HUMAN ASSESSMENTS: Five out of six New York Times letter-writers...


...wish Bennet was still on the job:
In this morning's hard-copy New York Times, three letter-writers aren't happy.

They weren't pleased to learn that editorial page editor James Bennet, having been forced to confess to his crimes, had been frogmarched away this past weekend.

Stated as a general matter, they didn't seem to care for the Maoism—or, perhaps, for the mau-mauing. One letter-writer even complains about the newspaper's "ludicrous" judgment:
"What The Times has done amounts to self-censorship, a dumbing-down of the contents of the paper and an insult to the critical faculties of The Times’s readers."
Or so that reader says.

Online, the Times presents six letters
concerning this topic. Five of the letters disagree with the idea that Bennet should be shipped for reeducation deep in the countryside.

That said, one reader's heart was made glad by Bennet's termination. This sixth letter was written in Cambridge, where the issue seemed quite clear:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (6/9/20): I was glad to see the resignation of James Bennet over the publication of “Send In the Troops,” by Tom Cotton. Senator Cotton has a right to his authoritarian, fascist, un-American views, although it is a shame that he holds them. But The Times need not lower its reputation and standing by publicizing those views.
The writer was glad to see Bennet dispatched. He could see that the column is question was authoritarian and fascist, but un-American as well.

So it can go at deeply fraught times such as these. Five out of six letter-writers will fail to exercise suitable judgment. Up in Cambridge, a limited cadre, a type of elect, will see the world as it is.

Did Cotton express "fascist" views in his op-ed column? The essay didn't (and doesn't) strike us that way, or in any particular way at all, but any such assessment will in the end be subjective.

Today's sixth letter doesn't attempt to explain the claim that Cotton's column expressed fascist views. That said, name-calling is bracing at times like these, and a letter to the editor can contain only so many words.

Did the column express a fascist view? In fairness to today's letter writer, he doesn't stand alone.

On June 4, Michelle Goldberg's column for the Times bore this headline: "Tom Cotton's Fascist Op-Ed." (The column hasn't appeared in print editions.)

Goldberg headlined the column as fascist. In keeping with the spirit of the times, she confessed to her own crimes midway through her column:
GOLDBERG (6/4/20): [W]hen I first saw the Cotton Op-Ed I wasn’t as horrified as perhaps I should have been; I figured he’d helpfully revealed himself as a dangerous authoritarian. But as I’ve seen my colleagues’ anguished reaction, I’ve started to doubt my debating-club approach to the question of when to air proto-fascist opinions.
Interesting! When she read the proto-fascist, dangerous column, Goldberg "wasn’t as horrified as perhaps [she] should have been." By June 4, she was seeing more clearly.

Up in Cambridge, that "perhaps" may register as yet another hint of crime. At another point, Goldberg says that she "could be wrong" in something she says, another troubling sign.

In her column, Goldberg offers some perfectly decent complaints about the opinion Cotton expressed in his column. She also picks several amazingly tiny nits, as may occur at such junctures as tribal fervor hardens.

She may not be sure what Cotton wants; at one point, she complains about an idea "which seems to be what Cotton is proposing" (our italics). That said, she does find a racist component to Cotton's column, although we're not sure if she ever explains why the column can be fairly described as "fascist."

Five out of six letter-writers weren't happy to see Bennet go. For some persons of a certain age, the sixth letter-writer may recall an earlier time, when various well-intentioned people were calling out the fascists and the running dogs, with members of the Weather Underground assembling their various bombs.

(Should they have assembled those bombs? In the end, such assessments are always subjective.)

For ourselves, we weren't happy to see Bennet go. As a general matter, we're never happy to hear that someone has lost his or her job, although we understand that such things must sometimes happen.

Concerning the column which laid Bennet low, we'll confess to one observation:

On June 5, a five-paragraph Editors' Note was appended to Cotton's column. In their short Note, the unnamed editors sought to explain why the column "should not have been published."

Should the column have been published? We have no huge view about that. Gigantic volumes of manifest foofaw are published in the Times opinion section on a daily basis. Given the newspaper's overall standards, we can't say that this column stood out.

But as we read that Editors' Note, a few points did stand out. We were struck by the wide array of errors to which the editors themselves confessed. We were also struck by the nit-picky errors the editors claimed that they had now found in the offending column.

Simply put, the New York Times just isn't a very sharp newspaper. It seems to us that the five-paragraph Editors' Note helps illustrate that point.

Tomorrow, we'll plan to examine that highly instructive Note. Beyond that, let's consider the unimpressive attempts at "truth-checking" other Times employees brought to this revolutionary moment.

In the street-fighting summer of '68,
the Beatles warned their fans about this. That said, they were very rich and extremely famous, and they weren't being shipped off to Vietnam or being killed in the South.

Tomorrow: An underwhelming bunch


  1. "The writer was glad to see Bennet dispatched. He could see that the column is question was authoritarian and fascist, but un-American as well."

    Now, that's a good, properly reeducated liberal.

    "When she read the proto-fascist, dangerous column, Goldberg "wasn’t as horrified as perhaps [she] should have been." By June 4, she was seeing more clearly."

    Why, one directive from the central committee - zombie HQ - it makes all the difference in the world, dear Bob.

    You didn't know that? What kind of liberal are you?

    1. Interesting.
      Tell us more hitlerian rightbot.

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  2. Moo Moo times a wasting. Gather up Chlamidia goebbels and head down to the Trumpenbunker for some drano capsules.

  3. It's kinda funny when reality overtakes stupidity and the pathetic defeated fascist pricks cry like spoiled brats.

  4. Somerby complains that a letter-writer labeled Cotton a fascist, while he himself labels that reader by repeatedly mentioning that he lives in Cambridge, as if everyone in Cambridge holds the same views and is attempting to impose those views on other neighborhoods.

    Cambridge is a nice place to live, but we know that Somerby is actually making an oblique reference to Harvard and those ratty professors (the ones at MIT are too busy doing sciencey things to write such letters, apparently). But Cambridge must be the source of all leftist orthodoxy, else why live there? It isn't for the book stores.

    What an asshole our Somerby is today.

  5. The Times should have at least point/ counterpointed it, by having an NRA member's opinion piece advising the shooting of the tyrannical police.


  6. Anyone who takes the ratio of carefully selected pro-firing letters to con letters as an indicator of actual reader reaction is naive beyond words.

  7. They should have balanced Cotton's article with another about how armed citizens should restore life liberty and the pursuit of happiness by forcibly clearing the streets of police, guardsmen etc.

  8. "(Should they have assembled those bombs? In the end, such assessments are always subjective.)"

    As I recall, their bomb maker in NYC blew himself up. Clearly he should have assembled them more carefully.

    Many of the bombs were made by Puerto Rican nationalists, but the ones made by Weathermen were left in empty buildings and injured no one but themselves.

    Is Somerby perhaps trying to frighten us into resisting the siren calls of Black Lives Matter, by reminding everyone that marching leads to lefty violence? Is he trying to frighten the white public, just as Tucker Carlson did by telling white shut-ins that the antifa mob is coming for them?

    Somerby seems to have abandoned persuasion and is now going for fear -- agreeing with calls for reform leads to violence and bomb making, so don't go down to City Hall because that way is the path to perdition. Look how obediently Somerby repeats the Republican line in today's essay. Those letters from Cambridge are DANGEROUS!!!!

  9. "Should the column have been published? We have no huge view about that. Gigantic volumes of manifest foofaw are published in the Times opinion section on a daily basis."

    By this standard, I could justify all kinds of terrible editorials simply because the NY Times publishes sports news. The existence of food and fashion doesn't excuse publishing an editorial that calls for the use of force to suppress dissent protected by the 1st amendment.

    Does Somerby think this is any kind of argument in support of irresponsibly publishing Cotton's views? Among the kinds of speech that are not protected are calls for violence, inciting to riot. Calls for violence to be perpetrated by police or by the government against citizens peacefully exercising their rights is as much against the spirit of the 1st amendment as calls for mob violence would be. I guess Somerby cannot make an actual argument in favor of Cotton's editorial (or he is too chicken to take such position out loud), so he justifies it by saying it is no worse than potato salad recipes and articles about reality shows. What an asshole Somerby is.

  10. While Senator Cotton's op ed was ridiculous, after all what do you expect from a Republican, I did not read it nor do I believe in censorship.
    The more important question is why do they publish Maureen Dowd?

    1. She is in semi-retirement. It would be cruel to fire her just as she is about to go away voluntarily.

    2. It would be censorship if Cotton or a member of the NY Times had submitted the essay and they had refused to run it on doctrinal grounds. Bennet solicited the editorial from Cotton, approaching him on behalf of the paper. That's why they have questioned his judgment.

      You can also consider whether every fringe and crackpot idea belongs in a mainstream paper. Should Q-Anon, for example, have a voice at the NY Times? Should they be permitted to spin their conspiracy theories about real people under the protection of "I don't believe in censorship"? Should people like Hillary Clinton have to sue for libel (with the distress and expense involved) because the NY Times cannot exercise good judgment as a publisher?

  11. "Tomorrow, we'll plan to examine that highly instructive Note."

    Heaven forbid he should examine the editorial itself.

  12. Somerby seems aghast at the word "fascism," which perhaps overstates the op-ed's extremity, but Cotton called for an "overwhelming show of force" by the military to "restore order," which triggered unusual concern from various retired generals. Somerby, though, ignores all this because he wants to pretend that, like always, liberals overreacted in ways totally alien to normal Americans, all of whom, I guess, love punitive suppression of civil society.

    More broadly, this post conflates the op-ed itself with Bennet's firing, but we don't read the Howler for logical precision, do we?

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