You are an accomplished adult, at the top of your field, working in the heart of the greatest city in the world. Important people answer your emails and phone calls. Yet there is one person in the office who bugs you, whose demeanor you find obnoxious. You want to take a stand, to let this individual know his behavior is uncalled for, imperious, despotic even. And so you do the only thing a mature and levelheaded man in your position can do: You refuse to sit with him at lunch.
Such is the case of an unnamed reporter at the New York Times, who is so upset at editorial and op-ed page editor Andrew Rosenthal that “he will literally not allow Mr. Rosenthal to join their lunch table in the cafeteria.”
I learned of this amazing passive-aggressive episode in an article by Ken Kurson, “The Tyranny and Lethargy of the Times Editorial Page,” which appeared this week in the New York Observer. Kurson interviewed “more than two-dozen current and formerTimes staffers,” who heaped insult atop insult on Rosenthal and his columnist Thomas L. Friedman, accusing them of laziness, pettiness, arrogance, belligerence, nosiness, unoriginality, and ineptitude. I suppose it takes one to know one.
On the most superficial level, the article is a delight. The experience of reading it is like watching a colony of red ants turn against each other—a violent and morbidly fascinating event towards which one is completely apathetic. It reminded me of the practice of some high school teachers who, having intercepted gossipy notes passed between students, read the messages aloud to the entire class. Except in this case the students gave their teacher the notes.