'Kids Say the Darnedest Things'

"In the wake of last week’s atrocity in Paris, David Brooks felt it imperative to inform his New York Times readers that he is of a more cultivated class of pundit than Ann Coulter," James Taranto writes, responding to Brooks' ugly "kiddie table" slur on Sunday's Meet the Press against not just Coulter, but the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, where 12 of its journalists had been slaughtered by Islamic terrorists last week:

To put the question another way, where does Maureen Dowd sit?

An exchange on Facebook last week led us to further pondering of the limits of Brooks’s tabular taxonomy. Marc Cooper, a journalism professor at the University of Southern California, posted a piece by New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan on the paper’s decision not to publish any cartoons or covers from Charlie Hebdo alongside its stories about the Islamist attack there. Cooper posed “a question for NYTimes editor Dean Baquet”:

Exactly how many people have to be shot in cold blood before your paper rules that you can show us what provoked the killers? Apparently 23 shot including 11 dead is not enough. What absolute cowardice. These MSM managers act is [sic] if they are running insurance companies, not news organizations.

To which Baquet responded: “Dear Marc, appreciate the self righteous second guessing without even considering there might be another point of view. Hope your students are more open minded. Asshole.” Kids say the darnedest things.

No, actually maybe Cooper is the kid and Baquet the adult here—in which case this would be one of those times when, as Brooks puts it, those seated at the kiddie table “say things that those of us at the adult table need to hear”—i.e., things that expose the hypocrisy of adults in positions of authority.

That points to yet another problem with Brooks’s analogy. The segregation of family dinners by age (or, more precisely, by stage of life) has nothing to do with exposing hypocrisy. At what actual family dinner has somebody at the kiddie table said something that those at the adult table “need to hear”?

As Matt Welch of Reason, who was an editorial contributor to the Times during the first round of wars from the cartoon kingdom in early 2006 writes today, "Baquet has had nine years to come up with a better justification" for not running cartoons insulting the Times' Islam's prophet, Instead, he has spent the past week beclowning himself again and again. I am not being unfair:"

I want Dean Baquet and the rest of America's editors to be honest about their decision-making, is all. If they're worried about the back-office staff getting blown up, I totally understand that, even if I doubt that risk would amount to much if people just acted on their news judgment instead of fear.

But I suspect it's something far less noble. On Sunday The Times ran an article about an eight-foot statue of Mohammed that stood atop a Manhatttan Appellate Division Courthouse without incident for a half-century until 1955, when it was "removed out of deference to Muslims, to whom depictions of the prophet are an affront." The next paragraph is killer:

(For the same reason, The New York Times has chosen not to publish photographs of the statue with this article.)

So it's not that Charlie Hebdo went over the line of decency, it's that The New York Times under Dean Baquet's editorship has elevated a doctrinally questionable and physically non-existent taboo into a red line for the rest of his readers. Scientologists, grab your bricks. Seventh Day Adventists, take note. You, too, can make the historically existing figures who founded your churches into people who can never be depicted in the Paper of Record, even as a picture of long-forgotten, never-controversial statue. You just need to complain with enough force.

As Glenn Reynolds warned during the first round of Islamic terrorism inspired by European cartoons, "I'm sorry, but the lesson here is that if you want to be listened to, you should blow things up. That's a very bad incentive structure, but it's the one the allegedly responsible parties have created."

Update: A flashback to the era when Timesmen were made of sterner stuff:

Related: Where does Dean Baquet stand on this topic?