April 18, 2016


Liberalism is dead. Or at least it is on the ropes. Triumphant a quarter-century ago, when liberal democracy appeared to have prevailed definitively over the totalitarian utopias that exacted such a toll in blood, it is now under siege from without and within.

Nationalism and authoritarianism, reinforced by technology, have come together to exercise new forms of control and manipulation over human beings whose susceptibility to greed, prejudice, ignorance, domination, subservience and fear was not, after all, swept away by the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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In an age of declamation and shouting, of polarization and vilification, of politics-for-sale and the insidious submersion of politics in fact-lite entertainment, the emergence of Trump is as unsurprising as it is menacing….In Russia, and now in countries from Hungary to Poland, and in China, forms of authoritarianism are ascendant and liberalism (or even modest liberalization) are in retreat. In the Middle East, the Islamic State casts its long, digitized shadow. In Western societies beset by growing inequality (neo-liberal economics has also sapped the credentials of liberalism), political discourse, debate on college campuses and ranting on social media all reflect a new impatience with multiple truths, a new intolerance and unwillingness to make the compromises that permit liberal democracy to work.

— “The Death of Liberalism,” Roger Cohen, the New York Times, Thursday.

News industry leaders are forever proclaiming that diversity is an organizational priority. Such pronouncements usually come paired with apologies for having failed on this front in the past, along with vague plans to do better.

New York Times Chief Executive Mark Thompson defied this tradition yesterday in a presentation before a gathering of managers on the business and news sides of the newspaper. He identified three areas toward which diversity efforts must be channeled: recruitment, hiring and promotion. Supervisors who fail to meet upper management’s requirements in recruiting and hiring minority candidates or who fail to seek out minority candidates for promotions face some stern consequences: They’ll be either encouraged to leave or be fired.

“At New York Times, managers receive a warning about diversity,” Erik Wemple, the Washington Post, Friday.

As Glenn quipped in his post earlier this morning regarding the second headline, “You mean they’re thinking about hiring a Republican?”

But then, making diversity of gender and skin color at gunpoint more important than caring about the finished product or hiring the best people for the job isn’t all that new a development at the Times. In a classic Freudian slip, perilously leftwing then-editor Howell Raines famously cited soon-to-be-disgraced fabulist Jayson Blair “before the National Association of Black Journalists in 2001 as the first fruits of a hiring campaign that ‘has made our staff better and, more importantly, more diverse.’ (No need to italicize that ‘more importantly.’),” Christopher Caldwell noted with a deadpan coda in the Weekly Standard in 2003.

And as New York magazine reported in 1992:

Not long ago, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., the 41-year old publisher of the New York Times, was greeting people at a party in the Metropolitan Museum when a dignified older man confronted him. He told Sulzberger that he was unhappy about the jazzy, irreverent new “Styles of the Times” Sunday section. “It’s very”—the man—paused—“un-Times-ian.”

“Thank you,” New York Magazine quoted Sulzberger as replying, adding that the Times’ publisher “later told a crowd of people that alienating older white male readers means ‘we’re doing something right.'”

It’s no coincidence that the punitive worldview of Pinch and Raines took their toll on the paper’s quality. Four decades ago, the Times was once praised by no less than William F. Buckley’s National Review as being “so evenhanded that it must have been deeply dismaying to the liberal opposition…Were the news standards of the Times more broadly emulated the nation would be far better informed and more honorably served.”

Today, as Matthew Continetti accurately noted in 2014, the Gray Lady is staffed by overgrown versions of the high schoolers in the TV series Saved by the Bell. “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.” Continetti’s article is perhaps the best filter through which to read Wemple’s WaPo article on the Times’ future hiring practices, particularly as today’s campus SJWs begin to receive bylines at the paper. (What could go wrong?)

So yes, liberalism is dead, whether your definition of the word is classical liberalism, before the L-Word was stolen by “Progressives” in the 1920s who needed a new description for their ideology after Woodrow Wilson ran roughshod over civil rights, or the postwar midcentury version of liberalism. In both cases, the Times certainly did their share of putting the knife in to kill it, long before Donald Trump ever decided to enter the GOP presidential race.

Related: This is a long post already, but it’s worth noting that regarding Trump, in his latest Sunday column, Ross Douthat, the Gray Lady’s token conservative concludes:

I’ve written before that the Trump campaign is a kind of comic-opera version of a demagogue’s rise, a first-as-farce warning about how our political system could succumb to authoritarianism.

One of its many lessons is that if authoritarianism really comes to America, it won’t come slouching out of the dark heart of Middle America, wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.

A flag pin it will have, no doubt. But on the other lapel will be a button that says I Love New York.

Oh to be a fly on the wall if Douthat is ever asked by a Christian cake baker or pizza shop owner, a falsely accused college male, a member of the Little Sisters of the Poor, or even a massively over-regulated California businessman why he thinks authoritarianism hasn’t yet come to America.

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