Part 5—Also, Trump eats cheeseburgers: Should the editors of the New York Times have published those fifteen letters?
Not necessarily, no. We refer to the fifteen letters from Trump supporters the editors published last Thursday morning. You can read those letters here.
In hard copy, the fifteen letters filled the entire editorial page. Why would the editors publish such dreck? In Thursday's hard-copy Times, they explained their motive thusly:
The Times editorial board has been sharply critical of the Trump presidency, on grounds of policy and personal conduct. Not all readers have been persuaded. In the spirit of open debate, and in hopes of helping readers who agree with us better understand the views of those who don’t, we wanted to let Mr. Trump’s supporters make their best case for him as the first year of his presidency approaches its close. Tomorrow we'll present some letters from readers who voted for Mr. Trump but are now disillusioned, and from those reacting to these letters and our decision to provide Trump voters this platform.The editors had published the letters "in the spirit of open debate." Also, the editors hoped the fifteen letters would help the newspaper's brighter readers "better understand the views of" people who still support Trump.
That was the project the Times undertook. How did the project work out? Perhaps not especially well!
The next day, the editors published seven rebuttal letters from our own liberal tribe. In truth, we've seen brighter forums. The fifteen letters from Trump supporters had claimed a wide array of policy accomplishments for Trump. The next day, the second letter of rebuttal zeroed in on something different.
It turned to the cheeseburger problem:
To the Editor:Many of the fifteen letters had criticized Trump for his tweeting. None had mentioned his love of cheeseburgers. But because of an editorial judgment, that's where this letter from our tribe went.
How depressing. These Trump supporters have had a year to assess a man who has spent his presidency—when he isn’t reclining in bed watching cable TV while wolfing down cheeseburgers and tweeting mean nicknames—lying, bullying and obstructing to cover up possible crimes against our democracy. Despite this, they’ve yet to wise up.
Should the editors of the Times have chosen to publish that letter?
Should the editors have published that letter? It seems to us that an explanation was due. It may well be that the New York Times got many rebuttal letters like that. That said, the editors probably should have explained how they selected these seven letters, the bulk of which portrayed our tribe in a less than flattering light.
In truth, the fiery fellow from Kalamazoo had nothing specific to offer, public discussion-wise. Beyond that, the seven letters of rebuttal were, on the whole, marked by an insulting tone.
For ourselves, we'd have to say the letters were also marked by a fairly obvious dumbness. The letter about the cheeseburgers was the second rebuttal the editors published. The third letter started like this:
To the Editor:This letter was built on an insult. Wonderfully, the writer complained that Trump supporters aren't "open to dialogue." Right before that, he himself had aggressively scalded the Times for trying to establish a forum!
Perhaps The Times should devote an entire editorial page to flat earthers. For dialogue and understanding, of course. That is how ridiculous it is to waste vital newspaper space, in these perilous times, to people who aid and abet a president, and his congressional lackeys, who are destroying all that is noble and just about America.
Trump supporters are not open to dialogue. They feel aggrieved. They refuse to see the litany of lies, ongoing corruption and totalitarian predispositions of the person they voted for and continue to laud.
The Portland letter seemed to say that it was pointless to talk to Trump supporters. The fifth rebuttal, from liberal hub Austin, stated the point more directly:
To the Editor:This writer was offended by the Times' insistence on speaking to people like these. "Who cares what [subhumans] think?" the fiery progressive asked.
Why do you keep asking questions of Trump voters? Who cares what they think? The Trump administration has been a complete failure and the world knows it, yet you insist on talking to people who, no matter what, think that President Trump is the messiah!
Start talking to people who have their heads in reality, who understand the problems of the world, who understand the harm an inept administration can do.
R— K—, AUSTIN, TEX.
The seventh letter put a capper on this general theme, though perhaps a bit whimsically. Please don't publish Trump voters agaun, this thoughtful writer begged:
To the Editor:Dear New York Times, this woman said. Please don't ever ask us to listen to Those People again!
Dear New York Times,
Please don’t ever do that again.
R— L—, NEW YORK
As we read these letters, we thought of the late Gene Brabender. Way back when, the big righthander became the poster boy for the eternal, prehuman desire to undertake no public discussions—to avoid the annoyance of ever hearing the views of The Others at all.
"Where I come from, we just talk for a little while," the big right-hander memorably said in a widely-praised book. "After that we start to hit."
We just talk for a little while. After that, we start to brawl! So it went in most of the letters from our own liberal tribe in Day 2 of the Times forum.
Essence of Brabender was on display in the letters the Times chose to publish. This raised a basic question:
Why did the editors publish those letters? We think they should have explained. That said, anyone who reads comment threads at liberal sites knows that those letters' dismissive attitude is widespread within our liberal tribe. Nor should anyone be surprised to see Times editors failing badly in their purported attempt to create a meaningful forum.
Should the editors have published those seven letters? Absent some sort of explanation, we'd say the answer is no. On the whole, the letters brought plenty of heat to the forum, with no attempt at providing light in any particular area.
They came from the realm of personal insult. Consider the first rebuttal the Times chose to publish, the longest of the seven by far.
This first letter of rebuttal came from "a former newspaper editor." Did the letters from our tribe feature the spirit of insult and name-calling? This is the way this lengthiest letter began:
To the Editor:That was the way this first letter began. This opening struck us as strange.
As one who does think of President Trump’s supporters as among the “deplorables”—people who are racist and xenophobic, people who fear the world, people who blame others for all their challenges and woes, people who hate the very idea of government as a force for good—I was fascinated to read the letters from Trump voters.
In fairness, this former newspaper editor didn't compare the Trump supporters to a bunch of flat earthers. That said, he went straight to the famous insult which helped define the Trump-Clinton campaign and, perhaps, helped engineer Clinton's defeat.
As the former editor started his musings, he said he does think of Trump supporters as "deplorables"—as racists and xenophobes. This was the very first comment the Times chose to publish. This probably isn't the greatest way to structure a meaningful forum.
The former editor said he does think of Those People as racists! He went on to suggest that the fifteen letter writers are "more educated" than most Trump voters—and he authored a classic bit of time-honored TribalThink.
The former newspaper editor thanked the Times for giving him "a better understanding now of what these writers see happening under Mr. Trump." He then went on to tell us "what it is they’re really so happy about."
What are They really happy about? Without attempting to argue any particular case, the former editor went on to characterize The Others' views in the most unflattering way possible.
He didn't try to argue his case. Speaking with the voice of authority, he simply proceeded to say what's really happening out there. This is the way we less-than-humans have always behaved at such junctures, for the past ten trillion years.
Who could possibly care what They think? That was the essence of the seven rebuttals the editors published. None of the writers of these letters actually tried to argue a point. Instead, the letters wallowed in insult and asked the world's oldest question:
Who cares what The Other Tribe thinks? Why should we speak to Them?
The answer to that question is fairly obvious. Given the way our system operates, people who care about election outcomes should care what their neighbors think.
That said, the wiring of our flailing species was put in place long ago. No elections existed then. Our prehuman wiring evolved when we were huddled in small, frightened tribes, and it's still within a tribe that we self-impressed liberals dwell.
The editors tried to create a forum. Just as it ever was, just as it tends to be at the Times, the editors, on their way to the Hamptons, displayed little skill at this work.
Also, Donald J. Trump eats cheeseburgers! What kind of dope supports him?