It’s been some time since the Monitor shared a few of the more, shall we say, interesting letters and e-mails that come this way. Maybe it’s the onset of a presidential campaign, or maybe we’ve been added to a Michael Moore mailing list – whatever the reason, there’s been a definite uptick in the number of angry, off-the-wall screeds hurtling through cyberspace or trudging through the postal system, all seem ingly designed with the singular goal of disturbing the peace and interrupting the contemplation of this humble scribe.
Here are two recently received examples of the genre, with grammar adjusted and profanity excised for public consumption:
A Manhattan reader, presumably not related to Arthur Sulzberger Jr., writes: “Stop picking on The New York Times already. It’s an excellent publication, the finest newspaper there ever was, and the Jayson Blair fiasco does not change anything. Its coverage of the news is completely fair. Admit it – you don’t like it because it doesn’t twist the news to suit your conservative agenda. You right-wingers have the New York Post (yech) and the Washington Times (double yech) while those of us who are thinking, educated people turn to the Times for our news.”
The Monitor took the time to e-mail this individual a long list of examples of the Times’s skewed reporting, along with some suggestions for further reading (books, magazine pieces, websites), which hopefully would give her cause to at least entertain some second thoughts. Never heard from the woman again. (Perhaps she’s too busy trying to get Dennis Kucinich elected president.)
This business about the Times’s supposed greatness is getting tired. It’s just not so – unless one mistakes quantity, in this case the Times’s unmatched editorial resources and reportorial manpower, for quality – and it’s not only we Neanderthals on the Right who see through the unwarranted hype.
In his recently published memoir, My Times, former Times reporter John Hess, a man with a decidedly left-wing political bent, had this to say about the alleged greatness of the Times, particularly when measured against its competition in the 1960’s and 70’s, widely thought of as the Times’s heyday:
“…it never was ‘the greatest newspaper in the world,’ or even a great newspaper. Leaving aside the foreign press, the Trib [New York Herald Tribune] and others were far better written, the World-Telegram and the New York Post covered the city more thoroughly and with less fear or favor, the Wall Street Journal was light-years better and bolder on business news, the Washington Post covered the capital better….The Times’s journalism is forever making up in quantity what it lacks in quality.”
The next lovely note comes from someone who describes himself as a “proud inheritor of the long and noble tradition of Jewish progressivism.” This fellow goes on to kvell about how his “late grandparents were dedicated communists” in the 1930’s and 40’s (but only because “they wanted to make America better,” don’t you know) and how his parents have been “committed leftists in their own right from the 50’s down to today, and have passed on to my brother and myself a profound commitment to social justice and tikkun olam.”
Of course, phrases like “social justice” and “tikkun olam” have become code words for a far-left agenda, and, sure enough, our high-minded correspondent gets down to the nitty-gritty: “The Jewish Press, and your columns especially, make my blood boil. I am offended by your support of the anti-peace policies of Ariel Sharon, the brutalization and dehumanization of the Palestinian people, and the bully-boy tactics of that Saudi puppet in the White House. There’s nothing Jewish about wars of conquest and inflicting pain on others simply because we want their land or their oil.”
Whew, talk about hitting all the lefty cliches. If he isn’t otherwise engaged – for all we know he?s studying for the Reform rabbinate – our pen pal might want to seriously consider applying for a job as a Howard Dean speechwriter.