Sunday, October 31, 2010

Yes, This Is an Elitist Post

I see that this morning the New York Times has declared a war on elitism. It must be mentioned in at least four or five featured articles. Apparently the Gray Lady is allying herself with the masses in time for Tuesday's election.

Oh, and, in order to cover up that slip into partisanship, there's a large helping of false equivalency. The Tea Party is the same as Nothing to see here, just the larger movements of history as delineated by Times reporters, who decry elitism.

That article in particular bothered me.
What he saw there [in Poland], he will tell you, affected him deeply. In the economic detritus of Communism, some of the world’s most skilled craftsmen sat idle all day, with nothing to build. During one of his first few visits, before he bought the airplane factory and started making cars, the government laid off 20,000 workers, and Mr. Kirkham watched the men file out the door robotically, their faces ashen, their lives in shards. This is what happens, Mr. Kirkham thought, when the state controls the economy.


Then came the Republican-led bank bailouts in 2008, followed by President Obama’s first acts in office: more bailouts and the stimulus package. We are heading down the path of Poland, Mr. Kirkham thought. “He’s a socialist,” Mr. Kirkham said when I asked his opinion of the president. “There’s no question. He’s a statist.”
Every news article, of course, leaves out a lot. But I've been to Estonia, seen the economic detritus of Communism, and haven't been able to conclude from that that President Obama is a socialist. In fact, my elitist tendency to look at facts and definitions of words leads me to believe that Mr. Kirkham has left a lot out of his analysis.

Perhaps he didn't consider the tens of thousands of American automobile workers (men and women, btw, as it probably was in Poland) who would have been thrown out of work, their faces ashen, their lives in shards, if the automobile industry hadn't been bailed out. By his logic (or what was presented of it in the article), that would have signaled the failure of the free enterprise system. In that case, presumably he could have said of the current president who let the industry fail, "He's a free-marketer. There's no question. He's a capitalist." Or perhaps he would have said what he said anyway.

That thought-experiment suggests that Mr. Kirkham's words are place-holders for "I don't like what the President is doing" or perhaps "I don't like the President." So we learn nothing from Mr. Kirkham or Matt Bai's report on him. The rest of the article is similarly foggy: today's political movements may or may not last; they may or may not be like other political movements in American history. I think I knew that before I read the article.

But our "socialist" president referred to facts the other day, so that confirms Peter Baker's ideas about his elitism, which we are treated to one more time. I guess it would have been elitism for Matt Bai to have thought a bit about Poland's history and have asked Mr. Kirkham if he had talked to any of the Solidarity movement or to Polish entrepreneurs. Or considered that those people were laid off after the fall of Communism. Communism kept them working, although its economic model ultimately failed. Or even asked Mr. Kirkham how he concluded that President Obama is a socialist and how that connected to the history of Communism in Poland.

I guess that this is the best that the Times can do, lacking aluminum tubes that might be made into Ladas.

For false equivalency, we can look at an article examining the hostile relationship of "politicians" to the press. "Politicians are fighting mad, at the news media," we are told. But seven politicians are cited, and six are Republican. Charles Rangel merely didn't answer a reporter's question, but I guess that counts as "mad" if you have to show that you share the all-important even-handedness.

But the fact that Republican politicians are angry might have led to quite a different story. Are they trying to put one over on the media, and the media won't let them (some of the time, anyway)? The commentators enlisted for the article are Republican, too. Could it be that they are trying to put their best spin on this?

1 comment:

troutsky said...

You might also mention there exists such a thing as a libertarian socialist. And that it is a wholly consistent political philosophy. Just for the record.