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writing for godot

When 'The Left' Can't Swipe Left: Breaking Up With 'The New York Times' Is So Very Hard (Impossible?) To Do

Written by Dandelion   
Tuesday, 16 April 2019 12:36

ME: I've let this relationship go on for too long. Another betrayal..."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "Honey, you can still trust me. I'm not 'The New York Post' or 'FOX News'."

ME: "I just read your editorial supporting prosecution of Julian Assange, characterizing him as a villainous computer hacker. It's unnerving that both the Trump Administration and The New York Times editorial board support such a prosecution. Honestly, I don't even think you're a real newspaper anymore.

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "Hasn't your faith in my journalism been waning for a while?"

ME: "You're changing the subject. But yes, the 'Metro' section is where urban truth telling goes to die. Your coverage of public education has been inadequate and pro-charter school for ages."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "There's nothing wrong with charter schools. Wall Street hedge funds help create opportunity for a cherry picked group of poor kids. Some of them might even go to college."

ME: "Those charter schools have harsh disciplinary policies with high suspension rates. They displace and destroy existing neighborhood public schools and siphon away their funding. You'd never put your progeny in a charter school. Meanwhile, urban public schools have been overcrowded and underfunded for decades. I don't think they ever recovered from the fiscal crisis of the 1970s! Music, art, theater, breakfast, and aftercare programs are considered luxuries for other people's children. The next generation of working stiffs should just sit still while taking absurd and developmentally inappropriate standardized tests and prepare to staff administrative back offices and call centers. A 1:25 teacher/student ratio in kindergarten - that's deplorable. Promises of reduced class size in the lower grades have not been kept. Do you even have children in the public schools?"

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "Some of my children, print and digital, traverse a narrow trajectory from Manhattan's East Side 'Silk Stocking' District 2 elementary and middle schools, to Hunter and Stuyvesant. However,the vast bulk of them are privately educated."

ME: Well, at least you are finally being candid. Now, if you'd only come clean about your two-faced coverage of gentrification. You'll pay lip service to the death of community stalwarts like the Cornelia Street Cafe while defending the closure of such venues as inevitable in a changing city. You'll never fail to assist the real estate lobby, sandbag efforts in support of mandatory commercial rent arbitration, and be a cheerleader for luxury development."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "And why else are you breaking up with me? Aside from the Real Estate Section and how it represents the interests of the one percent?"

ME: "I can no longer rely upon your theater, film, and book reviews. Your comments regarding 'The Neurology of The Soul' grossly understated the powerful appeal of Edward Einhorn's brilliant play critiquing capitalism."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "You went to that off-off Broadway show? Doesn't what I say about culture still matter to you?"

ME: "Of course it does! But I went anyway. Edward Einhorn is a genius."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "Doesn't ignoring me have consequences?"

ME: "Definitely. What you have to say matters to almost everyone else I know."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "What will you do without me? If I stop appearing upon your doorstep shrouded in blue plastic?"

ME: "Honestly, I have no idea. Old habits die hard."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "You won't read anyone the way you've read me."

ME: "That's true. You've been coming to my house since early childhood, when my family lived in Flushing during the mid-twentieth century. I used to 'pop' the newspaper open when Grandpa Max, my 'Pop" held it in his hands. I won't deconstruct anyone else the way I have deconstructed you."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "You won't exist if you stop reading me."

ME: "That may happen anyway. Abbie Hoffman used to write about being 'talked out of existence by 'The New York Times.'"

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "I contain 'all the news fit to print.' "

ME: "You mean all the news which fits gets printed."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "There is no substitute, no alternative. I'm steadily training the next generation of upper middle class consumers to make me a part of their daily lives."

ME: "True. I sure can't rely on 'The Washington Post.' Given ownership of Amazon and attendant C.I.A. cloud computing contracts, that publication embodies conflict of interest. It's difficult to quantify which of the two of you is more biased against Senator Bernie Sanders."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "Your husband secretly agrees with Paul Krugman about 'Medicare for All' not being realistic."

ME: "Are you spying on me?"

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "Honey, you can't quit me. You won't quit me. What are you going to do? Rely upon 'Reader Supported News', 'Truthout', 'Alternet',' Pro-Publica', and 'John Oliver's Last Week Tonight?' Be strung along by MSNBC about the significance of Mueller Report revelations? Depend upon Steven Colbert for solidarity and emotional release? Bear witness to Bill Maher's parade of F.B.I., C.I.A., and other national security spooks? Dear Lady, I know you...You mistrust television news even more than me! I know you're still pining for Walter Cronkite and mourning the loss of the 'Tiffany' network. I hear your snide comments about the B.B.C. being the only part of the British Empire upon which the sun hasn't properly set."

ME: "I'm going to keep insisting upon Resignation, Impeachment, and Elba instead of auditioning electoral messiahs. I'm going to disregard your misleading presidential polls. I'm never going to forget that conspiracy claims tend to be politically motivated prosecutions."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "What will happen when you disagree with Christiane Amanpour & Company and consider such programming to be scattershot headline chasing?"

ME: I've retained cognitive complexity. Look how long I've humored your agenda-setting effects, issue framing and salience, ideological tropes, and containment of political debate."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "Why shed me now when American democracy is most vulnerable?"

ME: "Some of that vulnerability is your fault! Who insisted there were WMDs in Iraq? Who insisted that Hillary Clinton was the only candidate who could defeat the American right-wing? Recently, you shared data about global right-wing extremism without ever discussing how the massacres in Christchurch and Pittsburgh are similar. You used Twitter data to suggest that Democratic Party centrists are a 'quiet majority', so I'm thinking about Nixon and his 'silent majority' while remembering that that American Left - on and  mostly off Twitter because folks value civility - remains the moral conscience of the Democratic Party. You keep telling me that Joe Biden is the Democratic Party front-runner and I don't know anyone who supports him. You kept telling folks to wait for Mueller to report, to wait for Blue Waved midterm elections, to tolerate the intolerable...You foment hopelessness...And now you're in agreement with the Trump Administration about prosecuting Julian Assange. What's this authoritarian nonsense about a prosecution that 'could help draw a sharp line between legitimate journalism and cybercrime' while the promulgating a fantasy about how Assange might be a 'useful source on how Russia orchestrated its attacks on the Clinton campaign?' How can a publication which published the 'Pentagon Papers' state that the Trump Administration 'has begun well by charging Mr. Assange with an indisputable crime.' When is a conspiracy charge, about anything, indisputable?"

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "And what are the implications of this for our relationship?"

ME: "That I can't even pretend you're a newspaper anymore. You're a ruling class media outlet, a corporate entity. I'm done lying to myself."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "But I'll still be arriving upon your suburban doormat?"

ME: "Yes. My husband can't quit you. And I...I will just try to spend less time in your company."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "You'll be back. I know you. You need me. Your house is filled with my back issues. Who else will you criticize with such adorable intensity? Who else merits your ferocious intellectual energy? There is no other. It is I, The New York Times, eternal shaper of consciousness."

ME: "I'm going to ignore every facet of you as best I can."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "Good luck traveling that wild information highway without me. Baby, you'll get by, I suppose, just upon those emoji laden Facebook newsfeeds and pathetic left of center email petitions."

ME: "I will. And you...You will move onto a more suitable demographic. There's a new generation to influence. They will all be finding you on their phones. But maybe it will be different for them. Maybe it is easier to delete an app or a site rather than say farewell to a wrapped present that arrives each morning upon a doorstep. Maybe, just maybe, they will wise up to your steadfast service on behalf of the ruling class and, despite your more progressive fig leaf, choose to quit you too. They will never pledge love and loyalty to you the way I did in my youth."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "They won't wise up. Nobody will ever look behind the curtain. They need me to tell them what to think and how to think about it. They need their infotainment...Given all my sections, there's no area of thought beyond my global reach. 'Food' means I can reach everyone from Hausfrau to Home-Boy. 'Science' on Tuesdays consistently generates multiple rounds of hypochondria. Publication in my 'Modern Love' column has become a literary form of Holy Grail. Those lovely Kardashians profiled in 'Styles' help me expand my influence by connecting with a younger female audience."

ME: "You'll certainly have more fun with them than with me."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "But I really liked having you in my thrall! You still can't find your dog-eared copy of Gramsci's 'Prison Notebooks!' "

ME: "I know you did. But it's over. It's really over."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "You'll be back. Even without William Kristol's Monday columns to lure you home, to provide guilty pleasures and an informed preview of Republican strategies slated to unspool...The 2020 election is coming. Okay, there may be a brief hiatus - but you'll be reading me regularly once again. I'm too powerful for you to permanently set aside. Take that little break and try to clear your pretty head. I'll see you very soon, sweetheart. Trust me. We'll have another battle royale over who the Democratic Party nominee will be."

ME: "If it is hope vs. electability, hope will win."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "That was 2008, honey. Electability came very, very close. Weren't your progressive ideals betrayed, regardless?"

ME: "Yes. So I might watch the 2020 Election from a safe distance."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "No, you won't. There won't be any safe distance in Trump's America. You'll be writing about the 2020 Election. You won't be able to help yourself. You'll seek to do battle against fascism any way you can...And I...I will still be the newspaper of record."

ME: "But I will never fall in love with you again!"

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "Oh darling, I don't need you to love me. I'm hoping you'll be smitten with a younger, good-looking, neo-liberal 'flavor of the month' presidential candidate and play by the electoral rules of the game. Surely that will be enough to fragment the American Left and sustain the status quo."

ME: "Beto O'Rourke's wife actively supports charter schools. So does Senator Corey Booker."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "Ah, but now you're speaking my language, speculating about voting instead of demanding an end to this presidential administration before the presidential election."

ME: "It was a misstep, a loss of strategic focus..."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "As long as you focus on the presidential election instead of building and sustaining progressive mass movements - I win. Folks may defy Trump in fits and spurts, but nobody can truly resist corporate media, our algorithms, and those of our cyber-brethen. Not one single soul. Our engaging, seductive flow of continuous persuasion defines reality and receptivity to us remains hard-wired into the human personality."

ME: "The neurology of all those vulnerable souls across the country and around the world...Which explains the aforementioned misleading theater review of Edward Einhorn's excellent play..."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "Sweetheart, isn't that a hysterical accusation of conspiracy?"

ME: "Oh, my dearest arbiter of reality, moral objection to your coverage has become an indisputable fact."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "But you're not canceling your subscription?"

ME: "No. Not yet."

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "Not now. Not ever. One newspaper to rule them all and in their darkness bind them."

ME: "You shouldn't have fired all those fact checkers and copy editors. That quote from J.R.R. Tolkien is inaccurate. It's 'the', not 'their.' "

THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA: "Honey, I've deliberately rephrased it. It is your darkness that binds us, for now and for always. (With a courtly bow, THE FOURTH ESTATE CASANOVA takes my hand and kisses it) Don't worry darling, I'll be delivered first thing come morning. Tomorrow will be another ordinary day." your social media marketing partner
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