Ed Driscoll

Won't Get Fooled Again

Back in December of 1979, 11 people died when attempting to rush into Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium to see the rock group The Who. The following week, Time magazine surprised many by running a cover story that absolved the group of virtually all blame in the incident. The cover dubbed the band “Rock’s Outer Limits“, and the accompanying story focused on their success as musical artists, rather than the tragedy in Ohio. (And I’d be the last person to argue that in 1979, near the height of their power as musicians, they weren’t an awesome group, especially live.)

But unlike a rock group beloved in the eyes of most boomers, the discount chain Wal-Mart doesn’t garner the same sort of good will amongst journalists. Responding to the incident on Black Friday when one of their employees died when the doors were opened to allow the first mob of shoppers into the Long Island store at 5:00 AM, a New York Times went out with the following absurd headline: “A Shopping Guernica Captures the Moment.”

Evidently, New York Times economics reporter Peter Goodman (or perhaps his editor, depending upon who wrote the headline) fancies himself as the next Picasso. So who are the Nazis in his mind? The management at Wal-Mart who, somewhat like Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium 30 years ago failed to have adequate security and preparations for the onslaught of a crowd, or the shoppers who crushed the unfortunate sales clerk? The article, found via Newsbusters doesn’t say.

I’d excuse a high school or sophomoric college newspaper journalist making such an overwrought analogy. But if the New York Times and its writers and editors can’t see the difference between an unfortunate shopping incident and the Spanish Civil War, one wonders what what value the newspaper has as an information source to be trusted by their readers.

Update 12/2/08: Wow–who knew this little post would receive so much traffic? Welcome Instapundit and Five Feet Of Fury readers, and even those die-hard defenders of the establishment at Sadly No.

One Cincinnati-based reader emailed in:

The New York Times has become the WKRP of journalism. The hyperbole you noted in your blog is symmetrical to Les Nessman’s comparison of the eternally hilarious turkey drop to the Hindenburg disaster. Except WKRP was supposed to be funny.

Eric McErlain of the Off Wing Opinion sports blog noted that I may have mixed my Queen City stadium names:

Just a short note — the Who concert was held at Riverfront Coliseum, not Riverfront Stadium. It’s a big difference, as the former is an indoor arena with a much smaller capacity, while the latter was an open air baseball stadium.

Fair enough.

More: Another reader emails in:

The article’s author does not use the word Guernica in the article. It was apparently the brainchild of one of their brilliant editors who does not know the difference between Guernica and Pamplona, which is what he was obviously trying to refer to.

So perhaps the Gray Lady was trying to run with the bulls, rather than attempting a Homage To Catalonia.