WEDNESDAY, MARCH 17, 2021
No, we're not making this up: We received an email today from a major journalist. The email ended with this:
"It's getting progressively dumber out there, ain't it?"
It seems that way to us. As an example, consider three angry letters which appeared in this morning's New York Times.
The angry letters concern a column in last weekend's Sunday Review. In print editions, the column appeared beneath this headline:
We Stuck It Out in the City
The column was written by Luke Winkie, a youngster whose work has appeared in the Times on a few other occasions. In Sunday's column, he suggested fining people who left New York City during the pandemic and are returning to Gotham now.
All three letters flatly reject Winkie's proposal. The first letter is most measured. Here's its total text:
To the Editor:
Luke Winkie’s splendidly provocative essay reflects the anger that many New Yorkers feel toward those who chose to leave the city during the pandemic. However, the severe consequences he imagines for the returning transgressors ultimately left me thinking, “The man doth protest too much.”
Some of us who escaped during the pandemic were able to do so because of the generosity of people who provided temporary homes outside the city at affordable rates or for free to family and friends. Would Mr. Winkie have turned down such an opportunity? To walk outside without constantly wearing a mask, enjoying nature and the fresh air? And to live in a safer, less densely populated place?
His powerful essay boils down to sophisticated envy.
P— S—, New York (presumably, New York City)
It seems that this writer is one of those who escaped the city. He admires Winkie's skill, but feels that he's overreacting.
He thinks Winkie is protesting too much—is trafficking in envy.
The second letter also comes from a Gotham resident. He is unabashedly angry with Winkie.
"Stop the name-calling, finger-pointing and unfair categorization of citizens obeying public health guidance to avoid 'hot zones," this second writer says. "Everyone who left did the right thing: They escaped danger."
"We need less bickering and more teamwork," he says as he concludes.
The third letter comes from a subscriber in Washington, D.C. She joins the others in chastising Winkie. (According to her Twitter account, she's "passionate about justice, fairness and equality.")
I am a Washingtonian, and I do not own any alternate luxury place. I do not envy the rich for moving away to safer places of their own, earned, inherited or otherwise. If you have no appropriate skills to offer the community, there is no obligation to stay put at the time of a health crisis (unless you are Senator Ted Cruz).
As long as the rich pay their taxes, why penalize them for wherever they chose to live during the pandemic?
Completing the rule of three, this third writer doesn't envy the rich who chose to move away.
All three writers rejected Winkie's recommendations. There was only one problem with this morning's presentation:
Winkie's column was clearly written tongue in cheek. It offered a type of "modest proposal." Please don't ask us to offer textual evidence in support of this obvious statement.
At least three readers of the Times misunderstood Winkie's column. That doesn't mean that things are getting progressively dumber—anyone can make a mistake—but here's something else which does:
Apparently, the New York Times didn't realize that Winkie's column was tongue in cheek! At the very least, the editor who waved those letters into print didn't seem to know that.
In many ways, the New York Times is a very dumb paper. We've noted this fact again and again, but for most people, and thanks to Times branding, this rather obvious critical assessment is just too hard to believe.