BREAKING: Egan spots the hate Over There!

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2017

Three snapshots of New York Times journalism:
Many people are upset with yesterday's profile of Tony Hovater, a 29-year-old Nazi sympathizer or maybe just plain old Nazi.

The profile appeared in the Sunday New York Times. The many complaints about the piece have already produced responses from the Times' national editor, Marc Lacey, and from Richard Fausset, the writer of the profile, who uses words like "koanic."

(According to Nexis, it's the only time the word has appeared in the Times in at least the past twenty years. In fact, Nexis has no record of the word ever having appeared in the Times. More on that issue tomorrow.)

In our view, Fausset's profile, and the subsequent statements by Fausset and Lacey, help us spot one basic problem with basic New York Times journalism. We'll plan to discuss Fausset's profile tomorrow. For today, let's consider two more pieces of work from the newspaper's weekend editions.

On Saturday, we thought Timothy Egan gave us a look at the type of tribal vision which can plague the Times. Egan built his op-ed column around the tired old hook concerning political awkwardness at large Thanksgiving gatherings.

Was your family's Turkey Day dinner awkward? As three thousand others have done, Egan linked this to the problem of life under Trump:
EGAN (11/25/17): In the Trump era, we’ve reached peak domestic hatred. Though it has been building for years, Americans of differing political views despise each other to a degree not seen in the modern era. Never, even at the height of impeachment fever around Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, did so much bile run through our waterways.

In 1960, just 5 percent of Republicans and 4 percent of Democrats said they would be upset if their child married someone from the other party. By 2012, nearly half of all Republicans and 33 percent of Democrats said they would not welcome an in-law of the other party into the family.

But here’s one bright spot in the Divided States of Trump: In a strange way, he has also brought many of us together. Trump brings out the worst in his supporters, dragging them down to his adult day care center. By contrast, his opponents have become more inclusive.
We agree—this rampant "domestic hatred" is a major societal problem, as it was, let's say, in the 1850s. Egan starts by making it clear that the hatred tracks to Trump and to his supporters. Near the end of his column, Egan identifies another source of the hatred:
EGAN: The Big Sort—documented in a groundbreaking 2008 book of the same name—gets much of the blame for a landscape of ideological silos. Liberals are more urban, conservatives less so, and the twain seldom meet.

It’s one thing to be drawn to the like-minded, birds of a feather. It’s another to see the other birds as vile. For this, you can blame the right-wing press,
which has built a profitable industry on hatred of a caricatured “other.”
To Egan, the blames lies with the right-wing press, full and complete freaking stop.

In Egan's world, Hillary Clinton never hung that string of adjectives around the necks of The Deplorables, in a move which captured a pool of derision and animosity which has long been found Over Here. To Egan, the hatred is found Over There, full and complete freaking stop.

At this late date in the downward spiral, the blindness there is astonishing. Then too, one must consider all the garbage one is likely to meet in a jam-packed Sunday Times, especially in the Sunday Review.

In truth, the New York Times just isn't very sharp. The paper has long built its brand around the idea that it's the obvious place for extremely bright liberals like Us. That said, would any newspaper except the Times publish a piece as dumb as the one by the fiery, progressiver-than-thou Canadian opinionmeister, 41-year-old Stephen Marche?

In fairness, Marche is discussing a type of problem which has in fact plagued human history all over the world all through the annals of time. That said, in a paper as dumb as the New York Times, an opening paragraph like this will actually seem to make sense to editors,

exciting headline included:

MARCHE (11/26/17): The Unexamined Brutality of the Male Libido

After weeks of continuously unfolding abuse scandals, men have become, quite literally, unbelievable.
What any given man might say about gender politics and how he treats women are separate and unrelated phenomena. Liberal or conservative, feminist or chauvinist, woke or benighted, young or old, found on Fox News or in The New Republic, a man’s stated opinions have next to no relationship to behavior.
In the wake of the past few weeks, have all men "become, quite literally, unbelievable?" A sensible person would assume that no one could possibly mean to say that, but the fiery Marche seems up to the task as his virtuous shouting continues.

Only the New York Times would fail to see how dumb Marche's piece actually is. Before too long, the deeper-than-thou holy warrior is even offering this:
MARCHE: For most of history, we’ve taken for granted the implicit brutality of male sexuality. In 1976, the radical feminist and pornography opponent Andrea Dworkin said that the only sex between a man and a woman that could be undertaken without violence was sex with a flaccid penis: “I think that men will have to give up their precious erections,” she wrote. In the third century A.D., it is widely believed, the great Catholic theologian Origen, working on roughly the same principle, castrated himself.
It's true that male domination of women has been a problem in human societies down through the annals of time. It's also reasonable to assume that there issome biological basis for the impulses and behaviors in question.

That said, is Marche agreeing with the statement he quotes, which claims that "men will have to give up their precious erections?" To appearances, Marche was willing to journey back forty years to find a statement sufficiently peculiar and unhelpful.

Due to the peculiar logical form of Marche's paragraph, it's hard to know what Marche is actually asserting there; this general problem persists throughout his insufficiently flaccid effort. Only at the New York Times would some editor read this piece and fail to see that, as composed, it's silly, loud, unhelpful, fuzzy, self-glorying, stupid and dumb. If it's Sunday, work like this is perfect for the Review!

That said, the New York Times is a very dumb newspaper. It may be hard to grasp this fact, given the powerful branding which persistently signals the opposite. That said, it's the dumbness of Fausset's profile of the Nazi sympathizer or Nazi which most stood out to us.

All in all, the New York Times is a Hamptons-based social club which includes a wide array of strikingly slow learners. Tomorrow we'll turn to the Fausset profile and show you what we mean.

21 comments:

  1. Somerby routinely engages in a peculiar form of straw man argument in order to regularly call the NY Times dumb.

    First he takes very literally something that is obviously figurative language. Second he lifts such usages out of context in order to ridicule them. In so doing, he violates conventions of language that permit us to communicate without lawyerese, without inserting so many qualifiers we would never get to any point.

    When Marche states his generality about men, no one should assume he means ALL men. But Somerby does. When he says they are "quite literally" unbelievable, no one should assume he means all the time, in every circumstance, without exception, unbelievable. But Somerby does. When Dworkin talks about those flaccid penises, she is at the end of a lengthy argument about male/female relationships in which she has describes coercive elements that are inherent to such relationships, making them akin to rape and making male penetration an act of violence. She did not mean and did not say, and did not even imply she considered such relationships to be rape. Marche borrows Dworkin's remark for its irony, but Somerby takes it seriously (literally and out of context).

    I suppose Somerby didn't think to do that Nexus search on the word koan. It is the travesty of adding "ic" to make it into a modifier that makes it scarce, but language evolves. As every linguist knows, it is not prescriptive, no matter how much Somerby wants to complain about high-falutin' New York usage.

    I wish Somerby would stop reading the paper on Sundays. His anti-intellectualism is tedious. We shouldn't even be talking at all, given the depraved species we are.

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    1. If the Times isn't dumd, then wht do they pay Maureen Dowd to write her drivel?

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    2. My theory is they are trying to be representative and there is a segment of their readership that she reflects.

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    3. You don't appear to understand the difference between "men" and "some men". The article uses the term "men." If for example someone said women are stupid, most reasoning people would take offense and believe it meant all women.

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  2. Marche is expressing a disguised "boys will be boys" argument to complain about women's attempts to curb sexual harassment. His stylized expression conceals nothing. Somerby would probably agree with him if he weren't put off by the smugness.

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  3. Is anybody infantilizing the right more ardently than Bob Somerby? The little dears, it is only because they have been warned, reasoned with, laughed at, insulted, that they drag our country into the sewer; an acting out that seems born of affluence and privilege much more than struggle.
    As Barney Frank once remarked "we're sorry we hurt your feelings."
    One wonders if Bob, having tuned out all right wing media, has also tuned out the events of the day.

    This is a state of affairs theorized by Conservatives, purchased by conservatives, justified and viewed with smug pride by conservatives.

    The moral idiocy of letting them off the hook is Bob's dementia.

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  4. "All in all, the New York Times is a Hamptons-based social club which includes a wide array of strikingly slow learners."

    1. What's wrong with living in the Hamptons? It is a nice place to live.

    2. What is wrong with being a slow learner? Some of us can't help it. As long as we keep trying to learn, what's the beef? My mother taught me it wasn't nice to call people stupid.

    3. If Andrea Dworkin wrote a book about the violence of the male libido, is it really unexamined? Does it remain so if no one read her book, because feminist?

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  5. "We're no longer involved in press critique at this award-winning site."
    (TDH, Nov 25)

    "That said, the New York Times is a verydumb newspaper" (today...and every day since 1998)

    "Once you disregard our own millennia of self-praise, what kinds of creatures are we "humans" really? What tiny skills do we really possess?" (TDH, Nov 27)

    Everybody stupid...except your humble("we're just saying"), brilliant, Harvard-educated, 69-year-old foolosophy-major blogger. Did we mention he hobnobbed with future Vice Presidents and Hollywood elites while attending that east coast bastion of boneheaded liberal "professors" who just ain't real smart? Has he created any jobs lately?

    "We're involved in scientific description of a badly misfiring life form" (TDH, Nov 27)

    "Only the New York Times would..."

    There is zero evidence that Bob Somerby reads anything but the NYT and the Wash Post. Quite a scientific logical deduction there, speaking of badly misfiring life forms: *Only* the Times...I guess only 2 newspapers are published in the US.

    "Hillary Clinton ...hung that string of adjectives around the necks of The Deplorables"

    Conservative politicians of course have never hung a string of adjectives around liberals' necks:

    My local right-wing evangelical state senator's publicly stated number one goal is to vanquish liberals. He has called a Christian a bad Christian because they disagreed with him. He has equated liberals with Nazis. What do you suggest as an ice breaker, Bob? How shall I hug him to my soul and listen to his heart? How much shall I demean myself? Do I despise myself for thinking he might be a bully and a danger to democracy?

    Look, Conservative elites have long portrayed conservatives as victims. They even created the notion that the "mainstream press" was liberal and out to get them. Talk to LBJ, Clinton, Gore, and Hillary about the fawning over liberals that the press engages in, and see if they agree with that wayward notion.

    Somerby has no right to demand that the left engage in introspection without making the same demand of the right. They need to put their house in order too.
    And unilateral disarmament by liberals in the political arena is not a path to victory; well, not an acceptable one anyway. If The Right is bent on self-destruction, then no amount of coddling by liberals, or anyone else, can stop it.

    If it helps, Bob, I'll quote a comment from a TDH reader from years ago: "Jesus, but I hate being a liberal." Is that masochistic enough for you?

    Resolved: the left has flaws. So does the right. Happy, Bob? Now, let's move forward and beat the deplorables.

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    1. Somerby has no right to demand that the left engage in introspection without making the same demand of the right.

      why not?

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    2. "why not?"

      I agree. That's demanding the impossible.

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    3. To argue semantics, Anon 9:33, the word "right" in the above comment doesn't refer to one's legal right to speak; that's a right that is possessed by even the lowliest cretin in the country. It is obvious from the context that Somerby's moral authority is in question; it is stupid, misguided, and wrong for Somerby to ask this. 'No right' means wrong in this case.

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    4. i have been reading tdh since krugman led me here in 2003. I learned alot from bob but i have to admit that your position 6:23 is fair and refreshing. Conservatives demand bobs attention.

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  6. Hillary was quite understating in saying up to half of Trump supporters were deplorable. We have now seen Trump revealed as an indisputable pathological liar and deviate in many ways, yet well over half his supporters revel in his deviance. I'd say 75% deplorable with many far worse would be closer.

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    1. They revel in people like you losing. Poor dumb bastards. Sad but true. They HATE you.

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    2. That's OK. Somerby loves them.

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  7. Here's the thing Unknown. Trump may be an ugly example of a human being. But, I am more concerned with the other 300 million Americans. From my POV Trump is doing a pretty good job for the rest of us. ISIS is on the run. America's economy is booming, which helps all of us. Illegal immigration is substantially reduced, which helps all Americans, particularly the poor.

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    1. The National Parks cost more, the environment is being polluted, taxes on poor & middle class are going up, schools are getting worse, disasters in Calif ad Puerto Rico are being ignored, but David is happy.

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    2. David is typical of the Conservative coastal elite, comfortable in knowing he need not be concerned with the struggles in "flyover country".

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  8. Somerby, pretentious twit: Here's how our press fails us daily.

    Us, no dummies: Let's move the left forward: Abandon self-critique now!

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    1. Except that Somerby mocks, rather than critiques. And his criticisms are often based on an erroneous or deceptive reading of his target. He is not a trustworthy or useful source of "press criticism" ( which by the way, he asserted in a previous post was no longer the purpose of his blog...but here we are).

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  9. Do we really need a NY Times article to tell us that racist hatred is "normal" in many parts of the United States?
    What next, a NY Times piece about how evangelical christians are more enamored with segregation of the races than with the teachings of Christ in the Bible?

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