Frank Bruni, a bad newspaper columnist who is nevertheless employed as a columnist by America's most prominent newspaper, is obligated to write two columns per week. He has approximately zero good ideas per week. This is what causes things like Sunday's column to happen.
Frank Bruni's column in the Sunday New York Times—the most-read day of America's most prominent and influential op-ed page—was entitled "America the Shrunken." If it had been about a decline in our nation's average height, it might have been meaningful. Instead, it was about the vague and unquantifiable decline of America, which is a topic that hacks enjoy writing about because its meaningless claims are impossible to refute, and furthermore it intuitively appeals to the sort of old coots who like to write letters to newspapers. To wit:
More and more I get the sense that we've lost it, and by "it" I mean the optimism that was always the lifeblood of this luminous experiment, the ambition that has been its foundation, the swagger that made us so envied and emulated and reviled.
We're walking small. And that shift in our gait and our gumption has been palpable for many years, during an unusually sustained period of frustration that has the feel of something more than a temporary dive: a turned corner, the downward arc of a diminished enterprise.
Sure, sure. You do not need to read Frank Bruni's column. To know everything you need to know about it, you just need to examine the list of sources that Frank Bruni cited in his column:
-"a good friend of mine — one of the smartest men I know"
-A CNBC story.
-A Gallup poll.
-A poll sponsored by Allstate.
-A political adviser's memo published in THE POLITICO.
-Four stories in his own newspaper.
-Two columns by his fellow Times columnists.
-"A thoughtful college junior I know"
-The fact that "I've been to La Guardia and I've been to Guatemala"
After analyzing these primary sources, Frank Bruni concludes that "We're laggards, slackers, and everywhere you turn, the evidence mounts."
For example, the fact that Frank Bruni is a highly paid columnist for America's influential newspaper.