Part 4—A (shining) path appears: Nicholas Kristof’s recent column about Kevin Green seemed peculiar to us in at least several ways.
Most peculiar was the way he savaged “lots of Americans” for their (imagined) reaction to his late friend’s difficult life—an (imagined) reaction which, in fairly obvious ways, would make fairly obvious sense.
Kristof told a tragic story as he sketched his late friend’s difficult life. According to Kristof, Green had failed to pay court-ordered child support for his twin sons. This had reached the point where Green had his driver’s license revoked.
Beyond that, Green’s brother said that Green might have tried harder to find a job if not for his disability checks. And alas! According to Kristof’s story, it seems that Kevin Green’s sons may be paying the price for the dysfunction Kristof seemed to describe.
According to Kristof, his friend’s sons have “had trouble in school and with the law.” They have been “jailed for drug and other offenses.”
On its face, that’s a tragic story, with two young people as its apparent victims.
Personally, we wouldn’t be inclined to judge Green based on the sketchy tale a person like Kristof might choose to tell in his latest sanctimonious column. That said, it would hardly be surprising if people less blinkered than Kristof reacted in a negative way to the conduct he attributed to his late friend.
On its face, Kristof is telling a horrible story. In his story, a father seems to have failed his sons—and they seem to be paying the price.
It would hardly be surprising if people thought Kristof’s friend had behaved rather badly. We wouldn’t voice that judgment ourselves. But it would hardly be crazy or strange if someone else ventured such thoughts.
Kristof seemed to see none of this. He closed his very peculiar column with one of his increasingly frequent moral diatribes, in which he savaged The Others:
KRISTOF (1/25/15): Kevin wrote a will a few days before he died. He bequeathed his life’s savings of $3,500 to his mom for his funeral expenses. Anything left over is to be divided between his children—and he begs them not to fight over it. His ashes will be sprinkled on the farm.Was Kevin Green “a good man—hardworking and always on the lookout for someone to help?”
I have trouble diagnosing just what went wrong in that odyssey from sleek distance runner [in high school] to his death at 54, but the lack of good jobs was central to it. Sure, Kevin made mistakes, but his dad had opportunities for good jobs that Kevin never had.
So, Kevin Green, R.I.P. You were a good man—hardworking and always on the lookout for someone to help—yet you were overturned by riptides of inequality. Those who would judge you don’t have a clue. They could use a dose of your own empathy.
We have no way of knowing. But on its face, that seems like a somewhat peculiar assertion, given the tragic and horrible story Kristof himself had just told.
In that story, Kristof’s friend fails to support his young sons—and his sons end up in jail. Weirdly, though, Kristof built his entire column around an attack on people who might think poorly of his friend—on “lots of Americans” who would be “harshly judgmental,” due to their “acerbic condescension” and their “empathy gap.”
In reality, no one had said a word about Green, who wasn’t a public person. That said, would it be surprising or strange if some people were inclined to judge Green poorly, given Kristof’s story?
Actually no—that wouldn’t be strange at all! What’s strange is the way Kristof himself blew past those abandoned boys.
Kristof was raised by two exceptional parents. Might he have an “empathy gap” when it comes to a couple of kids whose parents seem to have failed?
Kristof is perhaps too blinded by dogma to see the shape of his story. But his story seems to involve some truly unfortunate conduct.
Despite this fairly obvious fact, Kristof rails against the “wealthy people” who he imagines saying bad things about his hardworking friend. He bases his denunciation on upper-income respondents’ reactions to a single survey question, while failing to note that 29 percent of people below the poverty line responded the very same way.
Dumb and dishonest? Disgusting and strange? We’d describe this peculiar, unhelpful column in all those ways, and in several more.
What are the actual facts about Kevin Green’s life? Ultimately, we have no idea. Nor do we get any real sense that Nicholas Kristof does.
That said, Kristof wrote a very strange column, which led to a strange conclusion. A man who fails to support his children ends up as his moral exemplar. People imagined to criticize him are attacked as moral lepers.
Given the story Kristof told, how could he end up praising his friend while savaging those who might be inclined to disapprove of his friend’s conduct? Alas! We’d say a dumb, self-impressed prima donna was trafficking in tribal dogma again.
Increasingly, that is the way we operate over here on the pseudo-left.
As the years have gone by, Kristof’s suffocating sanctimony has grown and grown. He parades the world on PBS with teams of female movie stars, letting us gaze at his drive-by moral greatness, whose judgments sometimes strike us as peculiar. In his spare time, he churns out some of the dumbest, but most sanctimonious, columns in the known world.
(Kristof’s current PBS series is called “A Path Appears.” Someone chose to omit the word “shining.” Trigger warning: movie stars! For the PBS web site, click here.)
Increasingly, Kristof’s columns function in the way this recent column did—with large groups of Others being attacked for reactions which really aren’t all that strange. Increasingly, this is the way our tribal leaders behave on the pseudo-left.
In Kristof’s recent column, “lots of Americans” were savaged for an “empathy gap” because they presumably wouldn’t approve of men who fail to support their children. But then, in a recent, five-column series by Kristof, millions of “white people” were condescended to and judged because they just “don’t get it”—because their reactions to racial issues aren’t exactly like those of our self-impressed tribal saint.
Increasingly, moralistic tribal judgment has become our brand on the pseudo-left. We denounce large swaths of The Other Tribe, sometimes in the dumbest possible manner.
We tell ourselves that The Others are bad, even when such people state views which aren’t especially crazy. This is the discourse of The Elect—and uh-oh!
Recently, Kristof himself was attacked in precisely this fashion!
Uh-oh! Saint Kristof offered a tweet about a racial matter—a tweet which was judged to be less than tribally perfect.
Kristof’s comment wasn’t especially crazy. But so what? In the manner of our tribe, other saints among The Elect lit into the running-dog pundit! We happily fell to killing the pig, just as that author described.
Increasingly, Kristof plays a lower-key form of this sad tribal game. Now, the game was turned against him.
Does this (shining) path lead to success? Only those movie stars know!
Tomorrow: Killing the pig in “the enemy camp!” No really—we swear! Joan Walsh!