The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Monday, January 10, 2005

The New Yokels' Times

Stephen Green, in an energetic fisking of the eminently risible Paul Krugman, brushes against an important point.
Question is, how did we find this column in the venerable New York Times? Oh, yeah - Iokiyale: It's O.K. if you're a liberal economist.
... hypocrites, cranks and scoundrels of the right, empowered by the public's credulity... [ellipses mine]
As opposed to the credulity of people who believe Krugman's stuff?
We must not underestimate Mr. Krugman's intelligence. It is safe to assume that he is actively aware of hypocrisy on both sides of the political spectrum, and in particular of the high-profile examples pointed to by Mr. Green. Yet he has chosen to write this column anyway.

I will make the further assumption that, in so writing, Mr. Krugman was rationally motivated; i.e., that he wrote with the expectation of helping his career, not of sacrificing his career to the outpouring of a personally satisfying rant. This means that Mr. Krugman is writing the column he is paid to write. His continued tenure at the Times supports this axiom.

Given this, the problem is now obviously not with Mr. Krugman himself, but with the Times; and, since the Times tends to please its readers [by its own choosing or theirs, it does not matter], the readers are pleased with Mr. Krugman's works. They do not want balance, or to hear the flaws of their own side pointed out.

Those who are still reading the Times have chosen to do so. They have chosen a paper which is obviously substantially left of center compared to the country as a whole, and whose significant bias has been documented in many other forums. They continue reading because they do not care.They do not seek knowledge or new thought, but confirmation of prejudice. They are the new yokels, and the Times is their collective voice.

Update [11 Jan]: I should also point out that the strong bias of the editorial page provides cover for the less blatant bias of the news pages. For example, during a previous election campaign, suppose a Times editorial had reviewed the Swift Vets' charges and supported some of them. This would have vitiated the Times's strategy of always presenting them as "discredited" without ever airing their allegations.

Update [24 Jan]: Maureen Dowd throws some more candy to the kids. (Via Belgravia Dispatch.)

Update [30 Aug]: Mickey Kaus aims the same criticism at the New Yorker:
Like many New Yorker policy articles, Gladwell's reads like a lecture to an isolated, ill-informed and somewhat gullible group of highly literate children. They are cheap dates. They won't think of the obvious objections. They won't demand that you "play Notre Dame," as my boss Charles Peters used to say, and take on the best arguments for the other side. They just need to be given a bit of intellectual entertainment and pointed off in a comforting anti-Bush direction.