins thusly:

Are you furious? If not, you should be. The giant financial institutions that make up Wall Street have been bailed out, thanks to trillions of dollars of our money, and are on track to hand out record-breaking multibillion-dollar bonuses while millions of regular folks are hurting. Even outside the gilded halls of Wall Street, there’s no shortage of good cheer: many economists say the Great Recession has ended, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke keeps seeing “green shoots” in the economy.

But the only green shoots that many non–Wall Street types have seen lately are the weeds sprouting in the parking lots of abandoned malls. Unemployment is marching toward 10%, and house foreclosures are still rising. If you’re a day late with your credit-card payment or overdrawn by a few bucks on your ATM card, the bank (which your tax money helped bail out) is still sticking you with obscene fees and charges. Hence the question that so many of us are asking: Where’s my bailout?

But many Americans see a bright spot in our current craptacular economy, as Time explains elsewhere:


Happiness is a sappy word and a flimsy concept — more fleeting than contentment, several octaves lower than joy. But happiness is what pollsters test and economists track, however clumsily, so we’re stuck with it as the medium for measuring our mood. Not surprisingly, that mood has bounced around over the years, with the general sense of well-being hitting its lowest points in 1973, 1982, 1992 and 2001, all recession years. So why is it that at least some aspects of the Great Recession of 2009 appear to have made people feel better?

The Professor writes, “Time asks why Americans are so cheery during a recession. Well, all that positive press spin probably helps. I mean, it’s almost worth having a Democrat in the White House just to be spared all the lugubrious coverage we’d be getting with a Republican. . . .”

And for the reverse of that spin, it’s worth flashing back to the AP article from last year that had the classic headline,  “Everything seemingly is spinning out of control”:

Is everything spinning out of control? Midwestern levees are bursting. Polar bears are adrift. Gas prices are skyrocketing. Home values are abysmal. Air fares, college tuition and health care border on unaffordable. Wars without end rage in Iraq, Afghanistan and against terrorism.

Horatio Alger, twist in your grave.

The can-do, bootstrap approach embedded in the American psyche is under assault. Eroding it is a dour powerlessness that is chipping away at the country’s sturdy conviction that destiny can be commanded with sheer courage and perseverance.


Why, it’s like the difference in tone between the reporting on one progressive president and another in the early days of the Depression. Or how the difference in how the media covered two moderate southern governors turned Third Way presidents who both promoted regime change in Iraq.

It’s amazing what the letter after a president’s name can do to impact The Narrative — not to mention how it twists journalists into knots who have to bend it to their wishes.


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