Foo-foo piddle versus existential cultural threat: We were struck by two columns in today’s New York Times.
One column was written by Anna Sauerbrey, a guest contributor from across the waters. It sits beneath a solid black graphic which features a stick figure and this one word: FARFROMDUDEN.
The headlines on Sauerbrey’s column say this. We’re sure her question matters:
How Do You Say ‘Blog’ in German?
Why Europeans should embrace linguistic cosmopolitanism.
Should Europeans embrace linguistic cosmopolitanism? Offhand, we’d have to say we’re farfrombeingsure. Nor did we read this particular column, even though Sauerbrey is an editor for the opinion page of the daily German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel.
Perhaps the column is very significant. It struck us as the kind of foo-foo fiddle-faddle the New York Times likes to wave about, messaging readers that they are cosmopolitan and rather sharp.
As a general rule, Times readers don’t strike us as cosmopolitan or as especially sharp. Beyond that, they live in a country whose intellectual culture is utterly, crazily failing.
Nicholas Kristof writes today about that ongoing implosion. His column appears right next to the one about the FARFROMDUDEN.
This is the way Kristof starts, headline included:
KRISTOF (9/26/13): Suffocating Echo ChamberWe agree that “the right-wing echo chamber” is bad for conservatives and other living things. But uh-oh! Later in his column, Kristof dared to say this:
When Senator Ted Cruz of La Mancha jumped on his trusty steed and charged the windmills, he explained: “Everyone in America knows Obamacare is destroying the economy.” He added that accepting the Affordable Care Act would be like appeasing the Nazis.
Cruz is a smart man, and maybe this is just disingenuous demagoguery. But there’s a scarier possibility: After spending too much time in the Republican echo chamber, he may believe what he says.
In the 1990s, as conservative talk radio spread across America, liberals felt victimized. But, in retrospect, the rise of talk radio, Fox News Channel and right-wing Web sites may have done greatest harm to conservatives themselves.
The right-wing echo chamber breeds extremism, intimidates Republican moderates and misleads people into thinking that their worldview is broadly shared.
KRISTOF: Of course, the left has long had its own version of this problem as well. After Richard Nixon’s 1972 landslide re-election, Pauline Kael of The New Yorker famously said she was mystified because she knew only one person who had voted for Nixon. MSNBC and The Huffington Post have become cocoons for liberals, just as Fox News is for conservatives.Needless to say, complaints have flooded the pundit in comments. How could he think that similar problems might exist on the left at all?
Both Fox News and MSNBC rely more on punditry than on reporting from the field, and I remember once early in the Iraq war when I was with American troops watching on Fox News Channel as blowhards in the studio claimed that Iraqis were welcoming us with flowers. We watched, stunned, wondering what war the network was covering.
Research suggests that the echo chamber effect is disproportionately a problem on the right, leading inhabitants to perceive a warped reality...
We were struck by the contrast between these two columns. The one column seemed highly foo-foo, like a fair amount of material in the Times. Just check out this piece in today’s Fashion & Style section: “New Beauty Goal: Plumper Cheeks.”
Not that there’s anything wrong with them!
Kristof’s column struck as a bit of a polar opposite. Our nation is imploding under the weight of the tribal lunacy he is discussing. As we thought about his column, we were struck by how primitive a first pass at this problem Kristof is making today.
By now, how is it possible that some version of this column hasn’t appeared at least 300 times? Why hasn’t a lengthy discussion of this problem already taken place on the Times op-ed page?
We may build next week’s reports around this primitive Kristof column. For today, if you seek amusement, just review the comments to Kristof’s piece.
Note how many liberals are sure, so sure, that no such problem could exist over here in Our Own Perfect Tribe. Could suffocation in echo chambers explain reactions like that?