The New Terrapin Gazette
Number 217 22 June, 2011
World history is the progress of the consciousness of freedom.
The New York Times has published a bitter, whining screed that has to be one of the most amazing pieces ever to appear in its pages. Written by a journalist, it is, in essence, a complaint with a purpose: it decries a politician’s view of the news media, and then does all it can to disqualify that politician as a candidate for public office.
Just how goofy or extreme would a politician’s denunciation have to be to provoke a journalist into reacting that strongly? It seems reasonable to assume the Solon must be a nutcase — or that he got badly carried away when he shot his mouth off.
It’s significant that the journalist skewering this politician is not a columnist or weblogger seeking to entertain his readers, but the executive editor of the paper. This is the boss speaking, and he’s defending not just his newspaper, but the entire press.
His tone tells you he thinks of himself as a sage roused to righteous indignation by impudence that is literally dangerous to the body politic.
What set him on fire? Here are the words uttered by the object of his anger:
“It is our vets who we owe our freedom — not the politician, not the reporter –it is our vets, so that’s why we’re here.”
Yes, that’s it. That’s literally all of the quote that has provoked an angry rejoinder and an attempt to read the critic right out of the political process.
It’s significant that the targeted politician includes himself in the group he says deserves no praise. In truth, he’s not criticizing anyone; he’s simply saying that when you come right down to it, the people who fought for the nation’s Liberty deserve the real credit. Even if you consider his remarks critical of politicians and journalists, he’s still not criticizing reporters more than he criticizes himself. How horrible is that?
Isn’t this the sort of harmlessly imprecise thing all politicians say at rallies honoring vets? Yes, you know it is.
So why all the fuss? It’s a lot more than just one statement that has the editor upset; he’s steamed about the fact that so many people target the news media with charges of bias, and feel alienated from journalists. He sees this particular politician as a symbol of undesirable political stratification; he implies that people should trust the press, consider it credible, and not attack it for perceived bias. He insists that the media are not, as the kids say, in the tank for Obama. Here’s the core of his commentary (his words are edited to disguise the attacker; you will learn who that is in a moment, though by now you have probably guessed his name):
(The speaker) thinks that journalists are liberal elitists, that they find the Tea Party fringe ridiculous or alarming or that they are infatuated with the cerebral black liberal in the White House. There’s a grain of truth and a loaf of myth in each of those. But I think it’s more visceral than that. It has to do with a profound and mutual lack of respect that is not quite like any I recall between a candidate (or pretend candidate) and the press.
The evidence of his scorn for … the … media is abundant, but I was struck by the gratuitous quality of one remark he tossed off during that … rally in Washington the Sunday before Memorial Day. When an NPR reporter asked what had brought him to the event, he replied, (and then the damnable words are quoted).
Those two compact paragraphs should give you pause. Obama is “the cerebral black liberal”, a turn of phrase that deftly avoids explicitly calling anyone racists — but still flirts with the slander. How often do articles or editorials refer needlessly to Obama as black? The sentence was constructed to convey a wink and nod of the head; “We know what we’re talking about here, don’t we?” It’s adroit wordsmanship, and it stinks.
Then because the critical politician included politicians in his remark, the NYT editor waxes outraged at the slighting of the Founding Fathers. This results in a sentence worthy of the most stereotypical demagogue:
I’ll let the politicians stick up for themselves; I do hope they’ll ask if his contempt applies to the politicians who wrote that Constitution our worthy veterans swore to defend.
That’s rotten, and there’s more. The editor does not attempt to explain (or possibly even to understand) how the widespread “visceral” distrust of the media arose in the public. It is as if people who don’t think they can rely on many journalists, and on the NYT in particular, are unaccountably and hopelessly deranged. Their beliefs come from the gut, so they are wrong — and that ends it.
In effect, the author has said, “Some of you, many too many of you, don’t see things the right way. What’s wrong with you idiots?” The sheer existence of some mysterious cultural or political distinctions that lead people to disagree with the editor is, for him, proof that things are broken. He thinks the public is badly messed up, and that this goofy politician is an icon for the alarming dysfunction.
Tea Partiers may notice that the editor refers to their movement as a “fringe.” That strikes The New Terrapin as a pejorative, for it seems to this newsletter that Tea Party sentiments include fiscal prudence, a dependence on the benefits of Liberty, and preferences for self-reliance and neighborly tolerance. Isn’t that list centrist? Isn’t the Tea Party movement actually a product of the political middle, and aren’t the media in general and the “progressives” trying to smear it as “wingnut” extremist, and racist?
Finally, there is the editor’s statement that journalists are also viscerally antithetical to a large segment of the public. You missed it, didn’t you? His words: “…a profound and mutual lack of respect…” (emphasis added). We hate them just as much as they hate us, in other words. Of course it’s natural and blameless for journalists to hate the proles, or so one might conclude, for the press comes under no criticism from the editor. Nor does he even ask why his occupational caste should be so alienated from and offended by its customers and countrymen.
This newsletter has spilled gallons of electronic ink on the culture war, and the subject has become tiresome. The exposure of media bias is also sufffocatingly familiar here (request the archives). But the executive editor has no excuse: he has raised an issue that he does not define, explore or explain, and he raises it only to insist that he is correct and that all who disagree are ethically deformed. He also implies that he’s not an elitist, let alone a liberal elitist. Oh?
One should ask how in the world a presumably prudent, intelligent, experienced and battle-hardened professional journalist in a high position could possibly deliver himself of such unpalatable sentiments. Though unprovoked, unexamined and unexplained, they have emerged with a deliberate toxicity. No, that’s not an unfair characterization of the editor’s view; he honestly feels that everyone who doesn’t agree with him on the news media must be suffering from visceral idiocy.
Some would respond by noting that the choleric executive editor of the NYT mentions a long history of transgressions (baseless, mean-spirited and fraudulent criticisms of the media) allegedly committed by the critic and his allies. Fair enough? Probably not, for most of those transgressions are rational, provable protests against genuine breaches of journalistic ethics. As politically incorrect (but factually accurate) criticisms of the bias of the media, they are thought crimes.
That unhappy truth is consonant with the fact that the executive editor’s essay reveals its author as exquisitely sensitive. Like most authoritarians, he is profoundly offended by opposition. It’s a personality flaw. His bitterness and multiple objections to a mild aside that was entirely appropriate to the occasion betray a troubled psychological state that might require counseling.
You will find his commentary here.
How could an intellectual produce this stunning, thoughtless and shallow condemnation of the citizens who do not share his political values? Can his mindset be taken as anything other than rank elitism mixed with exasperated ignorance?
It is probable that the editor’s professional pride has been rubbed raw by the many criticisms of his newspaper. He tolerates the slightest affront only with difficulty. Irritable? Ye gods, the man is fragile to the point of borderline paranoia.
His target is Sarah Palin. She said the vets matter more than politicians and journalists.
Admit it: now you understand.
The constant drumbeat of attacks on the NYT has had an effect, and Sarah Palin has become a poster girl for a campaign to reform the media by shaming them into ethical practices.
Of course a negative reaction to biased reporting has been around longer than Palin has. This newsletter and many, many other sources of opinion found on the internet have been publishing lists of examples of the NYT’s ideological bigotry for years (The New Terrapin has abandoned the task as far too huge to be undertaken by a small newsletter). Academics have validated the charges of political favoritism. The distortions, the censorship practiced by self-appointed “gatekeepers”, the blatant bias and the seepage of commentary into news items are hoary, abiding patterns. A great deal of the criticism of the media is objective because it states verifiable facts. Not all bias is in the eye of the beholder. (Again: Bernard Goldberg’s Bias is a superb book.)
Instead of struggling to improve its ethics, the elitist, quasi-Peronist NYT is losing the final vestiges of rationality. This recent outburst by a high executive shows that the critics of biased journalism are driving the folks at the NYT crazy.
Quem deus vult perdere, dementat prius.
(That’s in Latin so you “progressives” can have the snide pleasure of translating it for the under-educated knuckle-draggers from Flyover Country who go to Tea Party rallies.)
Say what you will about Holder, he does have a lot of nerve. In a guy like that, is that a good thing?
There really is such a thing as temperament, and it is not learned. Ask any mother. So science is catching up to the facts — maybe. The gee-whiz article is in the “Arts” section of the paper; why? Oh, well. Stranger things have happened at that outfit.
A weblogger makes some disturbing points about Greece, World War II, Jews, and the current economic crisis. Highly recommended.
Does this mean that even the LA Times is backing away from The One? No, probably not; it may just be token journalistic balance. Or — and this is just a wild guess — it could be that more folks are thinking things through rather than parroting slogans. In any event, it’s trenchant criticism of Obamite foreign policy, and this newsletter welcomes anyone who may be in the process of waking up now. Honduras did not exactly do much in that regard, but Libya just might. Meanwhile, Egypt is not working out the way Obama figured it would, so his demeaning posturing as a friend of Islam may be dropped. One can hope.
Speaking of hope, here’s some encouraging news regarding the BATFE and the DOJ. This newsletter’s message to Congress: Please, please…don’t stop! Nail the bastards!
Today’s quiz: what is “…an expensive, jobs-crippling monstrosity that is filled with unintended consequences”? You care only if your economic circumstances are less than ideal. Hint: it has something to do with the executive and legislative branches of the federal government (that’s a little insider joke). Answer here, courtesy of the WaPo. Noblesse oblige.
The masthead includes a quote from the works of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.
The staff of The New Terrapin Gazette expresses its sincere gratitude to the many people who have gifted the world with Arch Linux, Emacs, Screen, and Chromium.
Publisher: The Eagle Wing Palace of The Queen Chinee