Bari Weiss, seemingly the only actual conservative on staff at The New York Times, has resigned. She posted her letter of resignation on her website, and it took media Twitter by storm. She confirms the sad truth that so many have been quietly aware of for some time: The New York Times can no longer be considered the paper of record. While conservatives may crow about this, seeing the leftist, gray lady tumble is not a reason to rejoice.
With the decline of The New York Times comes the decimation of the concept of objectivity itself. Objectivity was once the gold standard of journalistic goals. To be able to tell a story, clearly, concisely, without an overarching need to control narrative or an undercurrent of unspoken perspectives, positions, or philosophies, was the intention of the great news men and women of the mid-late 20th century.
Woodward and Bernstein, who broke the Watergate story, grabbed the thread of a story and pulled until it unravelled. News anchors like Dan Rather and Walter Cronkite, news programs like the MacNeil/Lehrer Report, which is now the PBS News Hour on PBS, felt like unbiased coverage.
Even William F. Buckley Jr., consummate conservative, spoke publicly with an incredible number of leftists, from IRA member Bernadette Devlin to avowed communists and hippies, to beat poet Allen Ginsberg, or authors James Baldwin, Neal Cassidy and Jack Kerouac. Modes of conversation were not closed, and indeed, they all seemed at least a little bemused to be talking openly.
The goal was to find the truth, or at least to be as honest, direct, and forthright in that undertaking as possible. That is no longer the case.
Weiss writes: "...a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn't a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else."
It was in the late 1980's that political correctness, that process of correcting one’s speech in order to both correct one's thoughts and to appear less offensive to others, came to the fore. The process we are seeing now, of experts and the pundit class deciding what we can talk about and how we can discuss it, began back then.
Even then, it was not an undertaking begun in innocence and with the best intentions. In action, it differentiated from those who knew what to say and the language to use to say it and those who did not. It separated the redneck and urban youth, who used slang and slurs, on one side while elevating the elite class who knew better than to be so crass on the other.
As Sohrab Amhari notes in Spectator US, the goal of the new leftism is to further divide by class, not to lift up the lower economic classes, but to squash them under the heel of corporate doublespeak. He writes "...to mitigate, to defer, to smooth over, to mask these substantive disagreements and instead have battles on procedural mechanisms for upholding manners.
"Which social class most excels at politically correct manners? That would be the professional-managerial class, the laptop class. Its children learn the patois for discussing 'issues of race, gender and sexuality' from an early age. They're expected to have mastered it by the time they take their entry-level jobs. It's a skill that private schools are doubtless teaching already."
And they do. They have been for some time. As the product of a liberal education, from suburban Massachusetts public schools, to prep schools, to liberal arts college and ivy league grad school, I learned what I was supposed to think. We all did. We learned that there were the right views to hold, and the wrong views to hold.
As time went on, it became increasingly clear that deviation would not be tolerated, that holding a differing view from the leftist standard meant that a person hadn't properly "educated" themselves on the topic, and that a few good reads of critical theory would knock a person back onto the leftist, right thinking track.
Weiss writes: "The paper of record is, more and more, the record of those living in a distant galaxy, one whose concerns are profoundly removed from the lives of most people… Even now, I am confident that most people at The Times do not hold these views. Yet they are cowed by those who do. Why? Perhaps because they believe the ultimate goal is righteous. Perhaps because they believe that they will be granted protection if they nod along as the coin of our realm—language—is degraded in service to an ever-shifting laundry list of right causes… Or perhaps it is because they know that, nowadays, standing up for principle at the paper does not win plaudits."
This is a travesty of journalism, but it was not unexpected. The seeds of the fall of objective journalism and storytelling in service to an ideology of leftist illiberalism have been nurtured by the soil of privileged complacency and an unwillingness to realize just how fragile our sacred institutions actually are.
Under the banner of compassion and the mantra of change, we are seeing our society lean hard into doctrines that violate our founding rights and freedoms. Leftist ideology is pervasive in culture, from entertainment media to journalism to the arts and everything in between. Leftist ideology is marketed to us on every conceivable platform. The leftist position has been that everything is political, that politics is paramount, and now that wish has come to fruition. It is inescapable.
Bari Weiss has left The New York Times because the cost of staying was greater than that of taking her byline and going home. But as the doors close on any hope of a conservative dialogue at the paper of record, the walls will just close in tighter around a group of ideologues who, like the many headed Hydra, regenerate themselves in service to the goal of eradicating truth and replacing it with doctrine. Weiss was a heretic, and as we know, heretics and their blasphemy must be scrubbed clean until only the purest ideology remains.
Soon, Weiss and her contribution to discourse will be forgotten at The Times, and she will have been replaced by someone who doesn’t question what she's told, who adheres strictly to the dictates of appropriate beliefs, and who knows better than to have an independent thought.