The New York Times Editorial Page Should Stop Publishing Nonsense

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Photo credit: Win McNamee - Getty Images
Photo credit: Win McNamee - Getty Images

The New York Times needs a serious change in philosophy. No more high-priced pundits turning their columns in three days early so as to beat the traffic on weekends. News being news, it tends to keep happening, and if you’re not careful, it can turn into a very loud whoopee cushion underneath your work product no matter how carefully you gird it with misplaced Shakespeare. First, we had Maureen Dowd’s column that appeared on the morning after a rather historic infrastructure package passed Congress.

Many who were sick of Trump chaos and ineptitude are now sick of Biden chaos and ineptitude. Scranton Joe was supposed to be the sensible, steady one.

And just think, the bill that emerged from all that “chaos and ineptitude” includes $65 billion to upgrade internet access and affordability. So soon, thanks to all that “chaos and ineptitude,” millions more Americans can read Maureen Dowd and fall out laughing.

This came after David Brooks had unburdened himself on how “The Left” has lost touch with the salt-of-the-earth Americans he so champions when it doesn’t cost him anything in honoraria or book deals.

Democrats would be wise to accept the fact that they have immense social and cultural power, and accept the responsibilities that entails by adopting what I’d call a Whole Nation Progressivism.

You may recall that, when the previous Republican president fcked things up from here to Baghdad and back, Brooks bailed on him by pitching something called National Greatness Conservatism. The man is the Ron Popeil of useless sloganeering. Can you guess what WNP is, and how detached from political reality it is?

It would instead offer a vision of unity, unity, unity. That unity is based on a recognition of the complex humanity of each person — that each person is in the act of creating a meaningful life. It would reject racism, the ultimate dehumanizing force, but also reject any act that seeks to control the marketplace of ideas or intimidate those with opposing views. It would reject ideas and movements that seek to reduce complex humans to their group identities. It would stand for racial, economic and ideological integration, and against separatism, criticizing, for example, the way conservatives are often shut out from elite cultural institutions.

That’s all the way around Robin Hood’s barn to get to the customary weeping about how conservatives like David Brooks—well-compensated even when he isn't double-dipping, and a man of considerable collateral wealth—are shut out of elite cultural institutions. Brooks seems incapable of noticing that the conservative movement—from which he takes a knee when it becomes too embarrassing even for him—is not now, nor has it ever been interested in unity, unity, unity on anything under the sun.

Photo credit: Michael Kovac - Getty Images
Photo credit: Michael Kovac - Getty Images

It has become plain here in the shebeen that we have to keep an eye on how the word “woke” is being thrown around in elite pundit circles. Ever since, by two whole points, the outcome of the Virginia governor’s race turned out (in relation to the incumbent president) exactly the same way recent history suggested it would turn out, a lot of people who don’t know what the term means have been throwing it around like a brick to the head. The chorus opened up when museumpiece James Carville raved about it on TV.

"What went wrong was just stupid wokeness. Just defund the police lunacy, take Abraham Lincoln's name off of schools? People see that, and it's just really have a suppressive effect all across the country. The Democrats, some of these people need to go to a woke detox center or something.”

Then, on Sunday, CNN’s Dana Bash asked the following question of Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner:

Are Democrats too woke, Senator?

Let’s pause here and remember that neither Bash nor Carville know enough about “woke” or “wokeness” to throw to a cat, to borrow a phrase from Sean O’Faolain. They are tossing the term around as a pejorative because conservatives have decided to weaponize it, and because some people in my business function as mynah birds for the rest of the flock.

(In addition to Dowd and Brooks, the NYT ran a “conversation” between Gail Collins and Bret Stephens in which the dreaded W-word came up. And, on Monday, they ran a piece co-authored by the execrable Mark Penn for which I can barely summon the words. Penn’s suggestion? Revert to Clintonism, despite the fact that the most Clintonite candidate outside the immediate family just lost in Virginia.)

As nearly as I can tell, “woke” began as a shorthand for the process of directly confronting the uncomfortable parts of the country’s history, particularly those involving race and genocide, and also confronting the legacies of those parts of our history that bedevil us today. And that was pretty much it. If those two goals are damaging politically, then that’s proof enough that we’re not close to achieving them. “Woke” doesn’t get to be used as a proxy for James Carville feeling past it, or as a campaign device for reporters to marvel over when it succeeds. Used thus, it just becomes another entry in the litany that began with “white backlash” during the late 1960s—an agreed-upon Democratic excuse to ignore again what has been ignored for far too long.

Also, the only question it ever has been worth asking Mark Penn is, “Do you need help to find the door?"

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