Friday, August 16, 2019

The New York Times' Problem

Whaddya going to do, if you are the executive editor of the New York Times? I mean, how do you report the news and also cater to the world view of your employees and readers?

I gotta say, reading the inside story of Dean Baquet talking to the folks in his newsroom, that it ain't easy. For instance,
Staffer: Could you explain your decision not to more regularly use the word racist in reference to the president’s actions?
Baquet's answer is waffle-waffle-waffle.
I’m not saying we would never use the word racist. I’m talking about that weekend. You quote the remarks. The most powerful journalism I have ever read, and that I’ve ever witnessed, was when writers actually just described what they heard and put them in some perspective.  
Translation: we are using "white nationalist" and "white supremacist" instead of "racist" these days.

Earth to New York Times bubble. The Civil Right Act was passed half a centuy ago. That was final. So now you chaps are reduced to accusing people of saying racist things. But what matters is racist acts, like, oh, I don't know, the government having racial quotas. The universities having diversity goals. And that includes diverstiy hires at the New York Times.

Rule One. The guy that brings up race is the real racist.

Why do I say that? Science, that's why.

See, science says that the interesting thing about, say, vision, is that the whole point is to decide what to notice. There is a riverful of information coming in through the eyes. But none of us has the time and the processing power to evaluate everything. We need to determine: what is the important information?

For instance that stripey-looking pattern over on the middle-right: how should I interpret it? As a pattern of sunshine through a patch of bamboo? As a rugby player? As a beautful young woman in a fashionable dress? As a zebra? As a man-eating tiger?

You can see that the name of the game is interpretation. It depends what you want to see. Are you a young man full of hormones? Are you a big-game hunter? Are you a tourist in a tiger reserve?

Are you a political lefty obsessed with race fifty years after the Civil Rights Act?

Psychologist Jordan B. Peterson of 10 Rules says that we look at the world through the lens of our values. Which is to say that we are programmed to notice the things that are important to us.

This is why conservatives are wrong to say that "we" use logic and reason while liberals and the left are directed by their feelings. Not at all. We conservatives believe that government should not be in the business of bringing all human life under the supervision of government. We tend to think that, after protecting us from enemies foreign and domestic, the government does not have much left to do. Of course we rely on science -- political philosophy and economics -- for this. But we don't know that our ideas are true. We merely have faith in them. Just as liberals have faith that racism is running rampant throughout our society, and cite events that prove, to them, that racism is still a scourge.

If you are a person that believes, according to the best science known to you and your pals in the liberal bubble, that racism is getting worse, because Trump is dog-whistling racism to his base, then of course you think that the New York Times should be shining the light of truth on Trump's racism each and every day.

If you believe, like me, that government basically did its job on race half a century ago in passing the Civil Rights Act, and that there is not much more that is possible for government to do without messing things up, then you look on liberal interest in racism as ignorance at best, foolishness at least, utter blindness to reality without doubt, and bad faith at worst.

And there is no doubt that if you are a racism-believer then Donald Trump rallying the white working class is a frightening, terrifying event. Why look at the "murder" of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri! Why hasn't the whole police department in Ferguson been sent to jail for racism?  Whataboyt Trump and Cummings. How dare, How Dare the president criticize Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) for the mess in Baltimore, Maryland.

Hey, it all depends on how you interpret events. Do you think that Michael Brown was a drugged-out thief that was threatening a policeman? Or do you think he was a helpless victim gunned down by a racist white policeman? It all depends on the values filter with which you interpret events.

Do you think that Rep. Elijah Cummings is a corrupt politician or a heroic leader of his people? It all depends how you view the world, and whether you have a Black Lives Matter yardsign in your front yard.

Of course, in my view the problem is that the more people look at the world exclusively through the lens of their values the more, in effect, they are bringing their religion into the public square. There is nothing particularly scandalous about this; everybody does it.

But our Founders, back in the day, thought that religion and the state should be at arms length from each other. Because the larger a society the more likely that it will include people that disagree about the proper value-lens with which people should interpret the world. They thought, a century after the Thirty Years War and Salem witches, that when religious people get to dominate the public square with their values and name and shame people that disagree with them, then they are setting society up for a religious war.

And of course, the bigger the government the more it is using taxpayers money and the votes of the majority to impose one world view upon another.

But if you are a person that cannot see anything except "my values good" and "your values bad" then youn will not have a clue about this.

Rather like the chaps that read and write the New York Times.

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