I was also surprised by their recent decision to hire John McWhorter as a columnist. If the question is "who will tell these people they don't want to hear?", he's your best candidate. He can take or leave the Times gig, so the length of his tenure there (to say nothing of what he produces for them) may yet surprise people.

He will definitely be not like most times columnists, who basically are indistinguishable from one another in terms of their outlook, and he has definitely never minced words to please the exact same audience your piece is talking about.

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Whew, that piece was hotter than an August afternoon in Arizona. Believe me, I was just there a week ago.

Question for Freddie and anyone else who wants to chime in. Has this sneering, elitist, woke attitude turned you off of late night comedy too? It has for me. I can't watch John Oliver anymore because I feel like a lot of the humor has been leeched out of his show post- George Floyd.

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A while back I was defending Matt Taibbi on Twitter when the criticisms coming at him were: you did not attack Trump hard enough in the lead up to the election and so you were helping a fascist." But when I pointed out something that should be clear to anyone - that it's not the job of journalists to put candidates in power - it was met with confusion (aka personal insults). But it's true. Do people even remember what journalism is supposed to be? I don't think so. I can't read the Times anymore. When I look at the movies on offer of late they are all ideologically inclined. Again, not really the job of artists or good storytellers to be propaganda machines. The Times should have stood behind James Bennett. They should have had more representations from Trump World in their coverage.

My daughter works at a park in NYC where old timers come to read newspapers. Yes, actual newspapers. I didn't tell her anything about which ones to read but she naturally gravitated to the Wall Street Journal because, she said, it was the only one that reported news -- actual news she wanted to know. The Times have been swallowed up by their op-ed section. They do have good reporters there, you are right. But Twitter ruined everything.

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If McWhorter keeps doing what he has been doing the past couple years he won’t last 6 months at the Times. He has been an absolute hero.

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Aug 16, 2021Liked by Freddie deBoer

This is the one of most insightful pieces of media criticism I've read all year. Well done, Freddie.

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I'm unsure who the NYT's wokeward lurch is playing to. The subscriber base or the staff? A couple of places in this piece it seems to be the staff pushing for ideology purity, but then the staff also hold insecure jobs in a very insecure industry. It makes perfect sense that the NYT aims to please its butter-on-bread-dispensing readership, and not the dispensable staff. It's just that I know a bajillion NYT subscribers who are lifelong Democrats, and consider the NYT the absolute standard bearer of journalism, and are reliable subscribers and admires. But they are far from woke.

Here's a caricature of the NYT subscribers in my admittedly anecdotal observation: They're in the top 1%, and hold at least one advanced degree. Most of their kids went to $$$$$ private schools, who then proceeded to the Ivies. They unquestioningly read the NYT but aren't the commenters, because they work insane hours, travel to give speeches, helicopter over their kids, and volunteer with their kids at the homeless shelter. They think the DiAngelesque whiteness effigy burning, if they've even heard of it at all, is a ridiculous fringe fad that doesn't and won't impact their lives or that of their kids (they're all in or beyond collage anyway). They spend no time reading woke content and 1619 made no blip on their radar, other than "hmm, how interesting, now back to real life." They voraciously consume and agree with content about the evils of Trump, and literally nothing in their lives has politically mobilized them as much as the dangers of Trump, but they but don't consider Trump voters to all be racist rubes. They have no problem with a Cotton piece in the NYT, and didn't even know about or pay attention to the staff revolt resulting from it.

These very successful, very comfortable, VERY busy, but very caring-about-the-less-fortunate don't participate in, and therefore deny the existence of any culture war beyond a handful of Trump supporters who are really pissed off because they're uneducated. The ones who are more knowledgeable about the culture wars detest it and want nothing to do with it and fear it will undermine the Democrats' electability. They are not Very Online, and are largely completely techno-illiterate and barely know how to post a photo on Facebook, someplace they hardly ever visit. They are a reliable source of subscriber cash for the NYT, but they're not the loud subscribers who complain about Cotton or get Bennet shoved out or comment online on articles

I thought that they represent the bulk of NYT subscribers, not the exception. But if the NYT's wokeward lurch is to please the readership, then I don't know who these people are. I know young woke people, but not well-established wealthy white woke people. Am I completely off base? Do I just live in a very blue state that's really chill and unfraught and therefore not the wokest?

Meanwhile, let's appreciate this gem, among many other gems in this piece:

"we’ve had a years-long moral panic in which elite white tastemakers adopted the political posture of radical Black academics out of purely competitive social impulses, trying on a ready-made political eschatology that blames the worlds ills on whiteness and men and yet somehow leaves space for an army of good white people and good men to cluck their tongue about it all." [*chef kiss*]

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As a former subscriber to periodicals like the NYTs, New Republic, (and now) even The Economist, I find that to glean the "elite" opinion on any given topic, I need read only one article, and any random writer will do.

Being interchangeable, I find I have saved much on subscriptions, and many hours of re-reading the same things. It leaves more time for far more productive activities.

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There's that old saying that the fighting is so fierce because the stakes are so low. The fights always get worse when the pie is shrinking, and a voted off the island, Survivor mentality sets in. It's no better and no worse than any other industry on the downgrade in corporate America, but I think what makes it so odious, so patently offensive and obnoxious to everyone else who isn't involved is that the usual cutthroat office politics are slathered up in the most cynical and phony weaponization of social justice politics possible. It sounds like the trading floor on the NYSE trying to tell you that the job is really all about feminism. Only the NYT crowd is blind to this dynamic.

None of it is real and none of it matters, except to the people trying to climb the broken ladder leaned up against an abandoned house that is today's media. I think everyone would be collectively better off if they walked away and did something else with their lives.

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Conservatives have been claiming that the mainstream media was biased for decades, which has been true on certain levels (not a lot of actual Republicans around) and less true on others (media has been fine eating up conservative narratives and framing etc.)

But now that we've decided to actually work the refs, there really is no reason for the right to take the game seriously. You can't send a NYT article on vaccines or global warming to a Republican and expect them to treat it as honest journalism. Openly and loudly picking sides devalues the entire institution and it pushes us even further from a world with universally accepted facts or standards.

I think some people see this all as a war and they see the left conquering a bunch of institutional castles as an obviously good thing. And if you think "Left-leaning Times readers will get fed even further left-leaning content" is a victory, then maybe you've scored one. But there is a genuine cost to further polarizing the country. If you think people reading Fox News is bad, you need to at the very least provide an alternative, and that's obviously not gonna be the current incarnation of the NYT.

A similar thing has happened with the ACLU, another institution that played a distinct and important role in American society and threw it all away: https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/the-disintegration-of-the-aclu-james-kirchick

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Michael Lind and David Shor have both written that the country is dividing into two camps: a multiracial blue collar camp that votes GOP and a multiracial urban professional camp for the Dems. Race is no longer the defining factor. Class is.

Look at that list of writers and ignore the fake diversity of skin color: which one of them doesn't have a college degree? Which one of them comes from a blue collar background? The days of blue collar scribes like Mike Royko or Jimmy Breslin are apparently over.

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"I think of David Brooks and Tom Friedman at the Times like children whose parents have handed them Xbox controllers that aren’t plugged in" made me laugh out loud. Great line.

"If you’re new around here, the basic scenario..." was a *perfect* summary of what is going on.

But (as a regular viewer) Chris Hayes doesn't cover "Trump’s latest spray tan" or Trump's latest anything. Hayes and MSNBC cover the Trump presidency. 95% of the coverage is about the past. They'll say it's "news" because there is some new document or subpoena or interview, but it's just an excuse to talk about corruption during the administration, the "big lie" (that the election was stolen), and January 6th. You can watch an hour of MSNBC with no mention of anything that happened after January 2021. It's just so relentlessly focused on the past.

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Besides the who, there are telling gaps in the listed topics. Politics, economics, "culture," media are multiply represented. What about a dedicated science writer (not even "climate" appears)? Art and music? International news? (Non-woke) culture -- there are vast swaths of U.S. culture that have nothing to do with the culture wars and that the NYT could find good writers to comment on. One day someone with influence is going to realize the potential in simply sidestepping culture war and giving people a window onto the vast array of interesting and important phenomena in the world around them.

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‘It’s also the Grey Lady, telling them and the world that they are the moral aristocracy that deserves to rule, that they are the Good White People, and they always have been. And it only costs $17 a month.’

I do at times feel sorry for them, electing to be force fed chosen pieties without a hint of dissent.

For example, ‘moral clarity’ necessitated perpetual COVID hysteria that must persist even if you have the protection of an astoundingly effective vaccine. I know many otherwise intelligent people who have become deranged by COVID fear due in no small part to failures in sense making and risk assessment on the part of NYT/WaPo/CNN/MSNBC.

This continues to this day regarding school openings. (‘Is it safe????’ Yes, it is. Europe has run the experiment.)

Maybe McNeil could have reduced the derangement to small but significant degree.

And it goes beyond COVID obviously: obsession with gender refracted through internet culture, the intersection of the therapeutic culture, religion, and racial fixations that is wokeness, years of truly weird McCarthyite Cold War conspiracy theories.

The NY Times is unreadable and toxic. Even though it has better journalism I unsubscribed after more 8 years and now go to the WSJ for news. The paper really is a hell of its own making.

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King shit. Spot on. Freddie at his best.

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I of course agree that the NYT is written to please elites (your sworn enemy Atrios has said for years that they are concerned with documenting the "difficulties of the rich but not quite rich enough"). But Freddie: saying that they are on a "leftward march" isn't really correct is it? Just because they are woke, does not mean they are left, and I would hope to see self identified leftists make that distinction. They weren't exactly friendly to either of Bernie Sanders' presidential runs were they? In fact guess who got to write a long hit piece about the problem of Bernie Bros in February of last year? It was your brave truth teller, the daughter of literal California oligarchs Nellie Bowles.

If Nellie Bowles and Bari Weiss are "diverse viewpoints" then you are constraining your entire political lens to the twitter fights among elites. They are right wing culture warriors, do you really give a shit about this? Bari's chief concern as a columnist was being accusing people like Jeremy Corbyn and Ilhan Omar of being soft on antisemitism and insufficiently Zionist, a job so important that the NYT has a second columnist also devoted to that beat that is still on staff. She didn't even get fired, she quit because playing the victim is central to her entire career of being persecuted for holding viewpoints that both political parties have strongly supported for my entire lifetime.

This feels like a piece that could have written by Nellie or Bari or one of those frauds man, it's disappointing. You know the reason that some people at NYT do woke politics and culture war is the same reason that Nellie and Bari do it, just from the other side: they don't want to talk about actual leftist things. It's not interesting to Nellie and Bari because they have both been incredibly rich for their entire lives and so are all of their friends. The same is true for most of the subscriber base, so it's all just theater. Who gives a shit?

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"You can understand a lot about media culture by understanding that most of the people within it feel like they’re barely hanging on."

I can't help but draw the parallel to teaching, where the best and brightest forsake the field for better paid jobs in industries like finance and tech. What's left are the mediocre and a handful of martyrs. Like it or not money and job security are factors that people in the real world care about. How can a brain drain not be the inevitable outcome?

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