Lost in Harlem
August 26, 2001
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The lead editorial in today's New York Times is about Harlem. The editorial begins with a reference to a Pathmark supermarket. "When it opened in 1999, it was Harlem's first major supermarket in more than half a century -- an astonishing fact given that upper Manhattan has 500,000 people and is roughly the size of Atlanta."
In fact, one reason this "fact" is so astonishing is that it's not true.
Now, you can get into definitional questions about what is a "major" supermarket and what is just a regular, super supermarket, but if the Times editorial rests on that distinction, it rests on thin ground indeed.
The truth is, as Smartertimes.com pointed out on July 1, 2000, when the Times made this same error, anyone who lives in Harlem knows that there were supermarkets there before 1999. The then-ombudsman of The Washington Post, E.R. Shipp, devoted part of her column in May of 1999 to debunking a similar claim that had appeared earlier that month in The Washington Post. She wrote: "The article said, inaccurately, that Harlem had recently acquired its first supermarket. This came as a surprise to Harlemites past and present -- of which I am one. I regularly shop at the Fairway in my section of Harlem; others prefer such supermarkets as Associated and C-Town."
Indeed, the Fairway has been at 133rd St. and the Hudson River waterfront since 1996; directories showed an Associated Food Supermarket on East 116th St. and C Town Supermarkets on St. Nicholas Ave. and on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard. If The Washington Post, an out-of-town paper, was able to grasp this point on the second try, you'd think that the Times -- which, after all, is based in New York -- would do better.
'Dark Side': The Week in Review section of today's New York Times carries an article that runs under the headline "The Dark Side of the Global Economy." The article claims, "The globalization of crime is a logical outcome of the fall of Communism. Capitalism and Communism, ideologies that served as intellectual straitjackets for Americans and Soviets, allowed them to feel justified in using unsavory proxies to fight their cold war. When those alliances dissolved, those proxies sought other outlets to maintain -- or improve -- their positions. The transformation of apparatchiks into gangsters or money-launderers in the former Soviet republics and the Balkans is just the most familiar example."
Note the careful moral equivalence there between capitalism and communism, and the Times's description of capitalism as an "intellectual straitjacket." Note also the implication that before the fall of Communism, no apparatchiks were gangsters or money launderers.
There's more. The article goes on to assert that "In the Soviet Union, the authorities themselves often scrambled for new sources of income and power as the Communist Party's grip loosened, blurring the lines between officials and those who operated beyond the law."
As if the "officials" under Communism operated within the law, or as if the "law" in the Soviet Union was distinguishable in any meaningful way from what the "officials" wanted.
The article goes on to claim that in Russia after the fall of Communism, "the old intelligentsia was impoverished and became susceptible to bribes." The concept of bribing the intelligentsia sounds like something out of Woody Allen's short story "The Whore of Mensa": "Pssst. For a hundred bucks, would you mention me in the acknowledgements of your next obscure philosophical treatise?" But if what the Times really means is not the intelligentsia but the government officials, then, again, the notion that they only became susceptible to bribes after the fall of Communism is just unadulterated Pravda-style propaganda.
Nearsightedness: An article by the Times architecture critic in the Arts and Leisure section of today's New York Times refers to "the sleek megastructural sweep of Renzo Piano's Kansai airport in Japan." There's no disclosure that Mr. Piano, the architect the Times critic is praising, is the same one who has been hired by the Times Company to design the newspaper's new headquarters tower near Times Square. Mr. Piano was selected by a committee that included the Times architecture critic. There's no need for such a disclosure, really, and for all the Smartertimes.com architecture critic knows, the Kansai airport really does have sleek megastructural sweep. The only reason it's worth mentioning is that the Times business section recently went after the editor of Variety, Peter Bart, for failing to disclose his business relationship with a lawyer he wrote about. Why should the Times judge Mr. Bart by a more strict standard than the one the Times itself observes?
Note: Smartertimes.com is in Florida today and is operating off the national edition of the New York Times.
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