There is one respect in which the famously liberal New York Times is starting to come around to conservative orthodoxy: it is apparently staffed by people who hate the famously liberal editorial pages of the New York Times.
A devastating chronicle of this development comes courtesy of Ken Kurson at the New York Observer:
It's well known among the small world of people who pay attention to such things that the liberal-leaning reporters at The Wall Street Journal resent the conservative-leaning editorial page of The Wall Street Journal. What’s less well known—and about to break into the open, threatening the very fabric of the institution—is how deeply the liberal-leaning reporters at The New York Times resent the liberal-leaning editorial page of The New York Times.
… coming in for intense criticism were the opinion-page columnists, always a juicy target. Particularly strong criticism, to the point of resentful (some might say jealous), was directed at Thomas Friedman, the three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize who writes mostly about foreign affairs and the environment.
One current Times staffer told The Observer, “Tom Friedman is an embarrassment. I mean there are multiple blogs and Tumblrs and Twitter feeds that exist solely to make fun of his sort of blowhardy b***s***.” (Gawker has been particularly hard on Mr. Friedman, with Hamilton Nolan memorably skewering him in a column entitled “Tom Friedman Travels the World to Find Incredibly Uninteresting Platitudes,” as a “mustachioed soothsaying simpleton”; another column was titled “Tom Friedman Does Not Know What’s Happening Here,” and the @firetomfriedman Twitter account has more than 1,800 followers.)
Another priceless jab (who among us has limits to their appetite for shots at Tom Friedman?):
Another former Times writer, someone who has gone on to great success elsewhere, expressed similar contempt (and even used the word “embarrass”) and says it’s longstanding.
“I think the editorials are viewed by most reporters as largely irrelevant, and there’s not a lot of respect for the editorial page. The editorials are dull, and that’s a cardinal sin. They aren’t getting any less dull. As for the columnists, Friedman is the worst. He hasn’t had an original thought in 20 years; he’s an embarrassment. He’s perceived as an idiot who has been wrong about every major issue for 20 years, from favoring the invasion of Iraq to the notion that green energy is the most important topic in the world even as the financial markets were imploding. Then there’s Maureen Dowd, who has been writing the same column since George H. W. Bush was president.”
Later on in the piece, a reporter who's forthright about wanting the Times to succeed on its liberal trajectory concedes: "The fact of the matter is the Wall Street Journal editorial page just kicks our editorial page’s ass. I mean there’s just no contest, from top to bottom, and it’s disappointing."
Remember your Herb Stein: "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." Much as we may hate it, there is a market out there for the Times' MoveOn.Org-by-way-of-Davos ideology. But where the Times has choked is in assuming that this subset of gentry liberals (to borrow a phrase from my Orange County Register colleague Joel Kotkin) is something like a silent majority of Americans. And when you assume everyone knows you're right, you get soft, so trapped in your own feedback loop of left-wing pieties that there's no longer a distinction between honest disagreement and intellectually apostasy (witness the imperious prose stylings of Paul Krugman). Their side criticizes us for thought patterns marked by "epistemic closure." Yet epistemic closure is their business model.
At dinner after the recent 200th Ricochet podcast live show, I made an offhanded reference (without identifying who I was talking about) to the worst columnist in America. Peter—who, like me, I know would acknowledge talented writing even if finding its content ideologically repulsive— seized on the opportunity, scribbling down a name on a napkin and flipping it over to see if he guessed correctly. I was referring to Charles Blow. He had guessed Tom Friedman. All the pundits out there—the wide universe of print and web gasbaggery—and we both settled on members of the Times' opinion staff. That, I think, says it all.