Against hack snobbery
If you follow the world of media folk on Twitter, you probably noticed that making fun of Frank Bruni for today's column is the sport of the hour. There's even a hashtag #futurebrunicolumns that Dave Weigel appears to have started, with suggestions for column about how airplane food sucks. Don't waste one of your 20 articles a month clicking through. Here's the shorter version: "Some would say that 200 million people can't be wrong, but I would argue that 200 million people pretty much have to be wrong. Which is why I know Harry Potter is stupid."
The main criticism of this column being floated online is that it's pure hack writing, using the esteemed space of the NY Times op-ed piece pounding out drivel that Andy Rooney would be ashamed to submit. But I would like to point out that on top of being hack writing, this piece is the most hackish snobbery I've ever been exposed to in my life. Bruni is actually—and I read it twice to make sure—arguing that simply refusing to even investigate the latest trend makes you a more interesting person. Because you're a non-conformist and shit.
As a bona fide snob, I disavow this cheap attempt to be a snob without actually doing the hard work of developing taste. The knee-jerk assumption that something must suck because it's popular isn't any different than the knee-jerk embrace of every trend that comes down the pipe. You're still letting the masses dictate your taste to you. If anything, you're even sillier and more deluded than people who embrace every trend, because at least said people are getting a sense of community out of their trend-whoring. Even teenage miscreants who pride themselves on being outsiders have a more refined understanding of the relationship between being trendy and being snobby than this.
If you want to be a snob, I believe you have to work at it. Simply assuming that popularity equals suckage won't do it. In fact, some of we more practiced snobs are experts at taking occasional pop culture products and spinning out golden arguments about how artful they really are. Being good at this is becoming a minimum entrance requirement for being a serious rock critic these days, for instance.
So well-done, Bruni. Second column in, and you managed to turn in hack writing and hack snobbery. Maybe next time, you can introduce even more hackery, perhaps hitting a triple header.