The Magazine

The Times Loses It

Sense and nonsense about Tucson.

Jan 24, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 18 • By P.J. O'ROURKE
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Then they’re off again, into the jump, for a total of more than 18 column inches of “protesters outside the House hurling insults and slurs .  .  . ” “Sarah Palin’s political action committee with cross hairs .  .  . ” “Republican candidates seemed to raise the prospect of armed revolt .  .  . ” and “other Tea Party activists said it would be hard to separate the shooting in Tucson from the current ideological clash.”

Hulse and Zernike have the nerve to end with a quote from one of the “other Tea Party activists,” Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation: “Violence of this nature should be decried by everyone and not used for political gain.” Left unprinted are descriptions of Hulse and Zernike smirking.

A great deal of other ugly and offensive writing went off on a tangent from the crime scene and wound up published in the Sunday New York Times.

Some was in the guise of commentary, such as Matt Bai’s dredging up of a quip by Sharron Angle, “I hope we’re not getting to Second Amendment remedies.” Gabrielle Giffords is a gun rights advocate.

Some was in the news coverage: “Democrats denounced the fierce partisan atmosphere in Ms. Giffords’s district.” Voters in that conservative locale chose Giffords over a GOP candidate backed by Tea Party supporters.

Worse came in Monday’s Times. News analyst Jennifer Steinhauer wrote, “Arizona has shifted from a place on the political fringe to a symbol of a nation whose political discourse has lost its way.” It’s worth remembering that another place the Times considers to be on the political fringe is Staten Island.

Editorialized the Times: “It is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats.” Interesting how a few small changes would make that sentence appall the Times as much as the Times appalls me: “It is legitimate to hold Muslims and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced 9/11.”

The most cringe-inducing article was titled “In the Shock of the Moment, the Politicking Stops .  .  . Until It Doesn’t.” Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg wrote, “Some Democrats were urging [President Obama] to look back to recent history, when President Bill Clinton seized the political high ground after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.”

In the matter of self-serving, bitter, calculated cynicism, there wouldn’t seem to be much left to prove against the Times. Judging by what I’ve heard from my fellow conservatives, the issue is decided. The New York Times is a worthless, truthless, vicious institution. But I disagree. I think things are worse than that.

A reaction so disproportionate and immaterial to a news story by a news organization is indicative of trouble in the body politic​—​trouble almost as severe as that which the Times claims the Giffords shooting indicates. I worry that in the tremors and hysteria of the Times we’re seeing the sad end of liberalism.

Its passing is to be mourned, perhaps most by true conservatives. -Civilization owes a debt to liberal politics. From the Reform Act and the religious emancipation fight of the British Whigs to the American civil rights movement, liberals have in fact held positions on political high ground (though not during Clinton’s exploitation of the Oklahoma City bombing). Liberals have seen government as a force for good, and sometimes it can be. World War II comes to mind. While conservatives have delighted in the free market, liberals have been there to remind us that all freedoms, including market freedoms, entail responsibilities. At the very least it can be said that we conservatives would not be so upright in our ideals if we hadn’t been pushing against liberals.

But liberalism, as personified by  the New York Times, became a dotty old aunt sometime during the Johnson administration. She’s provincial, eccentric, and holds dull, peculiar views about the world. Still, she has our fond regard, and we visit her regularly in her nursing home otherwise known as Arts and Leisure and the Book Review. Or we did until Sunday, January 9, when she began spouting obscenities and exposing herself.

We observe in the Times a bizarre overreaction to people and things that can be construed as “antigovernment.” (And all people and most things often can be so construed, e.g., the man who just got a speeding ticket.) The Times has become delusional, going from advocating big government to believing that it is the big government. Americans being somewhat disgruntled with big government, the Times imagines itself under attack from every side, even, no doubt, from within.

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