...on those second-grade Turkey Day pageants: The New York Times is never slow to pander to its readers. Consider what we encountered on page A2 of last Friday's print editions.
The silly encomium came from Marc Lacey, the newspaper's national editor. Lacey was pandering to New York Times readers, and he was pandering hard.
Below, you see the ridiculous way the fulsome fellow started. We include Lacey's hard-copy headline. All the italics are his:
We Try to Avoid Superlatives, But Our Readers Really Are the BestLacey's piece continued from there. Because you think we're making this up, you can examine it here.
Journalists are cautious about using superlatives. Say something is the worst and it is likely that someone somewhere will point out an even more dire example. The hottest. The deadliest. The earliest. These are all fraught terms.
But here’s an assertion that none of you will challenge: The Times is blessed with the very finest readers of any publication. They are the brightest and most erudite. They are the most compassionate and thoughtful readers around. Challenge that!
We regularly receive evidence of just how exceptional you are. You praise our most ambitious work. You critique us when we mess things up. You offer up insightful tips, wise ideas, juicy information...
At any rate, no one could possibly challenge the claim that New York Times readers are best! Does American exceptionalism sometimes seem dumb? This is the localized New York Times variant!
We've referred to Lacey's foolishness as a pander, and we think we're being kind. On the other hand, it's always possible that this newspapers' frequently hapless editors really believe that twaddle.
Ever so briefly, let's proceed on that fantastical assumption.
Timesmen like Lacey really believe that New York Times readers are brightest and best! This may explain why the Times was willing to trust its readers with a pair of courageous opinion columns, on Thanksgiving Day no less.
Finally! Finally, and also at long last, someone was willing to tear the curtain back from those second-grade Thanksgiving pageants which get the real history wrong!
Finally, someone was willing to go there! The brave pathfinder was the Times, which published this hard-hitting pair of opinion columns on Thanksgiving Day (we're including the columns' sub-headlines):
The Horrible History of Thanksgiving:Professor Silverman's supercilious piece appeared in last Thursday's print editions. Blow's screeching companion offering—how long until his screeching columns begin to appear in all caps?—accompanied it on line.
Before you fill your plate, please remember why we mark this day.
November 28, 2019
Written by Charles M. Blow
The Vicious Reality Behind the Thanksgiving Myth:
If Americans continue to insist on associating the holiday with Pilgrims and Indians, the least we can do is try to get the story straight.
November 28, 2019
Written by Professor Silverman
At any rate, finally! Finally, someone was willing to tackle this subject matter, which has always been off limits! In fact, the Times had taken the same journalistic risk just two years ago in a challenging "fact check" essay:
Everything You Learned About Thanksgiving Is WrongWhile we're handing our medals for journalistic courage, it should be noted that Blow presents a lengthy quotation from an earlier daring piece which appeared in Fortune:
November 21, 2017
Written by Maya Salam
Thanksgiving Myths, Legends and Lies: Why Settlers Really Started the Annual FeastThe lengthy quotation presented by Blow makes no sense on its face, a fact which escaped Blow himself, his New York Times editor and Donnelly's editors at Fortune. But so it goes when brave explorers set out on high seas.
November 21, 2017
Written by Grace Donnelly
(We'll examine this journalistic error tomorrow. As we'll eventually see, the journalistic clowning gets worse—gets much, much worse—elsewhere.)
At this point, a pattern begins to emerge. In fact, the debunking of Turkey Day legends and lies is one of the tedious, hackneyed conventions our American journalists seem to love.
The debunking of the lies told at second-grade pageants—and yes, Professor Silverman explicitly cites "Ameri[k]ans’ grade school Thanksgiving pageants" in his condescending remarks—normally serves as a gateway to a new Christmas-season tradition, in which scolding journalists tell us that the traditional winter song, "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is really a paean to date rape.
At the Times, Salam has already teased this tradition this year with this daring, hard-hitting piece.
John Legend Updates ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ for the #MeToo Era:There's certainly nothing "wrong" with what Legend and Clarkson have done. But is it possible that something is wrong with our hackneyed holiday journalism, in which supercilious professors and slow-witted scribes undertake to scold the electorate well about their Amerikan traditions?
Legend and Kelly Clarkson replaced lyrics that some considered an allusion to date rape. Gone: “Say, what’s in this drink?” New: “It’s your body, and your choice.”
October 29, 2019
Written by Maya Salam
Is it possible that this sort of journalism contributes to the emerging phenomenon known as "death by woke?" It is possible that this sort of journalism will help re-elect Donald J. Trump?
Could all this sillybill scolding help re-elect Donald Trump? Just in case the answer is yes, we're forced to warn you about something we saw on Friday morning's page A3.
Sure enough! Right across from Lacey's pander on page A2, we encountered this on page A3:
The ConversationBlow's column was the most read article across the entire Times empire! How bright do we readers seem now?
FOUR OF THE MOST READ, SHARED AND DISCUSSED POSTS FROM ACROSS NYTIMES.COM
1. The Horrible History of Thanksgiving:
Thursday's most read article was this Op-Ed from Charles Blow, a columnist for The Times. Mr. Blow writes that he grew up believing the "gauzy" version on [sic] Thanksgiving: "I was blind, willfully ignorant, I suppose."
By his own admission, Charles M. Blow was willfully ignorant when he was in second grade. One wonders what we exceptional, erudite readers thought of that peculiar confession. Also, what did we think when we encountered Blow's peculiar sourcing, including the lengthy quotation from Fortune which makes no sense on its face?
Spoiler alert! The Fortune piece was written by Donnelly when she was one year out of college. To appearances, she had as much business discussing the history of Thanksgiving as we would have being assigned to run the Bolshoi Ballet.
She composed a passage which made no sense but was "close enough for journalistic work." Two years later, it was cut-and-pasted into the Times. Most important, she and Blow had remembered to scold the electorate well.
Doe this journalistic practice help explain the success of Trump? As we explore the clownistry well, we'll suggest that it probably does.
Tomorrow: A fabulous topic spoiled