So here I am, enjoying a perfectly fine morning, when a 5,000-word interview in Politico magazine with James Bennett, the editor of The New York Times’ atrocious editorial page—conducted by his good friend, Politico editor in chief John Harris—has to come and ruin it.
Right out of the gate, Harris wants us to know that his friend of 20 years “does give a damn” that people are extremely unhappy with his tenure, which has involved hiring such ghouls as climate denier Bret Stephens; Bari Weiss, who’s decried the organizers of the Women’s March as anti-Semites and cop killers; and, briefly, journalist Quinn Norton, before online sleuths unearthed her tweets using anti-LBGTQ slurs and her friendship with a literal neo-Nazi.
Harris, who says he met Bennet covering the Clinton White House, nauseatingly writes in his intro (emphasis added throughout):
For Bennet, giving a damn is a trap of sorts. His tenure has been about standing strong on behalf of a style of discourse that requires making points with precision, insists on the distinction between honest argument and propaganda, and defaults to an assumption that the other side has a legitimate point of view and is deserving of respect … even when that other side is reveling in its contempt toward people who disagree.
Yes, the left should respond to people—published in the newspaper of record—who view people of color, people concerned about the environment, immigrants, etc., with nothing but abject disdain as worthy adversaries in the Great Discourse. We’re off to a stellar start!
With all that in mind, let’s hear what the man responsible for all that discourse-stoking content has to say for himself and how, exactly, he views his job:
My kind of rough formula for the distinction is that the newsroom helps people see the world as it is, and opinion gets to help people imagine the world as it could be, how it could be made better, how you get to—you know, that’s kind of the fun part of our work: We get to try to help figure out how to make the world a better place. So, there’s a degree of advocacy in opinion that differentiates it.
Yes, because when I, a young person, dream of a better tomorrow, my mind calls up crusty reactionaries like David Brooks, a man who will be allowed to die at the Times, or a young reactionary like Weiss, who peddles the same old man hysteria about free speech on college campuses and concern-mongers about whether #MeToo has gone too far.
Harris really shows his ass with a number of questions about the generational divide at the Times, which we should take to mean “young people who aren’t OK with Nazi sympathizers and climate deniers and older people who are,” for the sake of argument:
Harris: Many younger journalists at the Times or elsewhere are not that far removed from that campus environment. Do those people sort of fundamentally share the same journalistic values as you, or do they come from a different orientation?
Bennet: I think all this stuff comes down to the person. Are there some journalists here or elsewhere, young journalists, who sort of think that the role of journalism in the Trump era is to be part of the Resistance? Yeah, there probably are. And does that conflict with how I see the role of journalism? Absolutely. So, I guess that is a clash of values, and I do worry about that a little bit. It’s just something we have to work out over time.
Bennett does NOT love being called a Nazi:
Harris: Does it bother you when people with whom you would assume you’re fundamentally of like minds and like values are really mad at you?
Bennet: Oh, yeah.
Harris: It does? Or do you just brush it off? “It goes with the territory.” How much does it weigh on you?
Bennet: Look, I don’t like to be called a Nazi, you know? No, yeah, it—
Harris: Who called you that?
Bennet: Actually, I don’t know that I’ve been—I should subtract that. I’ve been told I’ve been called a Nazi; I have not seen it. I shouldn’t say that. That sounds ridiculous. I don’t know that anybody likes to be screamed at. Maybe there are people, but I’m not one of them. And I take it seriously. Like, I take it to heart.
Perhaps you should take it to heart by hiring a columnist who’s genuinely left wing, rather than just relying on your stable of “centrists” masquerading as liberals? Just a thought about how you could make your editorial page actually representative of the politics that Americans find most compelling.
You can read the full interview here, but I firmly recommend you don’t.