Monday, June 15, 2020

I read the news today. Oh, boy...

I read Ross Douthat on occasion, to give my liberalism a bit of a gut-check. I've never been much tempted to link to anything he's written. That changes today. The Tom Cotton Op-Ed & The Cultural Revolution: How Liberalism & The Liberal Media Are Changing Before Our Eyes is a cogent, even sensitive argument for the return of genuine liberalism to the newspaper page.

Matt Taibbi, on the other hand ... I have to reflexively check my impulse to link to just about everything he writes. Unlike Douthat, Taibbi isn't soft-shoeing around the issue. The American Press Is Destroying Itself, he says.

These two diverse voices seem to be in agreement. And I agree with them both.


pdb said...

Hello, this is interesting, following that last post. A lot to discuss! Partly just observing here that Kendzior was one of that Twitterati legion calling for heads to roll after the Cotton op-ed appeared. (I’m strictly marginal, not a member of the class as far as I’m concerned, but did join the clamor — in a quieter way, but also popping from both barrels, something rare for me.) That’s by no means to charge you with contradicting yourself.

Have to acknowledge that I’m still processing your last post (and May 22’s, and Jan. 31’s …), though.

Whisky Prajer said...


I hope I don't have to be on-board with everything Kendzior's about (b/c I'm not). And go ahead and blast with both barrels. I did with Ghomeshi and Ian Buruma's shit-canning, so a little commitment goes a long way (apparently).

As John W.W. Zeiser sez: "More than anything, the Times’s editorial board is a rhetorical custodian of status quo." If I read him rightly, he's saying it like it's a bad thing. I'm just not so sure that it necessarily is. Hey, Richard Nixon had more op-eds published by the Gray Lady than any other broadsheet in the ascendant. Condemnatory public record isn't necessarily a bad thing, is it?

Whisky Prajer said...

For the public record, here are my thoughts on Buruma being shown the door after publishing Ghomeshi. Nothing I regret (yet!) there. Re: recovering brand integrity, CBC is still working at it.

pdb said...

No no no, you certainly won’t get that kind of expectation from me! I mean, I know I’ll only ever go along with Kendzior but so far myself, for one thing. But more to the point, what I want to say above really is that I’m listening, thinking about how these different facets of the fraying-liberal-consensus problem relate for you.

The apparent contradiction on my mind, truthfully, is the one between my two tweets there. Which is it I want, for the NYT to implode and get swept away, or for it to get its act together in the context of changing conditions which, to my mind, James Bennet’s made it his pointless project to regard through denialist’s goggles since he took the op-ed helm a few years ago? I seem to be calling for both.

Whisky Prajer said...

Perhaps the fraying-liberal-consensus problem exists within me. I'm still mulling over my reaction to Buruma's firing. Giving Ghomeshi the opportunity to frame his trial(s) in his own words seems to me substantively different from giving Cotton the opportunity to frame, in his own words, his concerns and proposed solution to the matter. I thought Cotton's piece was an appalling thing to read. Was it an appalling thing to publish? I'm not so sure. Ghomeshi's narcissistic wound-licking, otoh, is just bad form all the way around. But should Buruma have been sacked for it? I still think yes, but am troubled by how the only available corrective action in the news industry is punitive action.

Whisky Prajer said...

You following Alan Jacobs' blog a-tall? He's nudging my thoughts in a helpful direction (I hope). He also has this mini-blog thing happening. Kinda wish he'd just merge them, but his shtick is his shtick, I suppose.

pdb said...

Lot of things working around in my head here. Probably need to do some kind of post. (Another one for the list! oy.)

One thing it seems useful to say just now, though, is that when I tweeted ‘we need to see resignations,’ the impulse was to reach toward the improbable. Both tweets were that, obviously — the one more expressive, leaning hyperbolic (not to say insincere), the other more in the conventional twitter-rage vein. Anyhow, I was surprised when a resignation in fact followed. Hadn’t expected that, and didn’t greet it with any joy when I heard the word — not because I saw the issue differently all of a sudden, but because I really don’t trust the organization, agree with its latest move or not. What the ousting might be about from their point of view is unclear from mine. I don’t assume a simple basis in the upset over Cotton, though I can’t imagine that the Cotton situation provided nothing but an excuse, either.

Other thing I’ll tack on here just because it’s stuck in my craw is that I can’t help thinking Douthat exposes himself in the starkest way with this:

The No. 2 and 5 best sellers are works by Ibram X. Kendi, an African-American theorist of anti-racism who urges his readers to reject not only bigotry but what he calls the racism of “assimilationism” — meaning any strong emphasis on minority self-improvement or self-sufficiency, any strong hope in education and upward mobility as a salve for racial ills.

I mean, how he didn’t swallow his own tongue, typing that out, I don’t know. (WTF are ‘racial ills’ that ‘upward mobility’ will ‘salve’? What year is this again?) Anyway, I haven’t read Kendi’s book (and might not get to for a long time — the 55 copies in the Chicago library system having hundreds of hold requests on them right now), but I can read what this guy thinks Kendi’s talking about when he invokes ‘assimilation,’ say, and ask myself which account rings truer, knowing already through my own relationships and pursuits a little about Kendi, antiracism, the black lives movement, &c.

Okay, sorry for getting a little ranty. I recognize that you’re further still from endorsing every word of Douthat than of Kendzior, and that I’m liable to distract from the real thread of your thought — which, let me reaffirm, is what I’m interested in here! But the streak of smug unaccountability behind Douthat’s rational-discourse-professional’s countenance deserves a remark, at least. Not really many years since I read and shared him, myself, with a much different feeling about what he stood for — as you know.

pdb said...

Re. Ay-Jay, he’s in my rss reader, albeit with a lot of other things, none of which I read really faithfully. (You’re actually not in that list, incidentally — you just have a permanent browser tab.) And I follow him on one of the twitter accts., though the algorithm doesn’t ‘feed’ him to me very often for whatever reason. So I do catch him here & there.

Whisky Prajer said...

Well, Douthat's "slip" is exactly the sort of cant that keeps me from posting him behind the blue-and-white velvet rope, never mind here. Reading and responding to the man usually feels like playing "gotcha" so I mostly scan and move on to the next windmill.

I'm grateful to you for pointing me toward Mr. Jobs, btw. Kendi is not someone I've yet engaged with, but there is much I could ponder just in Jobs' short response to him. "Assimilation" is a dirty word up this way, for very good reason.

Re: Ay-Jay, now that I've had the chance to read the entirety of his brief(!) CT responses I am less enamored. Not because I disagree with what he says, but because I'm realizing who his audience is (Evangelical tub-thumpers with political concerns) and what he hopes their common ground might be. Again: next windmill. But I think I'll cogitate further on this piece.

pdb said...

Yeah, no, I never mistook this post for a sign that you were headed over to Douthat’s side of … whatever the divide is. And I do see, again, that my particular touchiness about him has to do conversely with my having been on that side for so long and being among the ‘disaffected’ now.

But there is so much to talk about here (not that we’re going to find anything like the time to do it adequately). Fascinating to think how quick the writer’s thought-problem of ‘a post-liberal world, maybe?’ turns to present itself as something demanding response in the live & perilously consequential rather than in the abstract.

Whisky Prajer said...

Well, and where to start? Unless you're in the news industry, then the obvious place to start is the opinion pages, until you're the one whose exercise in "good faith" gets you shit-canned.

For me the likeliest place to begin this exploration is probably the church Youth Group Sunday School room. Back in the day when what we really wanted to do was listen to AC/DC, we were offered The Imperials (hey, Elvis loved 'em!) becaaaaaaaause ... that was what was morally acceptable. Some 10 years ago or so I noticed the shift in theatre criticism focusing almost exclusively on the morality of what was being presented. To my amazement this became the sole consideration of everyone but a few holdouts for the Liberal Ideal they red-pilled upon seeing Hair for the first time.

Sometime in the 90s I said goodbye to all that, 'cos I was ready for the big wide world and the big wide explorations promised therein! Now I was back in the Sunday School room. And every event I attend, every link I click concludes with an altar call.

I dunno. Maybe if we can pull up our pants high enough to acknowledge that the altar calls of old had some good in 'em, we can gently deconstruct why we're not so fond of the altar impulse today. But that gets into fraught territory -- even for a blogger followed by dozen.