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Trick or Treat at the New York Times

Nov 5, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 08 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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The chief defect of the New York Times, it has long seemed to The Scrapbook, is that it is at heart a deeply provincial paper. We have nothing against New York itself—it’s a fine city full of decent and remarkable people. But the Times is even more provincial than that. There is a strain of unreflective liberal condescension endemic to the city’s wealthier neighborhoods that the paper embodies. It was on full display last week in a column entitled “A Nightmare on Park Avenue.” Here’s the first paragraph in full: 

If you didn’t have children, or any affinity for them—if, perhaps, you actively dislike them—then the Upper East Side, especially Carnegie Hill, would be a very alienating place to live. On Madison Avenue, between 67th and 94th Streets, there are approximately 20 children’s clothing stores (at least four of them French), one children’s furniture store (offering a desk in the style of Jean Prouvé), and a Gymboree. Is this why you moved to Manhattan? To be besieged by tiny things made of cashmere? Certainly, some periods of the year would be more tolerable than others: summertime, for instance, when so many of these children are in Maine or Nantucket or Taormina, Sicily. But October presents challenges anew.

The article goes on to decry those who display Halloween decorations and encourage children to celebrate that holiday, in the most obnoxious and elitist terms possible. We think the writer is being tongue-in-cheek when she argues against capital gains tax cuts for fear it might give the city’s wealthy hedge fund managers more money to spend on “glitter pumpkins, mock corpses, enormous fake spiders, moving cobwebs and mechanical skeletons” to place outside their townhouses, but we aren’t entirely sure. 

Now, The Scrapbook admits to being not overly fond of Halloween. The fact that “Sexy Big Bird” is a popular costume this year says a lot about the less wholesome tendencies of both our politics and the holiday. However, we tolerate Halloween for one reason and one reason only—the pure enjoyment it brings to kids. In that regard, the underlying sentiment of the Times article is both unmistakable and ugly. 

And yet we have to assume that several members of the New York Times staff were involved in conceiving, commissioning, writing, editing, and publishing this article without any real objection. They simply can’t imagine that most Americans—even most New Yorkers—would have trouble getting through the first paragraph without reaching for an air sickness bag. 

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