Ed Driscoll

The New York Times Became a Student Newspaper So Slowly, I Hardly Even Noticed

We’ll get to that time when the Gray Lady scooped the world by revealing the hidden anti-Semitic subtext of Michael Keaton and Tim Burton’s Batman Returns in just a moment, but first, some background.

As Matthew Continetti wrote in the Washington Free Beacon when Jill Abramson and the Gray Lady itself both morphed into self-parodies during and after Abramson’s firing in May, “What has been said of the press—that it wields power without any sense of responsibility—is also a fair enough description of the young adult. And it is to high school, I think, that the New York Times is most aptly compared:”

The coverage of the Abramson firing reads at times like the plot of an episode of Saved By the Bell minus the sex: Someone always has a crazy idea, everyone’s feelings are always hurt, apologies and reconciliations are made and quickly sundered, confrontations are the subject of intense planning and preparation, and authority figures are youth-oriented, well-intentioned, bumbling, and inept.

And if not to high school, then the Times can certainly be compared to sophomores in college, though Pinch and his staffers are all far too effete and collectively depressed to roust themselves into full Delta House “Let’s Party, Dude!!!!!” fury, no matter how many cannabis-laced candy bars MoDo consumes.  Yesterday, the Times once again made a parody of itself by publishing a piece co-authored by a junior at Duke that posited, “we should get rid of federal midterm elections entirely.” (This after the Times called for the end of the American Constitution at the end of 2012.)

Every young writer appreciates his first big break, and despite the damage the Times has done to itself, it still looks pretty awesome to be able to include a reference to being published by the Times on your C.V. But this isn’t the first time that the Gray Lady has embarrassed herself spectacularly by publishing a college-aged author. In the summer of 1992, the Times published a piece co-written by two seniors at Columbia college who alleged to find all sorts of “disturbing” anti-Semitic allegories in the Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer film Batman Returns. “The biblical allusions and historical references woven into the plot of ‘Batman Returns’ betray a hidden conflict between gentile and Jew,” they wrote; here’s but a sample:

Denied his own birthright, the Penguin intends to obliterate the Christian birth, and eventually the whole town. His army of mindless follower, a flock of ineffectual birds who cannot fly, is eventually converted to the side of Christian morality.

They turn against the leader who has failed to assimilate. In the final scene, Batman articulates the distinctly Christian moral of the film:  Merry Christmas and good will toward men… and women.”
The Christian ethic, like the faces beneath the heroes’ masks, is eventually revealed. Batman and Cat woman put on their costumes on and rip them off. They are both marginal and integrated, freaks and functioning citizens.
But the Penguin’s mask is no disguise. It is his face, his deformity, his ethnicity. And Tim Burton has his own mask. His movie is cloaked in extravaganza,fantasy and allusion. Behind the multimillion dollar movie set is old fear and prejudice. Moses becomes Satan, Jew becomes vengeful and Christian faith conquers all. Since the Judeo-Christian tradition provides many of our myths, we should be careful not to let our fiction turn one faith against the other.
There is enough of that in real life.

I cut and pasted the text of the piece above from here; there was a slightly edited version of the article that the Times thought highly enough to syndicate nationally, which is currently online in Google’s news archives.

It’s some piece of work, and a reminder that calling for the banning of elections might actually not be the craziest thing that the Times has published by a college journalist eager for his first national byline.