If there’s one thing I loathe in most American political discourse, it’s the sports page mentality dividing right and left. Everyone must be either for the Lakers or Celtics do or die – an analogy that dates me, I’m afraid – when in the political realm – most of us are simply basketball fans. We just want things to go well.
Mainstream media – probably because of its finanical disarray – more than ever seems to have a vested interest in this dichotomy. “Our team is red hot; your team is diddly-squat,” as I said on another occasion. It’s all a form of short hand, but it is dim-witted short hand.
Howard Kurtz – generally a thoughtful sort – engages in it today by seeing the New York Times controversy in terms of deeply old fashioned political alignments, when the true progessive (not the fuddy-duddy progressive of the mainstream media) wants to see those alignments smashed and consigned to the dustbin. What people like Kurtz can’t seem to grasp – don’t want to grasp, I think – is that there are many people who may be far to the left of him (excuse the use of the fusty term) on many issues and far to the right of him (again excuse the rubric) on others.
Which leads me to the New York Times. I don’t regard it as a left-wing newspaper or even, in any significant way, particularly liberal. I regard it as outright stodgy, rarely able to see outside the box of the “Zabar’s Zeitgeist.” That “zeitgeist” is essentially a culture of self-interest which creates a progressive veneer to preserve itself, making it, in some sense, if you think about it, ultra-conservative – a preservationist cult. In another way, it can be seen as an “as if” culture, erecting an alternative self for the public in order to enhance its primary interests – financial gain and power (not doing well on either of these at the moment). In this way, the NYT is not unlike other many other social and political institutions in all countries, which are in fact the mirrors of themselves.
This not to say, however, that the NYT is on the way out. Those of us working in the world of new media have a long way to go to seriously compete with its power – a very long way to go. Don’t look for the NYT to immolate soon. And I will continue to read it, teeth-ganshing though the experience may be, as long as it continues to publish journalism on the level of the Chris Caldwell article mentioned below.