The View of the World from Pinch Avenue
Just a reminder that they hate us, they really hate us:
"If it's Kansas, Missouri, no big deal. You know, that's the dance of the low-sloping foreheads. The middle places, right? ...Did I just say that aloud?"
Yes, yes you did -- and it's not the first time you've used that riff, either. If a quote falls on Friday night at 10:00 PM on HBO, no one will hear it, but fortunately, this one has been captured in handy embeddable video form.
The New York Times' David Carr drops the mask, and lives out artist Saul Steinberg's classic 1976 "View of the World from 9th Avenue" New Yorker cover. But the view from the Times' editorial bullpen is a curious paradox, isn't it? On an episode of Mad Men, I believe it was John Slattery's Roger Sterling character who quipped something like, "If only we didn't have to deal with clients, advertising would be a great business, eh?" Similarly, the New York Times wants to hold itself out as The Paper of Record -- yet absolutely loathes the people who consume their product -- and especially hates its potential readers, who have been driven away by such elitism.
In the aftermath of the 2004 election, James Lileks neatly summed up the attitude of coastal "progressives," in a sort of text version of Steinberg's cartoon:
Once upon a time the major media at least pretended that the heart & soul of the country was a porch in Kansas with an American flag. Now it’s the outlands, the Strange Beyond. They vote for Bush, they believe in God, they’d have to drive 2 hours for decent Thai. Who are these people?
The Times itself said nearly the same thing five years later -- too immersed in the View from Pinch Avenue to realize the irony of their insular worldview -- when they issued a press release on the latest nepotistic doings at the family business:
Young Sulzberger named NYT’s Kansas City correspondent
Arthur G. Sulzberger (left), son of the Times publisher, “may be hard pressed to find vegetarian food amid all the barbecue joints, but he’ll have no trouble finding stories,” says a Times memo.
“He has an eye for spotting unusual and compelling tales, and bringing them to life with deep reporting and lively writing.”
“Not to mention cliched adjectives”, Kathy Shaidle quipped at the time, adding, “Outside of Manhattan, ‘vegetarian food’ is widely available at things called ‘supermarkets.’”
Fifteen years ago, shortly before Matt Drudge and the Blogosphere would upend the closed world of old journalism, David Gelernter wrote, "Today’s elite loathes the public":
Nothing personal, just a fundamental difference in world view, but the hatred is unmistakable. Occasionally it escapes in scorching geysers. Michael Lewis reports in the New Republic on the ‘96 Dole presidential campaign: ‘The crowd flips the finger at the busloads of journalists and chant rude things at them as they enter each arena. The journalists, for their part, wear buttons that say ‘yeah, i’m the Media. Screw You.’ The crowd hates the reporters, the reporters hate the crowd– an even matchup, except that the reporters wield power and the crowed (in effect) wields none.
But back then, there was no way for the crowd to respond -- in the years since, they have, and on both sides of the aisle. (The port side of the Blogosphere began as both political activism, and because many on the far left see the Times and especially the TV networks are being far too genteel in their coverage, as Carr would say, of the Slopes in the Heartland.)
In 2009, in the midst of several concurrent newspaper closings, Will Collier wrote that "Blowback Works Both Ways:"
Unless you have a monopoly, you can’t get away with sneering at your customers for very long. The newspaper’s monopoly died in 1995, when the internet brought information to the fingertips of anybody with a modem. The dinosaur media never understood that they were in a tar pit from that moment on, and now it’s too late for them to change their ways and crawl back out.
At the start of June, incoming editor Jill Abramson's embarrassing line that “In my house growing up, the Times substituted for religion. If the Times said it, it was the absolute truth," was rather ironically disappeared from her announcement, but not before the quote went viral on the Internet. In response, the Times has finally started to notice that everybody's aware of their airbrushing stories. And yet with the month almost over, there's yet another Kinsleyesque gaffe that the Gray Lady wishes she could airbrush away.
In today's media world, things happen fast. Carr has already apologized for his moment of truth:nytimes David Carr @carr2N says:"Middle Places" Home Of "Low-Sloping Foreheads" on Bill Maher.
carr2n replies: yep. Stuck in the naughty corner for the foreseeable future. #MyBad
As John writes, "Is it possible to judge sincerity on Twitter? If so, judge for yourself."