Or, building a diverse readership, you’re doing it wrong, Time magazine.
This week, Time magazine columnist Hanna Rosin claims that “Men Are Obsolete” (link safe; goes to Newsbusters). As Helen Smith asked in 2012, when Rosin published a book with the similar title of The End of Men, why does Rosin hate her son so? But when you add up the wide swatches of America that Time has declared obsolete in the last 50 years, perhaps the question should be expanded to: Outside of Manhattan, the Hamptons, Beverly Hills, and the Beltway, depending on who is currently ensconced in power there, what parts of America does Time magazine not hate?
It didn’t always seem like Time was at war with its readers; it had to acquire them first. In 1923, Henry Luce, the scion of Christian missionaries to China, invented the concept of the news magazine with the first issue of Time. The magazine’s name reflected its dual purpose; as Alan Brinkley wrote in The Publisher, his 2010 biography of Luce, his goal was to both record the march of time and save his readers plenty of it by providing them with a centralized weekly news source. Even before American officially entered World War II, Luce, a centrist Republican, used his magazine to champion the notion that the 20th century would be the American century, in much the way that the 19th century was England’s century of glory.
However, by the mid-1960s, between Luce aging and turning more and more of the day-to-day responsibilities of running his media empire over to others, and ultimately, his death in 1967, Time would reverse the positive pro-American direction that Luce had established, which led to his magazine’s initial triumphs. In 1966, the magazine famously asked, “Is God Dead?” While the editors attempted to soften Friedrich Nietzsche’s epoch-shattering aphorism of 1882 with a question mark, that they would ask the question in the first place lets you know what Luce’s successors believed. Three and a half years later, voting “The Middle Americans” as their man of the year for 1969, those same editors would look at the conservative suburban American subscriber base that Luce had built up through the decades and ask themselves…who are these people?
The American dream that they were living was no longer the dream as advertised. They feared that they were beginning to lose their grip on the country. Others seemed to be taking over—the liberals, the radicals, the defiant young, a communications industry that they often believed was lying to them. The Saturday Evening Post folded, but the older world of Norman Rockwell icons was long gone anyway. No one celebrated them: intellectuals dismissed their lore as banality. Pornography, dissent and drugs seemed to wash over them in waves, bearing some of their children away.
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The gaps between Middle America and the vanguard of fashion are deep. The daughters of Middle America learn baton twirling, not Hermann Hesse. Middle Americans line up in the cold each Christmas season at Manhattan’s Radio City Music Hall; the Rockettes, not Oh! Calcutta! are their entertainment. While the rest of the nation’s youth has been watching Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy, Middle American teen-agers have been taking in John Wayne for the second or third time in The Green Berets. Middle Americans have been largely responsible for more than 10,000 Christmas cards sent to General Creighton Abrams in Saigon. They sing the national anthem at football games—and mean it.
The culture no longer seems to supply many heroes, but Middle Americans admire men like Neil Armstrong and to some extent, Spiro Agnew. California Governor Ronald Reagan and San Francisco State College President S.I. Hayakawa have won approval for their hard line on dissent. Before his death last year, Dwight Eisenhower was listed as the most admired man in the nation—and Middle America cast much of the vote. In death, John Kennedy is also a hero. Ironically, Robert Kennedy had the allegiance of much of Middle America along with his constituency of blacks and the young. Whatever their politics, both Kennedys had an idealism about America [So you say — Ed], a pride about it to which Middle Americans responded because they shared it.
While Luce was a moderate Republican, and a believing Christian, his successors would be increasingly left-leaning establishment Democrats who worshipped at the altar of The State. In 1989, Time featured George Washington on its cover with a tear descending from his cheek, and the headline, “Is Government Dead?” As Steve Hayward perceptively noted at Power Line in 2012, comparing the ’89 “Is Government Dead? and the ’66 “Is God Dead?” stories, for the post-Luce incarnation of Time, Hayward “recognized that since government is, for liberals, the secular substitute for God, these were essentially the same story.”
Flash-forward to the election of 2008. While Luce viewed the 20th century as “The American Century,” Fareed Zakaria, who would soon bolt Newsweek for Time and its sister TV network CNN, viewed the 21st century as a “Post-American world,” a view shared by Barack Obama, whom Time compared in 2008 to FDR, a president that its founder Henry Luce appropriately loathed for his lengthy anti-business, near dictatorial administration, in which the Constitution was symbolically shredded.
Which brings us to this Time cover from July 4th, 2011.
And now, having killed off God, shredded the Constitution, and alienated their Republican readers, Time is ready to shrink its audience even further. In October, Zakaria accused conservatives of hating America, admonishing them that “you cannot love America in theory, and hate it in fact,” an odd concept for a man who, like the president he wishes to advise, seeks to fundamentally transform the nation, and reduce its global influence. Last month, Time’s Mark Halperin finally came clean on Obamacare’s death panels, after the magazine championed Mr. Obama and its punitive schemes since even before he took office, and conversely was at at war with all who opposed them. (See Zakaria quote above.) This week, Time seeks to further reduce its audience, which brings us to the “Men Are Obsolete” headline. (Camille Paglia, call your office. You too, Dr. Helen.)
Since the idea of a weekly newsmagazine is rendered anathema by the speed of the Internet, Time itself has long been obsolete; but its writers have done their best to destroy the decades of goodwill that its founder built up with the magazine’s first generation of readers. Plans are currently underway to divest Time magazine from the Time-Warner-CNN-HBO mothership; like the Washington Post destroying its Newsweek brand from 2007 through 2010, before offloading it onto 92-year old Sidney Harman for a buck shortly before his death, Time’s publishers seem determined to trash their brand as much as possible before setting it free. To borrow a line from Elvis Costello much loved by James Lileks, as far as this current scheme reaching fruition, I wish them luck with a capital-F.