November 4th, 2006
A distinct subculture, a belief system if not a religion, exists in the United States. Its members draw their instruction on what to believe and how to live from the New York Times. I call them the Times Echoes. They exist in urban social ecosystems all across American.
There are certain people you never forget. One is a man I knew who was an anomaly in more ways than one. He was a politically conservative Jewish septuagenarian living in Westchester County, NY, within the gravitational pull of the Den of Iniquity (that would be NYC). Possessing a genius IQ and intrepidity to match, on more than one occasion he told me of a technique he used when debating liberals.
He’d say, “I can tell you what you believe on any issue. Name for me any issue, and I’ll tell you what your position is.” Not that he claimed powers of divination. He explained, “I can do this because I know they get their beliefs from the New York Times. All I have to do is open the Times, and that’s what they believe.”
This came to mind when I read Clay Waters’ piece on Timeswatch, “Richard Berke Bashes Blogs that Criticize the Times.” Reporting on an event called Times Talk, at the New York Historical Society in Manhattan, Waters writes,
. . . what struck me was the condescending and sometimes paranoid liberalism of the audience questioners. Of the seven or eight audience members who addressed the panel, none said anything that could be remotely construed as Republican or even moderate. Instead, the panelists got foreboding questionings of whether Bush believed in democracy and whether Red State folk are as ignorant as they are because they don’t read the New York Times.
Don’t think this is unusual. For instance, I remember another septuagenarian, a woman I engaged in a political debate. She was an avid reader of the Times and when I asked her if she believed everything contained therein, her response was “yes.” When I asked why, I was informed that it was because the people who write for them are “very intelligent.”
To Times Echoes, the Times isn’t merely an information source. It isn’t even just the newspaper of record. It is an oracle, an inerrant purveyor of wisdom, compared to which the Bible pales. But the Times Echo is most certainly human. Although, if Christian theology is correct that it’s intellect and free will that separate man from the animal kingdom, perhaps just barely so.
If you’re offended by the Times Echo’s query about ignorant Red Staters, don’t be. Despite their delusion that they’re possessed of sophistication, Times Echoes are the most callow, provincial of creatures. You see, they don’t actually interact with people from the hinterlands and consider sufficient study of the latter’s culture to be a screening of Deliverance.
Oh, it’s not that they don’t travel. They like bucolic vistas and toasty winter climes as much as anyone, and they have plenty of money. But they tend toward places previously civilized by other Times Echoes. Thus, jaunts to the Hamptons, cozy Vermont Inns (Vermont is rural but acceptable, since Times Echo hegemony was achieved long ago. Hello, Bernie Sanders?) and trips to Aspen, Boca Raton and the Carribean are definitely on the itinerary. The areas in-between are akin to the Planet of the Apes, inconvenient badlands that only make travel between the aforementioned venues more time consuming.
And Times Echoes’ habitat really is that insular. For example, despite the fact that Times Echoes fiercely oppose erecting a wall along the southern border, you shouldn’t be fooled. It’s not that they oppose such barriers in principle, it’s just the location with which they take issue. Manhattan Island already has its own moat.
And it is this very insularity that enables the Times Echo to exist. Much like the ground-dwelling birds of Madagascar, the Times Echo’s isolated original habitat on the narrow island of Manhattan is even narrower. Guns, big stick foreign policy, adequate punishment for criminals and forced interrogation of terrorists seem like antiquated tools of Cro-Magnons to the Times Echo, ensconced as it is on the thirty-first floor of its doorman-protected building.
It is life in this bubble that blinds the Times Echoes to the real world. And, insofar as they are cognizant of the “quirks,” “oddities” and “prejudices” of the barbarians beyond the realm, they have the expectation that their grand mission should remain totally unfettered by them. It is this attitude that explains the comments of Times Assistant Managing Editor Richard Berke. Waters reports from memory Berke as stating,
There are some good blogs, like Dick’s [fellow panelist Dick Polman]. The bad blogs are the ones that take on the New York Times. Some of the blogs take a toll on our reporters. One question on our minds is, ‘What are the blogs going to say?’ . . . Reporters have to be careful not to pull their punches . . . There are people dedicated to analyzing and picking apart whatever we say and do, not always in a bad way, but sometimes it’s just mean-spirited . . . The bloggers are after us . . . we try not to be affected, but foremost in our mind, we know that everything we write will be picked apart . . . you have to ignore those people that go after you . . . I’m afraid that blogging . . . creates problems for people to do their job.
Well, well, what a cross he has to bear. No man should have to labor under such conditions.
Retirement comes to mind.
What really upsets Pinch and his minions is that bloggers harm their ability to spawn more Times Echoes. Declining circulation shows how serious a problem this is.
A Times Echo is a creature of human respect, although he doesn’t show it as much as he craves it. He sees nothing above his caste, and when he casts his myopic eyes downward, is assaulted by the visage of the common man. This explains his paternalism. He is also a creature of his age, being too disconnected from that which is ageless to transcend it. He is trapped in time and place, the servant who fancies himself a king, the simpleton posing as a savant.
This would explain why publisher Pinch Sulzberger, waxing contemporary, once is reported to have said that the Times
“ . . . can no longer offer our readers a predominantly white, straight, male vision of events . . ..”
Personally, I don’t remember such a practice, unless he meant the vision of a white, straight male named Pinch. But what vision are we to expect? A black, lesbian, female vision? Is the paper to be known henceforth as the “Gay Lady”? A green, reptilian, cold-blooded vision? An orange, beta-carotene, vegetable vision? A brown, sedimentary, mineral vision?
This is why the times of the Times’ woes are times for hope. The near-religion that is the Times dying, its Echoes are becoming fainter. And this is perhaps why they hate the Internet media so. They fear its ascendancy, for they know what fate befalls creatures that cannot or will not adapt to changing times. The oblivion of extinction.
Contact Selwyn Duke.