Friday, April 27, 2012

Some Thoughts on Joseph Alsop

The WSJ theater critic, Terry Teachout, has some thoughts on the play 'The Columnist' in today's paper. Mr. Teachout opens by saying that "nobody remembers Joseph Alsop now."

Not quite true. It is true you have to be buying your pants in the mail, or getting your Social Security checks automatically deposited into your bank account, but there is definitely a cadre of us who do remember Joseph Alsop, and even think about him now and then.

As a fledgling teenager I used to read the Herald Tribune in New York, (I honestly still miss that paper: news, sports and comics.) and used to read everything in it: Walter Lippmann, Joseph Alsop, the comics, the sports, Dick Schaap. I used to wonder who is Joseph Alsop that he appears to be running the country and why do so many people seem to seek his advice?

I knew nothing about his being gay, and likely wouldn't have been able to categorize his views, but I did detect power, or at least someone who gave that impression. Joseph Kennedy, Sr. said he'd rather "own" a senator, than be one. Opinions aren't really the commodity these people deal in: it's influence.

To this day, because of wondering about Alsop, I still wonder what do all the pundits, writers and talking-heads ever really accomplish, other than filling space and time with some utterances that are nearly instantly meaningless. H.L. Mencken was surely right, as pointed out by Mr. Teachout, when he said that of all his words they were nothing more than "journalism pure and simple--dead almost before the ink which printed it was dry." 

To paraphrase something E.L. Doctrow said of 'Catch-22' when Joseph Heller passed away, "they say fiction can't change anything, but it can certainly organize a generation's consciousness."

Perhaps this is what good columnists and commentators do. Otherwise, it's yesterday's paper wrapping today's fish, or a string of commercials, interrupted by blather.

No comments:

Post a Comment