Seinfeld, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times: Scenes from the Culture War
"The fact of the matter is the Wall Street Journal editorial page just kicks our editorial page’s ass. I mean there’s just no contest, from top to bottom, and it’s disappointing."
So said a New York Times reporter quoted in a much talked about New York Observer column Tuesday ("The Tyranny and Lethargy of the Times Editorial Page"). In the article, a passel of Timesmen vented anonymously about how embarrassingly dull their opinion pages were, dumping on the tired and windy Thomas Friedman as a particular repetitive offender and pointing fingers at opinion editor Andrew Rosenthal as the mini-despot responsible for the mess.
I certainly agree about the mind-bending banality of the Times opinion page and the windiness (at best) of Friedman. But I think the reporters are off the mark on the cause. They can blame it on Rosenthal if they wish -- I have no opinion, not working there -- but the real problem is far greater than any one editor.
To adopt what is becoming a modern cliché -- it's the ideology, stupid.
The Times reporters complained of the page's uniformly negative tone, but not even S.J. Perelman or P.G. Wodehouse could write with verve in the service of modern liberalism. You can't bring a dead horse to life. No writer is that good -- at least on a regular basis.
How, for example, do you write an eloquent defense of Obamacare or justify the administration's actions in Benghazi without resorting to the kind of obfuscation that makes for convoluted, or at best tedious, writing? How do you advocate for yet more government programs in a country already so mired in debt it's hard to see how it will ever get out? It's Keynesian economics itself that's the problem, not Paul Krugman.
Although I admire many of the writers at the Wall Street Journal, let's admit they have a lot more to work with, a plethora of easy targets for a man or woman with even a modicum of wit. We live in an era when readers are distrusting big government more than ever. Where does that leave the NYT, that great tribune of of ever-expanding government? With a bunch of grumps on their hands.
Speaking of liberal grumps, I was shocked to learn on the same day that they have turned on one of their icons -- Jerry Seinfeld -- who opined in a Buzzfeed interview:
Funny is the world I live in. You’re funny, I’m interested. You’re not funny, I’m not interested. I have no interest in gender or race or anything like that. But everyone else is kind of, with their calculating — is this the exact right mix? I think that’s — to me it’s anti-comedy. It’s more about PC-nonsense.
PC nonsense??? The bien pensant are now jumping on Seinfeld because he had only white people on his show. Of course, the comic was right about political correctness. It's not only the enemy of comedy. It's the enemy of human life -- no more than fascism with a phony egalitarian face. And Seinfeld, who is being accused of being a racist (natch), is less of a racist than any of his detractors. But that's par for the course these days.
Both of these seemingly minor media dust-ups are yet more indications that our society is at a tipping point. A critical mass may be welling up against the tyranny of modern liberalism. The next few years will be interesting -- culturally and politically.