Friday, June 3, 2011

The Church of the Old Gray Lady

James Taranto said that it was arguably, “the most revealing quote ever published in the New York Times.” Link here.

To inaugurate her reign as Executive Editor of the Times, Jill Abramson opined that, “... as a born-and-raised New Yorker, she considered being named editor of The Times to be like ‘ascending to Valhalla.’"

She continued: "'In my house growing up, The Times substituted for religion,’ she said. ‘If The Times said it, it was the absolute truth'."

Surely, it’s a revealing quote. So revealing that the New York Times has erased it, blotted it out, censored it. If you follow the link in the Journal you will find the story, minus the quote.
We are now dealing with the most revealing quote ever censored from the New York Times. It’s not an auspicious start to the Abramson era.

It looks like the Times can’t handle the truth.

Before we even try to wrestle with the gnarly concept of “absolute truth,” let’s say a few words about Abramson’s feeling of “ascending to Valhalla.”

Here is one of the great martial metaphors. In Norse mythology, soldiers who are killed in battle are transported to Valhalla, their final resting place.

Is Abramson telling us that she considers herself to be a warrior queen, fighting the culture wars against enemies far and near? If the Times is a substitute religion, she would be more crusader than culture warrior.

Let’s be charitable and excuse the less-than-coherent metaphor. I guess that Abramson was trying to express her overwhelming glee at being promoted. The standard idiom for such feelings is: I felt like I died and went to Heaven.

Admittedly, referring to Valhalla makes you sound like a true sophisticate, and a great fighter. Referring to Heaven would make you sound like a virtuous believer. Anyway, Times editors naturally try to avoid cliched expressions.

Yet, if you believe that the New York Times is Holy Writ, then clearly, you cannot  reference a competing religious tradition, this time the Judeo-Christian. It would be like Ford praising Chevrolet... you do not want to draw attention to the competition.

I assume that it is acceptable to refer to pagan religions because they are moribund, and thus not a threat to your religion.

To make yourself the arbiter of absolute truth, you need to diminish, demean and slander all competing religions. The war against religion, so dear to liberals, is not a war against superstition and prejudice; it is really an attempt to replace one belief system with another.

As Taranto explained: “The Times has of late acted a great deal like a corrupt religious institution. This column has chronicled its often vicious and dishonest attempts--both on the editorial page and in the news sections, which Abramson will head--to shore up its own authority by trying to tear down its competitors.”

But, let’s examine the statement that Jill Abramson wishes she had not uttered.

What does it mean to say that, in her family, the New York Times was a substitute for religion, and that it was taken to be reporting the “absolute truth.”

A substitute religion? Does this suggest that Times readers, the ones who consider themselves so sophisticated that they leave religious belief for the rubes in the American heartland, have made their liberalism into a set of unquestioned dogmas, something you had best take on faith, lest you become a heretic or an apostate.

If you are running a religion, and if you have convinced your readers that your reporting is Holy Writ, you have overcome any obligation to report objective fact or to encourage rational inquiry within the marketplace of ideas. Your sacred mission is to report higher truths.

If you are a religion, you want to proselytize the faith, to enforce dogma, and to privilege moral over factual truths.

Medieval theologians recognized that there were different ways ot interpreting Scripture. Some of it should be taken as literal or historical truth, while other portions should be read as moral allegory, setting standards for good behavior. Other portions contained anagogical truths, truths that were mystical and that referred to otherworldly matters.

Sometimes the Times gets the facts right. This is consistent with it’s being Scripture. But it also slants and distorts its news reporting in order to present allegorical or anagogical truths. That means that it presents liberal dogma as Holy Writ.

It also suggests that its stories cannot be questioned, criticized, or analyzed. They must be taken on faith.

But, Abramson’s censored remark does not just reveal the mindset that prevails in the Church of the Old Gray Lady. It also gives us an insight into the mind of the average Times reader. The insight it gives is none too flattering. .

I suspect that the offending quotation was scrubbed was because it made Times readers look just as bad as the Times itself.

I daresay that the average Times reader believes him or herself to be a cosmopolitan sophisticate, a free-thinking semi-intellectual type, a person who weighs all the objective facts before coming to a reasoned judgment.


Now we know, from the mouth of the new Executive Editor of the Times, that the paper considers its readers to be gullible cult-followers, perfect dupes, so lacking in critical acumen that they bow down at the altar of the Church of the Old Gray Lady, to the point where they do not know the difference between an opinion and a fact.  

1 comment:

palmcop said...

It can't really work, I suppose like this.