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Press Review February 20, 2002
 
Top Seeds Advance
By Matt Taibbi Browse author
 
 

Barry, Friedman Kick Major Ass as March Madness Continues

Hell, Maryland beat Duke last week, which means giants do fall in big-ticket basketball. Not so in journalism. Jason Williams can go cold for a game or two, but you take a guy like Thomas Friedman, and his jumper is never off. The guy is just flat-out money from 25 feet in. All he needs is one 6'11 white scrub center out there setting picks for him, and it's all day, baby.

The same goes for Dave Barry. He has a strange release, a little like Jamaal Wilkes, who eXile readers will remember was Keith Wilkes in college. Barry's range is only about 18 feet, but he can get his shot at will. And he has absolutely no conscience -- he'll shoot from anywhere, almost like a Reggie Theus. He'll throw it up over his head, left-handed, with two guys hanging all over him, the kind of shot that if you take it on the street, guys will call out "Bullshit!" right away. But it almost always somehow goes in.

Guys like this are tough to beat, and they showed it in Round 2 of the eXile's third annual Worst Hack Tournament. Of the remaining major players, only fourth seed George Will bowed out this week, and then only because the eXile refuses to believe that his second round opponent, Wall Street Journal martyr Daniel Pearl, is really dead. If Will had competed against an obviously alive, actively filing journalist, we have no doubt he would have advanced. But you don't get credit for a win when the Marshall football team dies in a plane crash, and neither will Will profit from the kidnapping of a fellow hack.

The format of the eXile's March Madness tournament remains the same: in every round, the journalist who files the worse or more dishonest article advances. Play continues until only one journalist remains; that writer is crowd the World's Biggest Hack 2002, and wins a special secret prize from the staff of the eXile that will be extremely unpleasant and which he will carry with him like herpes for the rest of his life. Anyway, here are the results from round 2:

Dave Barry (1), Miami Herald , def. Maggie Gallagher, United Press Syndicate

This is an interesting matchup. Both Barry and Gallagher (the loathsome conservative columnist, not the infuriating bald watermelon-smashing performance artist) are pure archetypes, extreme examples of their respective genres. Barry is the canned humorist; Gallagher the drum-beating right-winger. The decision to have one advance over another in this tournament largely comes down to which genre has a higher hackery quotient.

It's a close call, but Barry ultimately gets the nod, because the essence of hackdom is the absence of ideas, and while Gallagher is an ideologue of sorts, Barry simply occupies space. In other words, the former is repugnant and irritating, but the latter is actually depressing, a much more profound and powerful type of negative emotion.

Not that Gallagher is easy to swallow. She is proof positive that on the spectrum of public voices, there is a place for every type. Our society will actually pay fairly decent money for the right to receive regular input from a screeching celibate. Although, on second thought, this makes sense in America. Ours is a country that sells sex on every channel, but does not have any. For most people this is depressing and frustrating, but some must actually like things that way. Gallagher is the voice of those people. She's made a career out shaking a fist and saying, "Shame on you for saying I have a cunt."

Her first book was called Enemies of Eros: How the Sexual Revolution is Killing Family, Marriage and Sex. The book jacket ad reads like an eXile spoof: 'Judge Robert Bork called it "lucid, witty, profound, devastating."'

Judge Bork would have found the report on the Tuskeegee syphilis experiments funny. When he calls a columnist "witty", we all ought to pay close attention.

Incidentally, some readers got on my case last week for pointing out that Gallagher had used a Josef Goebbels quote about "guns and butter" in her piece celebrating George W. Bush. One reader said that the quote made sense on its own and that it didn't necessarily recall the Nazis when Gallagher, who apparently wasn't aware of the Nazi connection, used it to describe Bush's policies. Well, it just so happens that there a correct usage of the quote appeared this week, in Hunter Thompson's "Hey, Rube" column on ESPN:


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