Part 3—The New York Times doesn’t do taxes: Are we self-impressed human beings really “the rational animal?”
If you believe that, you’ve never watched the New York Times in action. Consider the weight that is given to two different topics in this morning’s Times.
On the front page, the Times discusses an offhand remark by a political consultant. In its headline, has the Times announced the adoption of a new journalistic norm?
Key Support, a Convincing Win, and Another Gaffe for RomneyDid Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom commit a “gaffe” with yesterday’s Etch a Sketch comment? In its headline and in its news report, the Times treats this as a matter of fact.
Eric Fehrnstrom committed a gaffe. The Times is reporting this fact.
We’re not sure we’ve even seen a major news org treat an alleged “gaffe” that way. Unless we’re mistaken, the claim that someone committed a “gaffe” has generally been treated as a matter of judgment, not as a matter of fact.
That said, the appeal of this topic is quite evident in Jeff Zeleny’s news report. Just a guess—this is why the Times loves Etch a Sketch:
ZELENY (3/22/12): The comments from Mr. Fehrnstrom followed a Romney campaign pattern of committing unforced errors after major victories. And they flared throughout the day from Republicans and Democrats alike, moving beyond politics into a hard-to-forget moment of popular culture that could be difficult for Mr. Romney to shake.Etch a Sketch! It’s easy to talk about, hard to forget! Because it’s drawn from our “popular culture,” even the simplest, dimmest souls will be able to track the discussion! And make no mistake:
Our modern journalists should often be numbered among our simplest, dimmest souls. They like discussing dogs on cars; they’re drawn to Mormon menstruation. Shit like this is right in their comfort zone.
Major tax policy isn’t.
In this morning’s paper, the New York Times devotes two full reports to Fehrnstrom’s Etch a Sketch comment. Inside the paper, Zeleny’s front-page news report is supplemented by this profile of Fehrnstrom; the Times works Etch a Sketch into its headline, just as Maureen Dowd did with Elvis this Sunday. (“For Romney’s Trusted Adviser, ‘Etch a Sketch’ Comment Is a Rare Misstep”/”Is Elvis a Mormon?”) Through such headlines, the Times reaches out to the dimmest among us.
And it pleases itself.
For the most part, the New York Times is populated by a classically dumb upper-class elite. Upper-class cultures have always been fatuous. By their works ye can know them—although our mythologies tell our lizard brains that this simply can’t be the case when it comes to our millionaire journalists.
Etch a Sketch gets very big play in this morning’s Times. According to Nexis, the two reports on this gaffe from popular culture burn a total of 1974 words. Etch a Sketch rates three large photos, one of them on the front page.
By way of contrast, what does the New York Times do with the new GOP budget plan? For that, we direct you to Jonathan Weisman’s news report—a report which appears below the fold on page A20, burning 896 words.
In today’s Times, Etch a Sketch gets twice as many words as the new budget plan. In fairness, this is Weisman’s second-day, follow-up report about the budget plan. In part, this explains his fatuous content; in today’s report, Weisman quotes the various things various people have said about the GOP proposal. He makes no attempt to explain the plan or its startling proposals.
Is Etch a Sketch more important than federal taxes and federal spending? Yesterday, Weisman did his initial report about the startling new budget proposal. For a look at the values which define the Times, consider that sorry report.
Today, Etch a Sketch made the Times front page; yesterday, the new budget plan did not. In our own hard-copy Times (Washington Edition), Weisman's report appeared on page A9. According to the Times web site, the report appeared on page A10 of the National Edition.
Wherever! Weisman’s report ran 1038 words; it was accompanied by this graphic. Having said that, the text which follows represents Weisman’s complete attempt to explain the GOP’s astonishing new tax proposals:
WEISMAN (3/21/12): House Republicans thrust their vision of a smaller government, a flatter tax code and a free-market Medicare system into the 2012 election season on Tuesday, banking that fears over surging federal deficits will trump longstanding voter allegiances to popular government programs.In two days of reporting, that’s all Times readers have been told about the GOP tax proposals. Having said that, do you understand the few things Weisman said?
The House Budget Committee blueprint for spending and taxation over the next decade would reshape Medicare into a system of private insurance plans, shrink programs for the poor and turn them over to state governments, and try to simplify the tax code for individuals and businesses. The six existing tax rates, topping off at 35 percent, would be reduced to two, 10 percent and 25 percent...
The tax code would be simplified to just two tax rates, 10 percent and 25 percent, with the closure of tax credits and deductions. The 35 percent corporate income tax would be lowered to 25 percent and the existing worldwide system of taxing corporate profits would be changed to a territorial system where only domestic profits are subject to United States corporate taxation. The budget assumes revenues would stay consistent with revenues under the current individual and corporate tax codes.
“The budget assumes revenues would stay consistent with revenues under the current individual and corporate tax codes?” Do you understand what that string of words means? Neither does anyone else who fought his or her way through yesterday’s pseudo-reporting.
In yesterday’s Washington Post, the editors reacted with shock to the tax proposals found in this plan; they said these proposals would reduce greatly revenues over the next ten years (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/21/12). By way of contrast, Weisman offered that one murky paragraph about the GOP tax proposals. In our hard-copy Times, it was the next-to-last paragraph in his sketchy report.
Etch a Sketch gets big play today. But uh-oh! In two full days of reporting, those startling GOP tax proposals barely exist. But then, this is a fatuous, upper-class newspaper—a newspaper which revels in dogs on the roofs of cars and Mormon menstruation with Elvis. Despite its fame, this iconic American newspaper has an extremely low IQ. Of course, this has been true of the cultures of pampered elites down through the ages.
Having said that, it may be for the best when the Times takes a pass on those tax proposals. Tomorrow, we’ll see what happens when the Times attempts to discuss federal taxes.
Tomorrow: When journalists try to do taxes