Today, I was going to discuss a couple of recent opinion pieces in the New York Times. One is by Paul Krugman; the other is by Roger Cohen. I will describe briefly what I was going to say, and then I will explain why I’m not going to say it in any detail — why, more generally, I’m going to give up on this sort of thing.
Both of these editorials have to do with the recent debate on Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s nominee to take the place of retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. I haven’t been following that debate closely. Within my limited knowledge, both make good points — that, for example, Kavanaugh expressed a partisan perspective that does not belong on the Court.
Unfortunately, both of these editorials are also badly flawed. Again, I’m not going to make the case in detail. But to illustrate, here are a few problems in Krugman’s piece:
- He says, “White male rage isn’t restricted to blue-collar guys in diners.” He’s living in the 1960s. Briefly, from Wikipedia: “A diner is a small restaurant found predominantly in the Northeastern United States and Midwest. … Diners attract a wide spectrum of the local populations.”
- He admits that the resentment he attributes to white males actually pervades academia as well, but does not consider that he might be a quintessential example of a privileged white male ranter.
I was tempted to do a rewrite of Krugman’s essay, as I have done in some other posts in this blog, to remind readers that the enraged prose of these privileged men (often, it appears, attacking other men in order to look good to women) can be readily reversed to point in just the opposite direction. Here’s an example, replacing just a few of Krugman’s words about Trump to make an equally true (and equally disparaging) statement about one of his favorites:
It starts, of course, at the top, with that walking, talking, fabricating bundle of resentment that is Hillary Clinton. You might imagine that a woman who lived in the White House would no longer feel the need to, for example, make false claims about her diplomatic travels. But Hillary still doesn’t get the respect she obviously craves.
The point there is that the snide verbiage may please the true believers, but it is not conveying important information; it is merely running people down.
So: why shouldn’t I elaborate in that vein, going ahead to skewer these editorials by Krugman and Cohen in more detail? There are several reasons, and they are what I really want to talk about here.
The first reason is that I’ve already done that, in this blog and others. Not with these two essays, in particular, but with numerous past news and opinion pieces, in the Times and elsewhere. The title of this post means that I’m not going to do that anymore.
The reason is simple: it’s a waste of time. For instance, I devoted hours to a post titled Misandristic Unethicality at the New York Times. That article ended thus:
This article in the New York Times, like many others before it, demonstrates a tendency toward irresponsible public speech by major American news outlets. In a separate post, I have pointed out that such irresponsibility amounts to an abuse of the right of free speech, and that it provides a rationale for an eventual restriction on such speech. I don’t think any such restriction will be implemented soon. I do think such a restriction will be implemented eventually, and that articles like this one, multiplied many times over, will be the reason for it. It wouldn’t have to be that way, but it appears that ideologues are in charge at the Times. They pose a risk of doing a lot of damage to this country and its people and, ultimately, that will probably not be what the public favors.
I was right, at least in the sense that journalists at places like the Times deserve, and get, abysmal ratings from the public. According to the Columbia Journalism Review (Eil, 2018),
Recent polls show … that less than half of Republicans think press freedom is important to maintaining a strong democracy, and that Americans’ trust in media has reached a “new low.” Just last week, Monmouth University released poll data reporting “More than 3 in 4 Americans believe that traditional major TV and newspaper media outlets report ‘fake news.’”
I may be wrong, in the sense that the First Amendment may endure, and may continue to be construed as a license for irresponsible coverage. Regardless, though, a long-term devoted reader might assume that the Times, at least, would take such concerns seriously. And as illustrated in Krugman’s drivel (above), they just don’t.
I did send the Times editors a link to that piece on misandristic unethicality. I’ve sent them links to other pieces. They’re too busy seeking out biased sources, and writing crap, to understand and work with their critics. I did believe, or at least hope, that that things were changing — that they had heard from enough people like me to become aware of their own ideological blinders. I don’t have much confidence in that anymore.
But never mind the journalists. Maybe they are inevitably corrupted by the desire to sell newspapers to rabid partisans. What about the educated public, the intellectuals and such — aren’t they seeking out diverse perspectives on important issues? Isn’t it worthwhile to write this sort of thing, anticipating that they, at least, will want to talk about it?
The answer to that appears to be no. It seems that men are drowning in misandry — that anti-male hostility pervades and, in many cases, severely affects their lives — and yet it is simply not fashionable for intellectuals even to recognize this, much less explore it. Education is supposed to inculcate the inclination to think critically about one’s preferred views. Truthseeking often entails the discovery that what seems right often turns out to be wrong. For purposes of equal treatment of men, America’s intellectuals — indeed, a majority of its college-educated adults — are averse to education and truthseeking.
What we have, instead, seems to be a preoccupation with self-affirmation and social bonding against a despised (albeit to some extent imaginary, and to a considerable extent exaggerated) opposition. It seems that successful publication in this milieu tends to entail falsehood and hatred, as illustrated especially in Krugman’s editorial. I haven’t tried, or wanted, to write for that sort of audience.
The problem seems to be that, to an appallingly large degree, Americans know what they want to believe; they cling to it with a religious devotion; and that is at least as true of liberals as of conservatives. In this blog, I have been primarily critical of the Left because of its greater pretensions to relevant intellectual superiority — as in, again, the case of Krugman. I would have been more critical of the Right if it weren’t already drawing such a flood of attacks from mainstream media. Either way, though, the conclusion remains the same: I have been wasting my breath.
So I give up. I may come back here sometime later, or may put my efforts into a book instead. I have appreciated the opportunity to work through some issues in writing, and some have appreciated my efforts to do so, but at this point it seems I should turn my attention elsewhere.