A quick glance at the headline presaged serious trouble: "N.Y. to D.C. On the Quirky Express." They byline - "By Marc Fisher" - promised no favors, either. A man barely equipped to deal - typically in a facile, reductive way - with local politics, devoting his B1 column inches to a genuinely interesting cultural/transportational phenomenon (the Chinatown bus[es])? When presented with a free WaPo at the coffeeshop this morning, I chose instead to read the funnies (a choice, it should be noted, that I generally do make, given as they are one of the consistently best sections of the WaPo and that the WaPo has - despite the atrocities that are "Garfield," "Baldo," "Mutts," etc. - one of the best and most extensive comix sections, anywhere). But I knew that, gadfly that I am, I would eventually force myself to trudge through Fisher's predictably off-the-mark observations.
I knew the Chinatown bus was not going to be like the Delta Shuttle when a woolly old dog made his way down the narrow aisle. A buzz of concern swept through the bus, leaving midtown Manhattan momentarily for the four-hour trip to the District.
It is never a good sign when a writer begins a commentary with a knowing lie. In this case, the writer and the reader are both aware that the only reason the middle-aged, upper-middle-class Fisher is riding a Chinatown bus is to use it as fodder for a column. In point of fact, he "knew that the Chinatown bus was not going to be like the Delta Shuttle" long before "a wooly old dog made his way down the narrow aisle."

Not content to baldly lie simply in the service of a lead, Fisher continues with yet another untruth:
The driver came on the PA system: "Ladies and gentlemen, do not be alarmed. That is my dog, Spot. He is the bus dog. We go back a long way. Spot keeps me sane. When I am sad and lonely, he talks to me, telepathically. We are one. Thank you."

Okaaay. I considered asking for my $20 back, but the silent Hasidic man collecting the fares seemed unfazed, and no other passengers budged, so I settled in for the cheapest ride between Washington and New York.
Yes, this is a joke (albeit a bad one), but just the same it is a blatant and obvious lie. Fisher did not "[consider] asking for [his] $20 back"; it was not only when "the silent Hasidic man collecting the fares seemed unfazed, and no other passengers budged" that he "settled in for the cheapest ride between Washington and New York." To recount - three paragraphs so far, and two knowing untruths, both concerning the essential nature of the column. The only reason that he was on this bus was because he knew it would be fodder for a column, and that was why he was going to ride this bus. Throwing in a "Friends"-esque humor device ("Okaaay.") serves only to further insult the reader; indeed, this can count as yet another knowing untruth. Its use in the carries the connotation of it being Fisher's internal thought processes at that time; in fact, his internal thought at that time was likely more along the lines of, "Oh, boy! This'll be great for the column I'm writing about this wacky bus!"

Fisher goes on to recount a brief history of the Chinatown buses and Greyhound's indignant unease at their success, but as far as actual reporting goes, he seems inclined to sit in his seat and sketch the drivers' characters. He says that the bus riders' languages of choice "seem to be Russian, German and Chinese," not bothering with anything so daring as actually talking to them (or anyone else, for that matter - his recounting of Greyhound's suing the Chinatown buses is sourced from a Wall Street Journal article).

It's not news that Marc Fisher is an out-of-touch hack, or that the Washington Post proves, time and again, that its editor-class is not merely filled with out-of-touch hacks but also are poor judges of who ought to write a given story (for instance: any one of a number of the WaPo's talented Magazine staff writers [Stuever, Achenbach, Weingarten] could have written a far superior rumination on the same subject). But just because neither are news doesn't mean they ought not be pointed out.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?