Is it too late to say something good about the New York Times?
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I don’t know who writes this stuff. I do know who writes some of the snarky, claws-bare-and-extended stuff on the Op-Ed page: to wit, Maureen Dowd and Gail Collins (the latter a former Times editorial page editor). Don’t expect from either of these babes anything like sober analysis. Analysis isn’t their thing. Their thing is to aim stiletto-heeled kicks at conservative groins. Worst of the lot, over on the Op-Ed side, is Paul Krugman, the Nobel economics laureate whom frankly I had to give up reading, so ferocious, so ill-natured were (and are still, I guess) his attacks on conservatives and conservative economic ideas. The columnists David Brooks and Ross Douthat supposedly come along on alternate days to massage conservative sensibilities. However, Brooks, a mild-mannered moderate, grooves on sociology more than politics and in any case isn’t nearly as conservative as, say, Krugman is left-wing. This leaves young Douthat to tidy up the joint a little in his soft-spoken way. I do like to read him. I also so like new Op-Ed columnist Joe Nocera, not least because, unlike so many of the brethren, he refrains from shouting down opponents.
Then there’s the Times’ news coverage. I wouldn’t say the Times deliberately slants the news against conservatives. I would suggest most Times reporters, being liberal (like reporters in general), lack a feel for who conservatives are, and what they might be thinking about, and why. With that caveat constantly in mind, I read the Times’ political coverage to find out what’s on liberals’ minds. The quest can be interesting. I commend it, actually, to people who depend on Fox News to keep them abreast of developments.
I do take alarm at a recent query put to Times readers by the paper’s ordinarily reasonable ombudsman, Arthur Brisbane, who was put up, it sounds like, to soliciting opinions on whether the Times should commission reporters to “correct” false—as it might seem to them—information they scribble down. Horsefeathers! It’s not for reporters to sit in judgment on statements made to them. A good reporter doesn’t argue back. He lets others do that. Mr. Brisbane, don’t listen to lunatics who tell you reporters need to step inside the story and tell readers what’s really going on. That ways lies destruction of credibility.
Now, concerning the Times’ cultural liberalism. Times readers got a valuable tip as to the paper’s disposition in that department when in January the Dining section published “Meatless in the Midwest: A Tale of Survival.” It appeared that A. G. Sulzberger—that would be the son of the current publisher, Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr., on assignment in the above said Midwest—shuns meat (including chicken stock) and is perforce always on the lookout for a good tofu joint. Ah, the privations that principle and taste buds can require! Now I don’t want to beat up on young Sulzberger, whose piece was commendably good-natured and who has written some good stuff hitherto. I would suggest the unintentional irony in his disquisition: Heartland challenges East Coast guy; sort of like Bob Hope in The Paleface, abroad in the wild west with his Eastern attitudes and foibles.
The Times, which currently, and deliberately, views itself as a newspaper for the whole of America, manifests a certain standoffishness regarding the rest of America. The yokels are different from you and me, especially when “you” turn out to be a Texan, say, of altogether different cultural persuasion than the nice folks on Manhattan Island. The New York Times’ cultural obsessions—gay rights and feminism—are constantly on display. When New York State was embroiled last year over the extension of marriage privileges to gays, the Times was reliably short with those who spoke up on the traditional marriage norm—one man, one woman, one union. The Times was all over the story: day after day, interviews, analysis, photos, editorial commentary. You might have thought it was the grandest event of the century. Similarly the Times speaks up on all occasions for the right of women to do, well, whatever it is women want to do, including abort their babies. The Republican contest in Iowa this year inspired the editorial staff to advise otherwise nonchalant voters that, “The assault on women’s reproductive health is a central part of the Republican agenda.” Bad boys—stop that! This minute!
What to do, what to do? As a practical matter, nothing, perhaps, save subscribe to the conservative and journalistically top-notch Wall Street Journal (which I do anyway, gratefully). And assess (as I do, regularly) the value of culling the bad parts of the Times in order to enjoy the good parts. I maintain my Times subscription for the nonce. But back to my original point, namely, that the Times exemplifies the accelerating corruption of American liberalism. No one expects the Times to be other than liberal. That is its culture. New York expects liberalism from its chief bearer of news. Liberalism it gets. Liberalism, nonetheless, of a more and more alarming variety: arrogant, indignant, angry, unbending, detached from reality, and from any sense of popular aspirations.
The liberalism of the 21st century appears to have shed any geniality, let alone tolerance, it may have boasted in the past. If the Times doesn’t like me personally, neither does the American liberal establishment, which professes not to care what I think, wishing only to shove its nostrums and prescriptions down my throat. This renders the New York Times an ideal vehicle for the explication of liberal policy and ideals, including the splendor of Obamacare and the necessity of parting Americans from their love of gas-guzzling cars.
No political creed is innocent of certainty. “Credo”—”I believe”—is the etymological root in “creed.” So shouldn’t liberals be straightforward in the assertion of their ideals? Of course they should. However, the Times’ compliance in this obligation—I say this as a newspaperman and onetime professor of journalism—would properly be hedged with acknowledgments of the duty to generate fruitful discussion of large issues. The New York Times’ respect for free speech is boxed in, rather, with locally generated certainties. We’re right! They’re wrong! Can’t any fool see this? The liberal establishment surely sees it, as the battle over Obamacare richly illustrates. Once the battle got going, the duty of government (according to the government) was to press ahead and do what needed doing irrespective of ill-founded and nattering objections. With the Times this was perfectly cool. “We” were right. “They” were deceived. That was all we needed to know.
An ancient tag has it that those whom God, or the gods, would destroy they first make mad. Not mad in the sense of “angry”-mad in the sense of “nuts.” Anger can go with it, as any fair reading of the Times’ editorial section makes clear, but intellectual imbalance is the larger part of the equation. I once knew the Times as unduly in love with Eastern-urban conceits but hardly hostile, for all that, to competing points of view: amused by such viewpoints, perhaps, but unwilling to laugh them out of court. I think many, not all by any means, of those who direct affairs at the New York Times just plain—how shall I put this?—aren’t in touch with reality. On which showing they make appropriate spokesmen for the thought leaders and strategists of the modern liberal faith they labor—so far without fulfillment—to rear in our midst: large, cold, sneering, domineering.
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.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online