The Mix

The New Yorker magazine prefers bullies

It is so easy to poke fun at people who are earnest, so easy to take the cheap shot, and Lauren Collins steps right up.
So, I'm reading Talk of the Town in the July 4 issue of the New Yorker. David Remnick shoots fish in the barrel defending Hillary against the pathetic allegations of Edward Klein; Alec Wilkinson nicely addresses the question of morals in a sweet little profile of an aging Coudert Brothers partner who takes the firm's law associates to see the hot doc, "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room."

But then I read one Lauren Collins, and get jacked out of shape by her cynicism. She decides she's going to cop an attitude and make fun of people who don't like bullies, especially Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary fame) for having the temerity to help create a program for school kids called Operation Respect: Don't Laugh at Me (DLAM) that is being incorporated into the curriculum of all New York State elementary and middle schools.

It is so easy to poke fun at people who are earnest, so easy to make the cheap shot, and Lauren Collins steps right up. She pokes at the whole DLAM enterprise, describing scenes where people seem silly by dint of their sincerity.

True, I know Peter Yarrow, and maybe I'm just defending a friend. But I also know it usually takes more guts to risk being the wuss, the "girlie man" by siding with the victim and standing up to the tough guys. Peter knows how to be strong. He wouldn't be a successful artist, going into his fifth decade, if he wasn't. But he also has a soft side and can relate to kids who are being unfairly picked on. Peter has the tough and tender polarity worked out, one of the the most important ingredients for leadership, unlike lots of macho guys and woman who only have one kind of kneejerk response.

So, it seems, Lauren Collins is just trying to build up her rep, at Peter's expense. But worse, Collins' little bit of reporting has fed the right-wing machine, and trhe fanatically macho Michelle Malkin jumps on The New Yorker item with both feet, in her hysterical screed, "Namby Pamby Nation" (See the L-Files).

Malkin bloviates, "The left- wing Kumbaya crowd is quietly grooming generation of pushovers in the public schools. At a time of war, when young Americans should be educated about this nation's resilience and steely resolve, educators are indoctrinating students with saccharine-sticky lessons on 'non-violent conflict resolution' and 'promoting constructive dialogues.'"

Just who is Lauren Collins, I wondered? I Googled Ms. Collins and discover there is a Canadian movie star named Lauren Collins. I keep clicking through 60 or 70 entries -- Lauren Collins, female track star; Australian swimmer; high school senior from Stuart, Virginia -- but no Lauren Collins, writer. Gee, I thought that if you wrote for The New Yorker you would find yourself on Google....so I combined Lauren Collins and The New Yorker in Google and pull up a great find: The New York Observer's creation of the nonexistent New Yorker masthead.

The New Yorker refuses to publicize its staff. In fact, The New Yorker is so prickly abut its inner mystique it wouldn't provide a staff list to the Observer, but would only confirm the fact that specific writers were actually employed by the magazine, after the Observer provided the list.

More than 60 people were listed as staff writers, including many of the famous names you would expect; but still no Lauren Collins. And then I found her, amongst a small gaggle of editorial assistants. OK, everyone has to start somewhere. Some New Yorker editor must have decided that the ambitious Ms. Collins was worthy of Talk of the Town. Well, if showing disdain for bully fighters is the way to work yourself up the masthead, Ms. Collins is off to a good start.