on Sun – July 25, 2004 at 03:48 PM
I’m almost (but clearly, not entirely) speechless.
Daniel Okrent, the Public Editor (don’t say ombudsman) of the NYT asks the question, “Is the New York Times a liberal newspaper?”
And then he immediately answers it: “Of course it is .”
Oh. Well then. I guess we can all go and talk about something else now.
But, it does kind of bring new meaning to the motto, “All the news that’s fit to print.”
His point, and I give him credit for making it, is that the heart of the New York Times is in New York. Things that get the hackles up on us rubes in fly-over country (psychologically, if not physically) elicit nothing more than a bored, post-modernist yawn in the Big Apple – they’ve seen it all.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be fact-checking them at every opportunity – it’s one thing to admit to your biases in how you cover a story, or even which stories you choose to cover. It’s a whole ‘nother thing to change the meaning of a sentence by careful use of elipses, or to present one slant on a story in bold-faced headlines, while stowing the part that tends to shed more balanced light in paragraph 33.
But one of the things about the NYT in the last year or so has been its unremitting hostility to the war in Iraq, and by scarcely disguised proxy, on that war’s chief architects.
Seems to me like ending tyranny and extending democracy used to be a core liberal value. When did that change?
Free speech in the academy, the open and civil exchange of views in an environment of grateful appreciation for differences of opinion. When did that change?
The pursuit of excellence without reference to background, true equality of opportunity but not guarantee of outcome, a way of promoting the most qualified to the best environments to enhance our collective trek for progress, in the law, in science, in business. When did that change?
The freedom to profess and practice your faith, as God has given you to see it, without interference from the state. When did that change?
The right to bear arms, as a way of protecting the citizenry from the tyranny of the state. When did that change?
The US Constitution, the most liberal document of its time, with a built-in revision mechanism, explicitly gave the legislature the power to make laws, the executive branch the power to administer them and the courts to power to interpret them. When the political will could not be built inside the legislature to pass the burgeoning agendas, unchecked activist courts became vehicles to do so, by divining new rights and interpretations which stood the Constitution itself on its head. When did that change?
I must have missed the meeting.
On the first topic, the war in Iraq, I’d ask Mr Okrent this: Would the NYT have treated this issue differently if President Al Gore had waged the campaign?
If so, that’s not being liberal – that’s being partisan. Because to my way of thinking, there’s a world of difference between liberalism, classically understood, and the way that these philosophies have come to be understood in the modern Democratic party, where an ever-expanding league of single-issue advocates make common cause with each other to stamp out heresy and destroy opposition.
John F. Kennedy and Franklin Delano Roosevelt belonged to a party that believed in America’s essential goodness, enabling it to act on the world stage, while simultaneously attempting to forge within our borders a “more perfect union.” I could get behind that. I’d be at least willing to entertain that discussion, honestly debate the means and ends, and potentially unforeseen consequences.
The modern left seems to be looking less to debate on what kind of country we could be, than to highlight all the terrible crimes attaching to merely being an American – especially one that doesn’t agree with them. It stamps its feet, and bangs its spoon against the high chair at dissent, castigating historical heroes while disregarding any discussion of the flaws and failures that any human institution in its evolution must necessarily be heir to – while simultaneously seeking out new witches to burn.
Liberalism as a philosophy is a proud intellectual tradition, worthy of debate, and in fact exultant in it. Partisanship is akin to grubbing in the dirt for advantage – aiding your friends, punishing your foes. It is the tawdry underside of politics, a force for divisiveness and the end of civil discourse.
Mr Okrent, my hat’s off to you for taking the first step in self-awareness – now leap the chasm, and let’s have a debate.