I found the following via a three-word Metafilter post: Bob Greene returns. I don’t think it’s precisely true — as we’ve noted here a time or two, Greene has been making quiet inroads back into respectable circles for a while now. At the same time, I think it’s important that we keep stepping on this bug every time it waves a leg in the air, because it’s plain he hasn’t learned a goddamn thing.
This one worries me, though. For starters, it seems to have a standing head (“Bob Greene across America”), which suggests it’s not a one-off pity gig thrown his way by an old colleague, but an ongoing pity gig, in which case, gloves off. For any new readers here, let me say it up front again: Bob Greene should have kept his hands off the college girls, interns and other young women he hit on, pawed over and otherwise defiled. But that’s not why he should stay out of journalism. This is: He’s a big ol’ hack.
The latest is vintage. This man couldn’t change if he tried.
It starts with a windy description of, what else, something he saw in the hotel. A woman gets onto an elevator with two strangers, one of them Bob, carrying on a private conversation via her Bluetooth headset. Garden-variety rudeness, but not so small that Bob can’t draw some grand conclusions:
My traveling companions on CNN’s newsroom-on-wheels and I had stopped for the night at this Hollywood hotel in the days before the presidential primary election in California (and throughout the nation). If people are surprised by the depth and fervency of the passions being displayed by citizens, regardless of ideology, during this year’s race for the presidency, perhaps part of that surprise is because the emotions being shown for certain candidates put to the lie something that we have recently taken for granted — something emblemized, in its own small way, by the woman in the elevator.
He goes on to make his case:
There used to be a phrase utilized to sum up the insularity of presidential campaigns: “inside the cocoon.” It referred to life within the confines of the campaign jets, or the campaign press buses — it meant that those who traveled with a candidate were in peril of developing a skewed view of the outer world, because their sole points of reference were the events, and players, involved in the campaign itself.
The cocoon theory, rather than diminish, has expanded: living in a cocoon has in large measure become the American way of life. The sidewalks are filled with people looking down at tiny screens nestled in their palms, checking for messages, searching for flashing signals from people miles away, not wanting or needing to make eye contact with the living human beings in their immediate proximity. Friendship is a strictly defined commodity granted with the tap of a key: an electronic transaction on ultimately-for-profit computer sites. The cocoon, as a bedrock principle for living, offers the illusion of safety — by shutting out all that is unknown, the cocoon promises: these high walls around you are good for you.
Keep in mind this is a man who once wrote a knee-slapper about not having e-mail — he just couldn’t get into that crazy stuff — and was then told by the Chicago Tribune IT guys that of course he had e-mail, here’s how to access it, and he did, and whaddaya know there were something like 3,000 unread messages in his in-box. So excuse me for thinking he doesn’t know shit about this. So, Bob, while I’m not a text demon, let me suggest this gently: When a pretty girl on Michigan Avenue refuses to meet your gaze, it’s not necessarily because she’s lost in a cultural moment. She’s probably texting her BFF: OMG U SHD C THS D00DS RUG!!!!! 😮
So what’s emblemized, in its own small way, by the woman in the elevator? This:
So this year’s unusual campaign for the presidency — regardless of who you may or may not be supporting — is an unanticipated step in the other direction. It takes quite a leap of faith to proclaim your belief, and trust, in someone, and something, unknown. To acknowledge that you are ready for something, and someone, different is to admit that the things with which you are familiar may not, after all, be the things on which your future is best based.
I dunno, but if you asked me why the campaign has been impassioned so far, I’d think it had something to do with the public’s eagerness to get the current presidency over with. But don’t believe me. Believe the Voice of His Generation, who thinks it’s all about “proclaiming your belief, and trust, in someone, and something, unknown”? (Note how he pads almost unconsciously; belief and trust, something and someone.) Because there’s no incumbent? That happens every eight years. Who’s unknown? Obama comes as close as anyone, but he’s hardly hiding behind a cape and mask. If this is the linchpin of his connection between Rude Lady and Election 2008, I’d say it’s a stretch that would challenge Elastagirl.
This all has to do with looking up from those screens in your palms; it has to do with gazing around you and acknowledging: maybe it’s time to let the outside in. It has nothing to do with the Republican Party or the Democratic Party; the candidates in each are trumpeting the concept of change, but maybe the change the nation is beginning to hunger for has little to do with politicians or policies, and everything to do with ourselves. Maybe the change we apparently so thirst for goes well beyond matters electoral.
Ha. Note how he innoculates himself: It has nothing to do with the Republican Party or Democratic Party. Because Bob is above such things. He is a keen observer of the human condition, not a political hack. More pure and unadulterated b.s. But even he knows this. Because guess what the very next sentence is?
Or maybe not.
I wish I were kidding.
Bob Greene made a lot of friends in high places during his career, and I expect it’s paying off for him now. But please, if anyone in a position to hire for these gigs is listening: If what you want is some sort of Heartland Voice, a cultural commentator who lives far from the coasts, out of the MSM usual suspects, I can suggest a long list of writers a thousand times more observant, sharper-eyed, and keener with a pen than this washed-up hack. They would also leave the hotel once in a while. It would come with the thanks of a grateful nation.
So how was your weekend? Mine was fine. In honor of the Super Bowl, I bought a bag of Tostitos and a jar of queso dip, which had the consistency and color of sinus-infection snot, but I always insist on authenticity with my Super snax. Quite the game, though. My brother called at halftime to tell me he had the Patriots and 13 points, so I think it’s fair to say there won’t be any Christmas presents from him this year. Giselle will probably be dumping Tom Brady soon, too. Poor baby. Maybe he can hang out with Bob.
Big day ahead, so play nice. I’ll be back later.