Roger Cohen’s Inner Lyricist

We have before commented on expressions of dubious creativity on The New York Times Op-Ed Page, and today we have another entry to that pantheon, Roger Cohen’s cringe-worthy rewrite of the lyrics to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” which he says is “tribute to a president, Barack Hussein Obama, representing a new post-cold-war generation of 21st-century Americans.”

We Didn’t Start the Fire (2)

Bill Clinton, Tina Fey, capitalist China, O.J., Asia rising, Facebook, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ugg boots, Seinfeld West Bank, Gaza City, Tupac Amaru Shakur

Mohamed Atta, W.M.D., Harry Potter, Reality TV Tom Cruise, American Beauty, MP3, Oprah Winfrey

Schwarzenegger, YouTube, America’s got organic food Armstrong, blogosphere, Monica Lewinsky

We didn’t start the fire It was always burning Since the world’s been turning We didn’t start the fire No we didn’t light it But we tried to fight it …

My colleague Liz points out that Cohen is not the first to use this gimmick; philosophy professors (“Russell’s denotation scheme, Godel crushes Frege’s dream”), radio jocks, web nerds, and finance humorists (“We didn’t kill the market; when the prices bend, you can find the trends!”) have been in on the joke, too, but that didn’t stop Cohen.

Since The New York Times declined to make comments available on their site, we invite readers to dust off their inner Paula Abduls and Simon Cowells and give Mr. Cohen some feedback. I’ll go first.

“Mr. Cohen, what were you thinking?!”

P.S. Here is Joel’s original masterpiece, which is, ironically his own takeoff of R.E.M. “End of the World as We Know It”—how meta:

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Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.