September 16, 2001
comments powered by Disqus
A front-page note in today's New York Times says, "Several of today's sections, including The Times Magazine and The Sophisticated Traveler, went to press before the terrorist attacks last week. The Times regrets that some references to events are outdated, and that the tone of some articles and advertising is inconsistent with the gravity of the news."
Well, Smartertimes.com went looking for what this note in the Times could possibly be referring to. Sure enough, there in the Sophisticated Traveler section is an advertisement announcing "Syria: Land of Civilizations." The ad copy announces "Discover the Cradle of Civilization at Wilmington's Riverfront. . .an epic adventure of ancient wonders. This acclaimed international exhibition features nearly 400 precious artifacts from ancient civilizations dating as far back as one million years. Gathered from museums throughout Syria, many have never left the region before this showing, and may never do so again." The ad doesn't acknowledge the fact that the "Ministry of Culture, Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums of the Syrian Arab Republic" assembled the exhibit.
Now, one can make the argument that cultural exchanges between America and Syria help promote democratization there. That's beside the point. The problem with this ad isn't that its "tone" is "inconsistent with the gravity of the news." The problem is that it is essentially propaganda for the Syrian government, which is on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism -- at a time when terrorists have just killed about 5,000 persons in an attack on American soil.
The New York Times magazine, meanwhile, features an insipid question and answer interview with William "Bill" Ayers. The magazine describes him simply as "a former leader of the Weathermen," not mentioning that, according to his memoir, he participated in the bombing of the New York City Police Headquarters in 1970, of the Capitol building in 1971, of the Pentagon in 1972. The Times interviewer today asks him, "was it worth it, all the struggling?" And his answer is, "Without a doubt."
Now, it's ridiculous enough for the Times to be fawning all over this guy, even without a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. But the Times already wrote about Mr. Ayers pretty generously in its Arts section on Tuesday morning. Now the newspaper does so again in today's magazine. Again, the problem here is not that this article is "outdated" or that its "tone" is "inconsistent with the gravity of the news." The problem is that in the wake of a terrorist attack on the Pentagon that killed about 190 people, it's just obscene for the Times to be helping another terrorist whose group attacked the same target sell his new book, and for the newspaper to refer to bombing the Pentagon as "struggling."
Mr. Ayers has a weaselly attempt to explain this matter in the letters to the editor section of today's Times, claiming that he is "filled with horror and grief for those murdered and harmed, for their families and for all affected forever." (He's apparently referring to those hurt last week, not back in the 1970s.) The Ayers letter goes on to say that his memoir "is now receiving attention in a radically changed context." The letter claims that Ayers' book is "a condemnation of terrorism in all its forms." But the Times reported Tuesday morning that Ayers said in an interview, "I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough." That doesn't sound like a "condemnation." It sounds like an endorsement.
The Times claims wanly in its front-page note that it has "regrets" about these preprinted sections. But it would have been easy enough for the Times just not to distribute those sections with today's newspaper. Apparently the Times' "regrets" weren't substantial enough to outweigh the paper's short-term greed for the advertising revenue it derived from those sections. This is a direct turnabout from the newspaper's performance during World War II. Ever since that war, the newspaper has taken pride in the fact that, in the face of newsprint rationing, Arthur Hays Sulzberger turned down some ads during the war and printed news instead, sacrificing short-term revenue in favor of news values, long-term credibility with readers, and profits once the rationing was ended after the war. If the New York Times today had any shame or grace or self-respect or decency at all, it would donate all the ad revenue from today's magazine and Sophisticated Traveler sections to the war effort. Otherwise, the newspaper's "regrets" are nothing more than a cynical public relations ploy. And otherwise, Arthur Hays Sulzberger would roll over in his grave if he could see his grandson the current publisher-heir shredding the credibility and respect that a family of newspapermen and women spent more than 100 years amassing.
Maligning Midge: A truly smallminded and nasty review of Midge Decter's latest book, "An Old Wife's Tale" appears in today's New York Times Book Review. The review asserts that Decter's son-in-law, Elliott Abrams, "was put to work formulating policies in support of military regimes in Central America." That's an absurd formulation. What Mr. Abrams was doing was fighting the influence in Central America of the most menacing military regime in the world at the time, the Soviet Union. If Mr. Abrams's job was to formulate policies "in support of military regimes," why did he take a firm stance against Fidel Castro's Cuba and Daniel Ortega's Nicaragua? Does the Times's hand-picked reviewer think those were not military regimes but proletarian utopias? One can argue that in retrospect it was a mistake for America to cooperate so closely with some anti-Communist military regimes. But the Times reviewer doesn't make that argument, she just offers a nave caricature of it.
The review concludes: "These days Decter is a woman triumphant. Liberalism, which permitted so much heresy in the form of criticism of official policies, was her enemy. And liberalism has apparently been vanquished. Certainly, it is no longer in political vogue to envision a government with the responsibility not only to make laws that protect property and life, but also to intervene between the weakest citizens and the depredations of capitalism unbound. It seemed a nice idea at the time. If liberalism's day has passed, we ought to give a bit of credit where credit is due, and acknowledge the effectiveness of Midge Decter's mouth."
Well, the notion that Midge Decter is the enemy of "criticism of official policies" is just ridiculous. The liberal pieties that she attacked -- among them that the Cold War was unwinnable, that capitalism hurt the poor and that welfare helped them -- were the official policies among the New York Jewish intellectual elite (and for that matter, at the Times). If anyone is a liberal freethinking heretic willing to criticize the official policies, it's Midge Decter. For evidence of that, look no further than how this reviewer treats her -- like a heretic -- for her willingness to criticize the official policies of the liberal orthodoxy.
If liberalism has been so thoroughly "vanquished," why is the Times Book Review still running hatchet pieces against books that dare to express thoughts like Midge Decter's? The notion that Midge Decter and her ideological allies are against government intervention on behalf of "the weakest citizens" just misses the point. Midge Decter and her fellow neoconservatives -- and Bill "End Welfare as We Know It" Clinton, for that matter -- saw that these interventions often fostered dependency and ended up hurting the poor. It may still seem like a "nice idea" to the unvanquished liberals at the Times, but it was a proven failure. And now a new generation of policymakers inspired by Midge Decter and her neoconservatives allies is implementing new ways to help the "weakest citizens" -- school vouchers, federal support for faith-based social services. Rather than intervening against the "depradations of capitalism," these programs seek to harness the strength of capitalism to allow the "weakest" to share for themselves in creating and benefiting from capitalism's riches.
Subscribe to the Mailing List
© 2017 FutureOfCapitalism LLC