Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Moralistic Therapeutic Journalism

At The New York Times, abdication of professional integrity and intellectual standards
2018 New York Times Dealbook

Here is the psychotic state of discourse at The New York Times. The paper’s staff had to take to their fainting couch with their wubby over the op-ed page publishing a piece by a US Senator, but is presumably unembarrassed to publish this drama queen’s blubbering. Excerpts from the op-ed written by 30-year-old entrepreneurial grievance grifter Chad Sanders:

My book is coming out in a few months, and I don’t know if I’m going to be alive to see it, because I’m a black man.

That’s the first line, and we are already in Onion territory. But wait, there’s more:

Many white people I know are spilling over with guilt and overzealous attempts to offer sympathy. I have been avoiding them as best I can, trying to live, support my black family and friends and execute normal life functions such as working, moving into a new apartment and cooking dinner for my girlfriend.

But brazen as ever, white people who have my phone number are finding a way to drain my time and energy. Some are friends, others old co-workers and acquaintances I’ve intentionally released from my life for the sake of my peace of mind. Every few days I receive a bunch of texts like this one, from last week:

“Hi friend. I just wanted to reach out and let you know I love you and so deeply appreciate you in my life and your stories in the world. And I’m so sorry. This country is deeply broken and sick and racist. I’m sorry. I think I’m tired; meanwhile I’m sleeping in my Snuggie of white privilege. I love you and I’m here to fight and be useful in any way I can be. **Heart emojis**”

Almost every message ends with seven oppressive words — “Don’t feel like you need to respond.”

What does this man, Chad Sanders, want you to do instead? Here are two of his suggestions:

  • Money: To funds that pay legal fees for black people who are unjustly arrested, imprisoned or killed or to black politicians running for office.

  • Texts: To your relatives and loved ones telling them you will not be visiting them or answering phone calls until they take significant action in supporting black lives either through protest or financial contributions.

Read it all. I predict Chad will have a successful career shaking down guilty white liberals. I predict his book will be hailed by a Times reviewer as like something dictated by an Angel of the Lord. But what’s funny is not so much his ridiculous op-ed, but the fact that The New York Times is not embarrassed to publish it. The entire liberal ruling caste is having a gran mal seizure.

The Times had another struggle session town hall meeting today, in which executives admitted that they had sinned and fallen short of the standards of wokeness. From Vice’s report:

[Publisher A.G.] Sulzberger said that his memo functioned as a placeholder communication while they dug into “what had happened.” He turned the question over to [Editorial Page editor James] Bennet, who offered an abject apology.

“First, I just want to say thank you for the chance to answer, address, try to address some of these questions. And before I address this specific one, I just want to begin by just saying I’m very sorry. I’m sorry for the pain that this particular piece has caused. The pain that I acknowledge my leadership of Opinion, I’m responsible for this, has caused. And I’m sorry for that.

“I do think this is a moment for me and for us to interrogate everything about what we do in Opinion, including even the principles, A.G., that you enunciated at the beginning of the conversation. I think if we truly believe in debate and we do, we need to be unafraid about asking ourselves if these principles do fit this era, and what we mean by a wide-ranging debate, if it can result in pieces that our colleagues find so profoundly hurtful. …

My lord, but this is humiliating for everybody involved. I’m old enough to remember when journalists would have laughed at grown-ass men and women who needed coddling for the “pain” of having read something they disagreed with. I’m serious: this is professionally shameful. I recall back in the 1980s, when I was in college, a history professor made a mild joke about the medieval church, and a Christian student stood up, yelled at him, and stormed out. The professor said calmly, “There’s a school on the other side of town for people like her” — meaning the Jimmy Swaggart Bible College. He was right. If you are a college student, you are an adult, and you should be prepared to deal with opinions you don’t like. It is a sign of deep decadence that actual journalists — and not college newspaper writers, but those who work for the premier US journalism institution — have to be told this.

But nobody in authority is telling them this. They’re only Feeling Their Pain. Sulzberger could tell every one of those whiners that if they cannot deal with opinions they dislike, then he will expect their resignations. There are still professional journalists in this country who love to have those jobs.

One of the reasons I became interested, in my college years, in going into professional journalism, as opposed to academia, was for the fun of it. I cared about politics and current events, and I thought it would be much more interesting to engage with them as a journalist rather than an academic. I was a liberal back then, but I read as much conservative opinion journalism as I did liberal, because I found it so exciting to read how writers made their arguments. As a staffer on the college paper, it was fun to hang out with other college journalists. They smoked, drank, cussed, and made fun of everybody and everything. Most of us were smartasses, and even those who weren’t had an appreciation for irreverence. You had to have to do the job.

And now? Forget it. College is a woke seminary, and newspapers are parish newsletters. Why would anybody who respected themselves want to become a mainstream journalist? I have been an op-ed editor in my career, and I tell you, I would resign before I would abase myself like James Bennet did today.

Read the whole Vice piece if you care. And you should care, because I guarantee you some version of this is happening, or will soon happen, at major media institutions all over the country. The Times, like Ivy League colleges, leads the way for its industry. What happens there today happens almost everywhere tomorrow. You may not give a rat’s rear end what they think or report, but the people who make decisions in this country in its institutions very much care. This is not just a problem in journalism, but in academia too: a capitulation of professional integrity and intellectual standards. How can anybody trust the journalism the Times does — not the op-ed stuff, but the news reporting — when at least 300 newsroom employees were so traumatized by a conservative senator’s op-ed that they walked off the job in protest? I’m supposed to trust their news judgment?

Along those lines, read this letter that the black scholar Glenn Loury wrote to administrators at Brown University, where he teaches, in response to their virtue-signaling letter to faculty and staff over the Floyd killing. Excerpt:

I deeply resented the letter. First of all, what makes an administrator (even a highly paid one, with an exalted title) a “leader” of this university? We, the faculty, are the only “leaders” worthy of mention when it comes to the realm of ideas. Who cares what some paper-pushing apparatchik thinks? It’s all a bit creepy and unsettling. Why must this university’s senior administration declare, on behalf of the institution as a whole and with one voice, that they unanimously—without any subtle differences of emphasis or nuance—interpret contentious current events through a single lens?

They write sentences such as this: “We have been here before, and in fact have never left.” Really? This is nothing but propaganda. Is it supposed to be self-evident that every death of an “unarmed black man” at the hands of a white person tells the same story? They speak of “deep-rooted systems of oppression; legacies of hate.” No elaboration required here? No specification of where Brown might stand within such a system? No nuance or complexity? Is it obvious that “hate”—as opposed to incompetence, or fear, or cruelty, or poor training, or lack of accountability, or a brutal police culture, or panic, or malfeasance—is what we observed in Minneapolis? We are called upon to “effect change.” Change from what to what, exactly? Evidently, we’re now all charged to promote the policy agenda of the “progressive” wing of American politics. Is this what a university is supposed to be doing?

I must object. This is no reasoned ethical reflection. Rather, it is indoctrination, virtue-signaling, and the transparent currying of favor with our charges. The roster of Brown’s “leaders” who signed this manifesto in lockstep remind me of a Soviet Politburo making some party-line declaration. I can only assume that the point here is to forestall any student protests by declaring the university to be on the Right Side of History.

Read it all. You think this could ever be published in The New York Times? If it ever could, it can’t now. How much better would the Times be if Glenn Loury ran the op-ed section, or even the newsroom?




Want to join the conversation?

Subscribe for as little as $5/mo to start commenting on Rod’s blog.

Join Now