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.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:
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.
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.To Egan, the blames lies with the right-wing press, full and complete freaking stop.
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.”
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 LibidoIn 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.
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.
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.