Is it too late to say something good about the New York Times?
You know, there’s quite a bit to like about the New York Times, and…
Hold it, hold it! Hush just a minute. And lay down, if you’d be so kind, the bung starters and overripe tomatoes. I come in peace, with a serious point to make: about 21st century journalism; indeed, about 21st century America and my apprehensions for it. The accelerating corruption of the Times, and of American liberalism, which the Times exemplifies, is at the heart of the point I would make.
The Times, which I began reading regularly in the late 1960s and still subscribe to ($15.40 a week), causes me regularly to wonder at prospects of ever achieving anything that resembles national cohesion. I have come to think 21st century liberals seek anything but cohesion. Subjugation is, I believe, their agenda. This I believe on account of what seems to have come over their principal organ of opinion and interpretation, the once-gray, now flamboyantly pink, lavender, and chartreuse Times. Oh, my.
I take the risk of affixing my name to these considerations, knowing as I do the disdain in which the Times is held by, well, non-liberals. A commenter on the Poynter Institute website, “pointdan,” notes that “anyone who reads or subscribes to the New York Times should be indicted for treason.” I will just have to take my chances, with or without an ACLU attorney.
Here goes. And remember what I said about the tomatoes.
Within the four or five or more daily sections of the New York Times lives a newspaper expertly packaged and informatively written, often rich in content, often highly enjoyable. I make this claim not only as a daily reader but as one who toiled for daily newspapers from 1964 to 2001. The Times has a good sports section; its arts and entertainment section, for all the generally “progressive” tilt of some staff members, keeps me abreast of the museum scene and the Metropolitan Opera; my wife drinks in Bill Cunningham’s street scene photos in the Style section; the Business section is rich and informative; I learn a lot from the Science section; the political coverage, not all of it testy and liberal, is broad; still broader is the international coverage; the Books tab brings to my attention books I need to know about (save for the paper’s sniffy disdain regarding conservative publishers—a disdain my own publisher, Roger Kimball of Encounter, rewarded a couple of years ago by announcing he wasn’t going to send the Times any more books to ignore—so there!). Over all, the writing is clear and literate, despite 50-word lead sentences that would benefit from editorial pruning shears.
The trouble is, the Times of the present day doesn’t like me. It purrs in my hands for a while, then suddenly bites and claws. At bottom, the Times despises and distrusts conservatives, without much attempt to understand them. This bothers, as you might imagine, one who pays $15 a week for the right to be clawed.
The Times’ famous liberalism—which no one inside or outside the paper disputes, and which I used to put up with as the price of entry—has gone rancid: indeed, much like liberalism in general, which has become despotic, high-handed, and smoothly patronizing.
Two kinds of modern liberalism deleteriously affect the Times. They are political liberalism and cultural liberalism. I will take them up in that order.
Once upon a time, for all the commitment of the Times’ staff and owners (the Sulzberger family in the latter case) to liberalism of the Northeastern variety, I recall a less strident approach. There was much less meanness than has become the norm for the Times. While reading the Times, you could root for Goldwater, Reagan, the contras, and supply-side tax cuts without hearing behind you the tread of the boys with butterfly nets, alerted to your manias by astute Times reporters and ready to haul you away for examination. The Times editorial page was likelier to shake a reproving finger at you for believing in free market processes and traditional values than it was to aim a flamethrower your way. In the early Sixties, doing M.A. research on FDR and his opponents, I made as it were the acquaintance of the Times’ Arthur Krock, a conservative Democrat who flourished before and after the Second World War. We got along famously. No salivating big government guy was Arthur Krock, whose volume of memoirs I subsequently bought and consumed. Nor was the tenor of commentary by other Times writers what you would call acerbic.
With changing Times, the Times grew edgier and more critical of Republicans, but even Scotty Reston and Tom Wicker—yes, Wicker, the arch-liberal—went down without bicarbonate of soda. Anyway, no orthodoxy of which I was aware made it incumbent on conservatives to salute Richard Nixon with cuckoo-clock regularity.
There is no point in tracing the descent of the Times’ editorial page into liberal miasma and incoherence. Suffice it to say the present page, presided over by Andrew Rosenthal, is a mess: about as comfortable to have around the house as a rabid Lab retriever.
The Times editorial page staff, and assorted Op-Ed columnists, don’t just disagree with me. They hate me. I can tell. They speak in tones of contempt for conservatives and conservative ideas. The editorial and Op-Ed page’s writers are perpetually angry. I don’t mean just a little put out. I mean furious to see Americans entertain recherché notions, such as that government has limited competence to cure all human problems. Thus we found the 2012 New Hampshire primaries to have been “a journey into the dingy, cramped quarters of the right wing’s economic policies.” Current attempts to curb or modify public employee unions’ collective bargaining rights are “shameful.” Not just ill-advised, you understand—shameful.
Attempts last year by “extremist House members” to control federal spending amounted to “extortion.” Ah, but “Republican obstructionism crumbles as leaders agree to extend the payroll tax cut.” “The toxic effects of right-wing extremism in Washington” evidently fell short. And so it goes.
I yield to many in admiration for the Hon. Newton Leroy Gingrich, yet I find myself shaking my head at the Times’ obsession with him as he battled for the GOP presidential nod. In Iowa Gingrich “served up a right-wing theology that would dismantle every social advance since the institution of child labor laws and eviscerate the judiciary that has protected civil rights for a half-century.” Oh, and yes, “He is using McCarthyite tactics to smear judges.” There’s a blast from the past-“McCarthyite.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?