A few weeks back, in a column titled "For a Master Class in Trolling, Just Turn to The New York Times," my colleague Ken Wheaton gave credit where credit is due. While the likes of Gawker and BuzzFeed get plenty of attention for publishing obnoxious stories that seem engineered to gin up outrage -- and page views -- Ken suggested you take a close look at the Times' real estate, fashion and lifestyle sections:
There, you'll find a broad range of sufferers. If by broad, you mean middle to upper class and, as often as not, white women.
This, in turn, drives a certain sort of person (me) absolutely bonkers. And that's the secret recipe behind a perfectly viral New York Times article: a little bit of reader "service," a little bit of passable writing. And a heaping handful of trolling.
In fact, I've now convinced myself that The New York Times has an Editor-in-Trolling. How else to explain all these 1,000-word pieces featuring New York Times bubble dwellers that so outrage those who can't stand The New York Times' bubble dwellers?
Ken's column inspired me to keep an eye out for masterly trolling -- with the intention of naming a Troll of the Month at the close of each month as a sort of catharsis.
And... we have a winner.
And... damn it, it's The New York Times again.
Honestly, I didn't plan this. But a Times piece titled "Smoothing the Frictions Between Parent and Nanny" simply has no equal. A Sunday Styles section piece that appeared in print on Feb. 24, it tells the tale of a Los Angeles psychologist, Lindsay Heller, who calls herself the Nanny Doctor -- though I prefer to think of her as the Nanny Whisperer. Dr. Heller, the Times reported, has carved out a niche for herself by serving as "a consultant for an age of anxious parenting, acting as a mediator of sorts for parent and caretaker, at a rate of $200 an hour."
You really have to read the whole jaw-dropping piece to truly appreciate the full scope of its trollery, but here's just a hint of its power (to outrage). The profile opens with quotes from one of Dr. Heller's clients, Kimberly Van Der Beek, who happens to be the wife of actor James Van Der Beek (Dawson from "Dawson's Creek") and also, hilariously, a parenting blogger. Kimberly, you see, was having issues with how her nanny was handling her 2-year-old, Olivia, and 7-month-old, Joshua. The Times patiently took notes as Kimberly explained the nanny's shortcomings:
"She lets Joshua just lie on the floor while she's drinking her tea. Put some pep in that step. Put the tea down." She leaned back and sighed. "I just find that if I'm around, I'm the one taking care of the kids. I like to be preventive about things. If Olivia wakes up from her nap at four, I'd like to know that there's a snack ready. There never is."
Oh dear god, the nanny takes BREAKS to drink TEA! And there is NEVER A SNACK READY POST-NAP! This nanny is clearly a MONSTER!
Fortunately, the Nanny Whisperer came to the rescue to help "mediate" this situation. The tea-drinking, snack-withholding nanny in question is not quoted in the story (of course) but Dr. Heller does note that she also counsels timid nannies (at $20-an-hour in group sessions) on how to do stuff like send their boss-ladies diplomatic emails "asking for more money and perhaps a stipend for health insurance."
So it's all good. We've reached a certain 99%-vs.-1% understanding here: If lazy nannies will just put down their tea and make a goddamn snack already, perhaps we will pay them enough to afford snacks themselves and get to see a (real) doctor when they get sick.
Again, please read the whole piece, but because I'm a jerk, here's a spoiler: At the end of the profile we learn that Dr. Heller once employed a nanny who quit and now "refuses" to talk to the good doctor. ("I'm not sure what I did. She won't tell me, no matter how many times I've asked.")
Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.
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