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a blog by Ann Althouse

What does the NYT know about me?

I was scanning the front page of the NYT, looking for headlines to click, and I noticed that the Times had picked out a set of things recommended for me. I was pleased for an instant and genuinely ready to to share Penn Jillett's love for hot baths and cold watermelon, but...

What does the NYT know about me? 

... I don't like the implications of the rest of it. The kiosk and the toilet are okay — lowly and functional — but don't push Jeffrey Dahmer at me, and don't juxtapose him with a person with a mysteriously drooping face.

I go to read the Penn Jillette article and the word editing slows me way down:
Jillette’s latest novel, “Random,” is about a young man who inherits his father’s crushing debt to a loan shark and turns to dice — and other dangerous measures — to dig himself out. That the dice bring him luck sends him a new philosophy of leaning decisions both big and small up to chance.

I waste time thinking about what "leaning decisions" are — a special category of decisions that ought to be resolved by a throw of the dice? No, it must be a new philosophy of leaving decisions both big and small up to chance.

But here's the hot bath part: "Every night I take a bath that’s so hot that I come very close to passing out — and I use scented oil, the whole thing is done as girly as possible." Okay, I take very hot baths, and I am privileged — being a woman — not to have to think about whether anything I do is "girly" and —having little sense of smell — not to want anything "scented."

As for the watermelon, Jillette — who is privileged by his whiteness to be able to openly extol watermelon — relies on watermelon as a weight-maintenance food. 

Jillette recommends skepticism but not cynicism: "Cynicism is attributing the worst motives to people. Skepticism is looking for the truth." I'd say cynicism is consciously dwelling on the awfulness of people, and skepticism is pretending you're all about rationality while inferior people dwell on the unknowable contents of other people's minds.

Here's the article about the toilet:
[H]e’s built a sanctuary to showcase his ideas about environmental sustainability: the Shower Tower, the Worm Palace (crucial to his composting toilet), the Tea Cave (where he has stored more than 50,000 pounds of rare, aged tea), the Tea Pagoda (where he’s hosted tea ceremonies for friends and dignitaries for more than 40 years) and so many more.... [H]e never had permission to build any of it. “I’ve been a scofflaw all my life,” said Mr. Hoffman, 78. “I have to recognize that.”

Ah, yes, I can see this is like articles I've chosen — and blogged about — in the past. Eccentric real estate projects and the law. 

At one time, he argued that his property could be considered a film set and exempt from much of code compliance because his home was the site of a documentary about his home-based tea business.... Landing a historic designation still appeared to be his best route....

As for Dahmer and the drooping face, I won't read the Dahmer article. Why does anyone need to "relive it"? And I'll skip the mystery of the drooping face.

What is a blonde?

Here's something from 1963 in the NYT that I chanced into as I was looking for the review of the new Netflix film titled "Blonde":

What is a blonde? 

Who knew there were women's groups back then taking aim at such minor intrusions on female freedom? It seems more like something that would come up today.

NYT headline: "Ginni Thomas Denies Discussing Election Subversion Efforts With Her Husband."

Subheadline: "In a closed-door interview with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, Ms. Thomas reiterated her false assertion that the 2020 election was stolen from President Donald J. Trump." 

"Election Subversion Efforts" is quite a phrase. You could discuss a lot of things and still deny that any of it was "subversion." But I presume the actual interviewers did not restrict themselves to such an extreme topic.

During her interview, Ms. Thomas, who goes by Ginni, repeated her assertion that the 2020 election was stolen from President Donald J. Trump, Mr. Thompson said, a belief she insisted upon in late 2020 as she pressured state legislators and the White House chief of staff to do more to try to invalidate the results....

I wouldn't call that "election subversion." If you believe the election was already subverted, then in pushing for more procedural paths, you're trying to un-subvert it. If you think the announced results are invalid, you're trying to get to the true results, not "invalidate the results." It's very hard to wade through these loaded terms. I wish the NYT would play it dead straight.

In her statement, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, Ms. Thomas called it “an ironclad rule” that she and Justice Thomas never speak about cases pending before the Supreme Court. “It is laughable for anyone who knows my husband to think I could influence his jurisprudence — the man is independent and stubborn, with strong character traits of independence and integrity,” she added....

And that's precisely what everyone knew she would say.

"[I]f the garden variety American liberal as represented by New York Times readers is almost universally against this, who is pushing it and why do they have so much power?"

Someone writes in a Reddit discussion of the NYT article "More Trans Teens Are Choosing ‘Top Surgery,'" which I blogged yesterday, here.

I've read a lot of the NYT comments myself, and I agree with the Redditor that "It's amazing how many of the reader comments on this article are basically horrified by all this...."

Other Redditors try to answer the question "why do they have so much power?"

One says: "Because the Garden Variety American Liberal As Represented By New York Times Readers will fold like a cheap suitcase when publicly called a bigot or even told that they are kinda sorta maybe sounding like a conservative, even if holding private misgivings."

Another says: "Political dynamics in the US is that the GOP is a moderate party beholden to extremist voters and the Dems are an extremist party beholden to moderate voters. It's a very odd dynamic."

Another question about these people with "so much power" is whether they will lose power if the NYT publishes articles like "More Trans Teens Are Choosing" that collect comments from "its garden variety American liberal" readers that clearly point in a different direction. 

ADDED: Is it "fold like a cheap suitcase"? I thought it was "fold like a cheap suit" — though I can't think why a cheap suit would fold any more readily than an expensive one. Fortunately I found a Grammarphobia post on the topic: What is the "X" in the phrase "fold like a cheap X"?
Suit would not have been my first choice as a filler for X, suits (even cheap ones) not being notable for ease of folding,” [the linguist Arnold Zwicky] writes. “But maybe the cliché ‘all over someone like a cheap suit’ promoted suit for X.” 
Zwicky mentions several other choices as a filler for X, including “shirt,” “umbrella,” “cocktail umbrella,” “lawn chair,” “deck chair,” “card table,” “pocket-knife,” “wallet,” “blanket,” and “accordion.” 
The earliest example in writing that we could find for any of these “fold like a cheap X” expressions is from White Rat: A Life in Baseball, a 1987 memoir by Whitey Herzog: “The Phils, I think, were secretly rooting for the Cardinals to win the second half because they knew they could throw Steve Carlton at us in the mini-playoffs and we’d fold like a cheap tent.” 
The earliest written example we’ve found for the “suitcase” version is from All Out, a 1988 novel by Judith Alguire: “She folded like a cheap suitcase.” And the first written example we’ve found for the “suit” formula is from Another 48 Hours, Deborah Chiel’s 1990 novelization of the Eddie Murphy/Nick Nolte film: “Wilson folded like a cheap suit to the ringing applause of everyone present.” 
And now we’ll fold like a cheap laptop and call it a day.

Ha ha. Hope you enjoyed that foray into metaphor — that metaphoray. Now, back to the horrible topic in the main post. 


Are you watching the Queen's funeral?

It's live. I'm sure you can find it. I'm seeing video embedded at the top of the front page of the NYT. 

Is it topping other news that should be more significant, such as whatever our President may have said in his "60 Minutes" interview last night?

I'm going to say no — subject to your laughter — as I see that the top story on the right side of the front page of the NYT is "Life Is Hazardous for City Raptors. These Women Offer Hope. Injured birds of prey have a fighting chance to recover, thanks to the volunteers at Owl Moon Raptor Center in Boyds, Md."

"Boyds" — that's how you say "birds" in New York.

I'm distracted by sudden cheering and raucous applause. It's the Queen's funeral video. The throng alongside the road is jubilant as the hearse drives off. I'm going to assume that means they loved the Queen and not that it's any sort of ding-dong-the-witch-is-dead response. But when did cheering a hearse become appropriate? 

It's hard to say a racist incident never happened, but why was it so easy to say that it did?

"Brigham Young University said Friday that it had completed its investigation into accusations of racial heckling and slurs at a volleyball match against Duke University last month and found no evidence to confirm that the behavior took place."

Note the careful language — "no evidence to confirm." They don't and can't say that nothing at all happened. The language in the BYU statement is: "we have not found any evidence to corroborate" ("From our extensive review, we have not found any evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at the event").
The Duke player’s father, Marvin Richardson, told The New York Times after the game that a slur was repeatedly yelled from the stands as his daughter, Rachel Richardson, was serving and that she feared the “raucous” crowd. He did not immediately respond to requests for comment on B.Y.U.’s findings on Friday. 

That link goes to the NYT story from August 27th, which begins:

A Duke University women’s volleyball player who is Black was called a racial slur during a game Friday night in Utah....

Boldface mine. The Times stated it as a fact. Now, the NYT is very precise and says "no evidence to confirm," but when the allegation was made, it wasn't equivalently precise. Was it careless of precision, or did it consciously choose to leave out the "allegedly" before "called"? Why stir up discord, when so often these allegations turn out to be false?

I see the name "Jussie Smollett" is trending on Twitter. It's the easiest snark in response to the BYU story.

Why hasn't the NYT learned — at the very least — to leave itself an out? Is it carelessness? Is it blinded by the perverse hope that racism — which must be simmering everywhere — will burst forth in a vivid incident? Boosting these stories so eagerly, the media is cultivating doubt.

Stop luring young people into tainting their reputation by concocting another one of these poisonous morsels you're so eager to serve to America!

"The spectacle of a former president facing criminal investigation raises profound questions about American democracy, and these questions demand answers."

Wrote the Editorial Board of the NYT in "Donald Trump Is Not Above the Law," which went up last Friday. I didn't read it at the time because the headline is so banal, but I looked back at it because someone told me that the NYT editors were calling for the indictment of Trump.

That's not the case. They're only saying that "If Attorney General Merrick Garland and his staff conclude that there is sufficient evidence to establish Mr. Trump’s guilt on a serious charge in a court of law, then they must seek an indictment too." That is, the editors reject the idea that there's room for discretion, for consideration of when and whether to prosecute a former President. 

But I ran into that quote I put in the post title — it's in the first paragraph — and I've been thinking about the contradiction inherent in claiming to be protecting "democracy" and acting to deprive the people of the opportunity to vote for a particular political candidate. 

The urgency to stop Trump feels like a mistrust of the people. The deplorable subsection of America shouldn't have elected him the first time — so goes the elite opinion — and we can't let those people have another chance to give this man power. That's anti-democratic, and yet isn't it why the oligarchy presents itself as serving democracy?

That's my question. Is it one of the NYT editors' "profound questions about American democracy"? I doubt it, but I will finally read this thing and let you know if — by off chance — the elite editors of the NYT notice the contradiction:

Mr. Trump’s unprecedented assault on the integrity of American democracy requires a criminal investigation....

Trump is framed as the attacker of democracy, rather than as a candidate in a forthcoming democratic election. He's going to wreck elections, not participate in them. 

[D]oing nothing to hold him accountable for his actions in the months leading up to Jan. 6 could set an irresistible precedent for future presidents. Why not attempt to stay in power by any means necessary or use the power of the office to enrich oneself or punish one’s enemies, knowing that the law does not apply to presidents in or out of office?... 

Trump pursued available remedies and didn't get very far, then participated in a big demonstration, but do you want to criminalize seeking court remedies and delivering momentous speeches? That doesn't approach "by any means necessary." And it's odd to include on that list "us[ing] the power of the office to... punish one’s enemies," because that sounds like what is being done to Trump.

A week after the attack, the House impeached Mr. Trump for the second time. This editorial board supported his impeachment and removal from office; we also suggested that the former president and lawmakers who participated in the Jan. 6 plot could be permanently barred from holding office under a provision of the 14th Amendment that applies to any official who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or given “aid or comfort” to those who have done so....

Now, that would get into "by any means necessary" territory, stretching the legal text in an effort to prevent Trump from running for office again. Why can't you let the people vote for whomever we want? In the name of democracy, you mistrust democracy.

[T]he threat that Mr. Trump and his most ardent supporters pose to American democracy has metastasized.

Again, Trump is portrayed as the enemy of democracy. 

Even now, the former president continues to spread lies about the 2020 election and denounce his vice president, Mike Pence, for not breaking the law on his behalf....

Part of democracy is critiquing democracy. Both sides do it, and both sides lie. The "Russia collusion" hoax dogged Trump throughout his presidency. We need to be able to debate about defects in the voting and vote counting process, even as we also need to be able to declare a winner within a practical timeframe. Would the NYT denounce things like "Not My President Day" or all the people who think Al Gore won in 2000?

No, there won't be any principled demand to suppress lies — and spin and exaggeration and strained legal arguments — about elections, and if there were, it would be a despicable attack on freedom of speech. The remedy for what they see as lies about the election is simply more speech. I understand their frustration: Why do people keep believing what the NYT believes it knows to be lies? But that's always the problem with freedom of speech. People tell and believe a lot of lies. If you want democracy, you can't let that flip you out into hysteria. Concentrate on the next election and defeat your opponent at the polls.

If your response is, no, because my opponent might win and we can't take that risk, then you don't believe in democracy.

Fissures emerge!

Here's the article at The New York Times: "Some Republicans Make a More Restrained Case for Defending Trump/When some G.O.P. members of Congress attacked the nation’s top law enforcement agencies immediately after the F.B.I.’s search of Mar-a-Lago, it underscored deep fissures within the party."

Here's the front-page teaser that had us laughing: "As Republicans Move to Defend Trump, Deep Fissures Emerge in the Party."

Why was that so funny?

1. "Fissures" is an unusual enough word that it gets your attention. It's a metaphor, but what do you picture? Something going wrong with a fleshly body? A landscape? It's a new image, anyway, not something overused — like the "walls" that are forever "closing in."

2. The teaser version has the fissures showing up for the first time — emerging. But the Republicans have been fissure-ridden over Trump for years. The headline at the article page is more accurate: There were already "deep fissures," but the deep fissures became even more pronounced — they were "underscored" when some Republicans strongly defended Trump and other Republicans preferred to speak in a more "restrained" way.

3. In the text of the article, it says "deep fissures were visible," which doesn't sound as though the pre-existing fissures were changing at all. It was just another occasion for us onlookers to see the fissures. 

4. Why is this even a subject for an article? When I started this post, it was the top left headline on the front page, the most important news story. But it's just a story about how different Republicans express themselves with different degrees of intensity or subtlety over the Mar-a-Lago raid. We're told that the first Republicans to speak "reacted with fury" — saying things like “gestapo” and “tyrants.” But later, "more moderate voices in the party chastised their colleagues for the broadsides against law enforcement, making a more restrained case for defending Mr. Trump while also carrying out oversight of the Justice Department." It's a story because it's a chance to reframe Republicans attacking the FBI and the Justice Department as Republican attacking each other.

5. Yeah, I'm done laughing at "fissures emerge." 
What does the NYT know about me?What is a blonde?

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