MONDAY, MARCH 1, 2021
Performative, insincere, phony, dumb—counterproductive, unhelpful?: At the end of last week, we were thrilled by a couple of things we saw in the New York Times.
On Thursday morning, we encountered Michael Powell's front-page report about an unfortunate incident at Smith College and its sad, stupid, silly, dumb aftermath.
In our view, Powell's lengthy front-page report adopted a (highly instructive) approach to issues of race and class—a high instructive approach which would normally be avoided in the Times.
After that, the comments! We saw the comments to Michelle Goldberg's fuzzy opinion column about "critical race theory," a school of thought which largely went undefined in her piece.
In print editions, the fuzzy column was published in yesterday's Sunday Review, the newspaper's highest platform. In its explicit and implied praise for the tenets of CRT, the column represented a return to form for the Times concerning matters of "race."
Goldberg's column was poorly reasoned but completely familiar in its implied point of view. But then, dear God, the comments!
We sampled the comments to Goldberg's column, in which one self-identified liberal after another savaged what might be described as the "Woke" point of view.
Could it be true? Is it possible that denizens of Our Town are prepared to engage in a bit of self-criticism concerning the way we tend to approach this very important topic? Could we possibly imagine that this might be true?
Based upon Thursday's front-page report, could we imagine another possibility? Could we imagine the possibility that the Times might be prepared to rethink the way it has approached this very important, very large topic in the past quite-a-few years?
According to experts, that would be a consummation devoutly to be wished! That said, on Saturday morning's front page, the Times returned to its standard, almost comical approach to the role of race in the public schools.
And this morning—good God, this morning! This morning, there the Times went again!
We're speaking here of what we saw when we scrolled through this morning's "Today's Paper" listings. In our view, a person could almost say that the Times' offerings for this day border on a type of journalistic parody.
Tomorrow, we'll tell you what we saw when we performed that act of scrolling. From there, we'll proceed to the near-parodic, unhelpful way the New York Times covers race in the public schools.
We'll link that topic to this interview with Ibram X. Kendi in yesterday's Book Review section. To be perfectly honest, that interview could almost be seen as a bit of a parody too.
We've long been appalled by the way the Times approaches the topic of race in the public schools. For all we know, that approach may even be well-intentioned, but in practice, we regard it as deeply ugly—destructive, performative, vile.
We regard it as the ultimate example of Our Town's modern performative culture. We regard it as the behavior of the Hamptons crowd as they pretend to care about all the kids they have no plans to know.
In fairness, who knows? They may even be sincere!
Ugly, stupid, phony, faux? Silly, stupid, pretentious, performative? Which words will the sages employ, if any sages exist in the future, when they review the way Our Town rampaged around and about, addressing issues of (so-called) race in these, the final days of our rapidly failing republic?
At Smith, a kid who had just finished her freshman year seemed to need some help. (In large part, we base this assessment on the videotape of the interview she did with Boston's CBS station.)
Many young people do need help; ideally, adults should try to provide it. In this case, Smith's president responded by fawning and pandering to this young person, while throwing an array of long-time staffers under a big yellow smoke-belching bus.
On the merits, behavior like this is deeply counterproductive. But this is the way we tend to behave in the more "elite" precincts of Our Town—and we'll even add this:
Almost surely, this is one of the ways Trump voters get born! Beyond that, we're often amazed that the modern white working class isn't more hostile than it seems to be on the general matter of race.
Here in Our Town, we've been looking down on such people ever since Mother and Father told us how special we were. We refuse to take yes for an answer from the denizens of Their Towns, and our biggest newspaper keeps pimping the pap about how much they care in the Hamptons.
Yesterday morning, the Washington Post published an essay by Matthews Yglesias on the front page of its high-profile Outlook section. In his essay, Yglesias offered a critique of Our Town's approach to matters of race! Online, the headlines say this:
Not all ‘anti-racist’ ideas are good ones. The left isn’t being honest about this.
On some topics, progressives prefer pointing out right-wing hypocrisy to debating substance.
We'd try to stay away from ultimate assessments of "honesty." In theory, though, the publication of that essay should perhaps be encouraging too.
In theory, the publication of that essay is perhaps encouraging. In practice, it seems to us that Yglesias chose his words and his examples with extreme care.
If we might borrow from Tiny Tim, he may have tiptoed through the tulip craze a bit. We will be a bit more direct in our presentations this week.
It seems to us that the major tribunes of Our Town tend to be phony, silly, stupid / dumb / faux when it comes to matters of race. Also, extremely unhelpful.
We don't believe a word they say, though it may be that they're fully sincere. But then, we've mined (if only for a while) in their mines. We have (somewhat briefly) gathered in their corn.
Tomorrow: Scrolling through this morning's Times
Coming: Professor Kendi on the way to report on the public schools