The New York Times chases Salon: Two weeks back, Harold Meyerson wrote an instructive column in the Washington Post.
In effect, the column praised Zephyr Teachout’s challenge to Andrew Cuomo in New York’s gubernatorial primary. Meyerson also praised liberal voters who walked away from Cuomo.
In effect, Meyerson offered good sound advice to Democratic voters. According to Meyerson, we shouldn’t let politicians buy us off with “social issues” while they pander to plutocrats about everything else:
MEYERSON (9/11/14): That was a notably unimpressive victory that Andrew Cuomo secured in Tuesday's Democratic primary election in New York, receiving his party's nod for a second term as governor. Cuomo defeated Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout, a largely unknown and almost totally unfunded political novice, 62 percent to 34 percent—“the strongest challenge to an incumbent governor,” the New York Times noted, since the advent of gubernatorial primaries in the state. Teachout's total, the Times continued, was "a signal of the potent dissatisfaction with Mr. Cuomo in his party's left wing."When we read that column, we thought of the diet of issues we tend to get fed on MSNBC. The millionaire anchors tend to focus on social issues, along with a good solid dose of partisan thrills and enjoyment.
Cuomo's estrangement of Democratic liberals wasn't due to any social conservatism on his part. In his first term as governor, Cuomo pushed through a same-sex marriage bill and tighter gun-control legislation. But his resistance to some key economic imperatives, allowing New York City to set a minimum-wage rate higher than the state's and keeping a heightened tax rate on the income of the state's wealthiest residents (that is, Wall Street bankers), and his unwillingness to campaign for Democratic control of the state Senate, which would boost the prospects for such legislation, angered many of his fellow Democrats. They believed Cuomo was cultivating Wall Street support for a possible presidential bid, an ambition that stood athwart their efforts to mitigate New York's skyscraper-high inequality.
Cuomo's travails reflect a growing trend in Democratic politics: In blue cities and states, being a social liberal will no longer suffice.
They tend to ignore some basic economic issues which might offend the plutocrats and what Ken Burns calls “the trusts.” In such ways, one might imagine, large salaries paid by corporate owners are perhaps kept alive.
We thought of Meyerson’s column again when we scanned the Sunday Review in yesterday’s New York Times. The issue here isn’t quite the same, but it’s in the ballpark.
Talk about getting fed a diet of excitement about the social issues, especially about exciting matters of sex! We thought yesterday’s selection of pieces was strikingly odd:
On its front page, the Sunday Review featured a 2235-word piece by Charles Blow concerning the history of his sexual preference. (It’s an excerpt from a forthcoming book which may be quite good.)
Inside the section, Maureen Dowd was wasting everyone’s time with a column in which she visits Willie Nelson’s bus and gets herself good and high on ganja—“Mary Jane,” hemp. Or something—the gods of sanity refused to let us reach her thrilling conclusion.
For our money, Nicholas Kristof really completed the hat trick. We thought his column represented the day’s weirdest manifestation.
Kristof began in an unusual way, with a reference to a naked nude photo—a naked nude photo of someone unclothed which was right there on the page, right there next to his column!
Warning! Naked photo of someone unclothed!
KRISTOF (9/21/14): Alicia Keys is a superstar singer who has mostly kept her clothes on and gossip off. So what is she doing in this photo, dressed only in a peace sign?The photo in question was right there, fronting Kristof’s column. As we soon learned, it showed the naked and pregnant Keys engaged in a bit of high-minded introspection:
KRISTOF (continuing directly): Her answer has to do with the purpose of life. Last month, as she was sickened by grim news—from the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., to the toll in Gaza and Syria—a friend of hers lobbed a provocative question about the meaning of our existence: Why are you here?Really? No one had asked her that question before? Do you really believe that?
“Nobody had asked me that question before,” Keys recalled. It got her thinking about her mission in life, her legacy. She is one of the world’s best-known singers, but many of her songs have been about love or heartbreak. She has 35 million fans on Facebook and almost 20 million followers on Twitter, but she wasn’t leveraging that audience for some broader purpose.
So she is now starting a We Are Here movement to channel her music and her fans to social justice causes, from stricter gun laws to criminal justice reform, from gay rights to global girls’ education.
Alicia Keys is 33—in fact, 33 and a half! Do you really believe that statement, except perhaps in some tremendously narrow technical sense?
We can’t say we believe that statement. But for whatever reason, Kristof did! He even ran the naked nude photo, which has no apparent connection to any known attempt to answer such a question, which everyone else wastes time answering when they’re maybe ten.
Or when they get stoned on Nelson’s bus! Which may have happened to Dowd!
We thought yesterday’s Sunday Review was strange. (Most weeks, it’s amazingly dull.) As we perused its unusual offerings, we thought of the way the new Salon made an obvious decision at some point to go heavily tabloid, with lots and lots of sexy-time sex talk for human interest.
Sexuality is a very important subject, of course. It’s also the easiest way to attract the eyeballs of us the rubes.
Yesterday, was the New York Times sincere? Or was the paper chasing eyeballs?
Maybe it’s just our imagination, but this morning, the New York Times almost seems to be keeping it up.
Today’s National section is full of reports about pointless disputes concerning strip clubs, with the trill of a child pornography case—in the military!—added as a chaser.
In the first of the strip club reports, the Times includes a photograph of “a dancer using the name Melody.” How else could the paper help us grasp what its report is about?
Do you believe the Times is sincere in its recent topic selection? Everything is possible, of course. As a general matter, we think such an assumption would be a bad idea.
Back to Meyerson’s somewhat different, somewhat similar point:
Obviously, the “social issues” are very important. But when we watch The One True Channel, we sometimes note the topics which don’t get discussed, as well as the topics which do.
We sometimes wonder if corporate suits are creating our blend of topics for us. Are some topics picked to grab our eyeballs? Are other topics perhaps discarded in thrall to plutocrats?
A final possible look behind the curtain:
Over at the new Salon, Tracy Clark-Flory is one of the most ridiculous floggers of all matters sexual and pseudo-sexual. After this rather pathetic bad-faith presentation, we decided to find out who Tracy Clark-Flory is.
To her credit, she makes no “boners” about it! At Linked In, Clark-Flory tells future employers that she “consistently ranks among Salon’s top traffic drivers.”
We have no doubt that she does! But in politics as in journalism, a question may arise:
Why does Clark-Flory do it? What makes the new Salon run?