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Our Take:
What the New York Times does not say

September 2008

Volume XXVIII, No. 3

Some weeks ago your editor was browsing through the New York Review of Books, London Review of Books, and New York Times in search of articles of relevance and interest to Central Europe-oriented readers. She found none; this process left an impression that hardly any of the books reviewed had any relevance to anything significant at all. The predictability of opinions in the “leading” magazines would be frightening were it not simply boring. The eyes slide down the contents page and fingers move the mouse onto another territory. In olden times, when anticommunist warriors with inappropriate zip codes were occasionally allowed to contribute to the New York Times, there was some unexpectedness and agitation: even today, once cannot read Vladimir Bukovsky without mild excitement. But today the world of the media, even “serious” media such as the aforementioned journals, is increasingly unreal and irrelevant to the real world. Blogs have more zip to them than the leading journals.

One article sparked attention: “The ‘60s Begin to Fade as Liberal Professors Retire” (NYT, 3 July 2008), by Patricia Cohen. It tells the story of a baby-boomer, a “liberal” (in the NYT meaning of the word) who participated in the rebellious 60s and has now been replaced by a more conservative professor. The conservatism of the said professor consists in that she is more quantitatively oriented than her predecessor. The NYT author makes it seem so easy and innocent—yes, the 60s were wild, but times have changed etc. We are told that a “conservative” philosopher Allan Bloom described it all in his famous book. The designation of Allan Bloom as a conservative philosopher sums it all up. The tragedy of the 60s in America was not the flower children or campus riots, but the fact that the center of intellectual (and therefore political, economic, social) life had shifted—some say to the left, but one could also say to a previously unexplored direction. It is no longer a matter of left or right—these terms have become as meaningless and boring as the articles that invoke them. And this is what the New York Times article does not say. In fact, there is a lot the New York Times avoids saying. Perhaps “all the news that’s fit to print” has outlived its time.

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Last updated 12/5/08