The Political Musings of Jelani Cobb

For a couple of years now, The New Yorker has hosted a byline that never fails to provoke snickering and head-scratching: Jelani Cobb. Cobb is, quite simply, the worst scribe in the stable. He writes spaghetti-sentences so awful you need to read them four or five times to tease any sense out of them.

It could be his prose is bad because he is a sometime academic (of Afro-American studies). Or maybe it’s because his editors don’t think it’s worth their while to make his drafts readable. Cobb mostly writes about inner-city black stuff, although he occasionally breaks out into other territory.

Such was the case the other day when he came up with a whizbang blog-post called, “The Model for Donald Trump’s Media Relations Is Joseph McCarthy.”

jelani_cobb-320-144-144Cobb is not even old enough to remember Watergate, let alone events of the early 1950s. Knowing nothing about the postwar Communist problem, he here regurgitates whatever his masters told him. He quotes David Oshinsky and bows to the plaster saint Ed Murrow. He even repeats the classic lie about Sen. McCarthy: the story that the senator once claimed there were “205” Communists in the State Department. McCarthy’s actual statement (made in a speech to a ladies’ club in Wheeling, West Virginia in 1950) mentioned 205 employees who were known security risks. (As indeed there were.)

The column says little about Donald Trump, and what there is, is barely intelligible. Unscramble, if you will, the following sentence:

Like the members of the G.O.P. élite whose craven self-interest and calculation have prevented them from challenging a candidate who is a credible danger to the republic, many of the outlets that are covering Trump, and the orchestra of contempt he is conducting, are dealing with a conflict of interest.


It appears Jelani Cobb is trying to say: “The news media have a conflict of interest.” But that’s too clear a thought— not nearly preacher-like or orotund enough. So why not piggyback a superfluous swipe at the Republican “élite,” and toss in a metaphor portraying Trump as an orchestra conductor?

The New Yorker, everybody!

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