At some point over the past 40 years, the bedrock principle of journalistic objectivity became twisted into the craven idea of false equivalency, whereby blatant falsehoods get reported simply as one side of an argument and receive equal weight with the reported argument of the other side. There is no shortage of explanations for the press’s abdication: intimidation at the rise of Fox News and other propaganda operations; a deep confusion about the difference between hard-won objectivity and a lazy, counterfeit neutrality; and the poisonous effects of the postmodern axiom that truth, especially in politics, is a relative thing, depending on your perspective in a tweet. Whatever the explanation, today’s journalism has trashed the tradition of fearless, factual reporting pioneered by Walter Lippmann, Edward R. Murrow and Anthony Lewis.
Whoa… yellow ahoy!
On both domestic and foreign policy fronts, George W. Bush was a national affliction, a disease, skipping from one dunderheaded misadventure to another—and all of them of severe and lasting consequences. I need not review those consequences here in any detail, for they’re all still with us. They’re in no way historical. Bush slashed government revenue in a discredited supply-sided effort to further comfort the already comfortable, and thus the principal cause of our immense deficits ever since. And of course he propelled, in a word, Iraq. Outside of his Medicare D and AIDS initiatives, Bush was a ruthless stumblebum of immeasurable fecklessness who, in one way or another, will always be with us throughout our lifetimes, if not the next generation’s as well.
Here’s the thing: As galling as it is to think of people like Michael Dunn and George Zimmerman daring to call themselves victims, I don’t think they’re being disingenuous. I absolutely do think that they think of themselves as victims. You know why? I’ve never met a racist that didn’t think of themselves as a victim. I’ve never met a sexist that didn’t think of themselves as a victim. I’ve never met a homophobe that didn’t think of themselves as a victim. They’re always the victims…in their own minds. “Oh! They’re going to take our jobs!,” “They’re different!,” “They’re scary!,”I won’t be in charge anymore!,” “I’m just not ready for a black president! Why won’t they wait until I’m ready?,” “They have bigger penises!,” “It’ll make my marriage seem less special!,” “Who is going to make me my sandwich!” They’re perpetual babies. They are perpetual victims.
The reason that our society lacks a sense of collective responsibility for those who don’t have enough resources to survive is because they are seen as prodigal younger brothers who have squandered their father’s inheritance on drugs and prostitutes. So David Brooks’ illustration reinforces the problem that he’s purportedly trying to address. There are poor people who are poor because they made bad choices. There are also poor people who had stable, college-educated middle-class careers that were completely derailed by the Great Recession and never came back in the jobless recovery. There are also poor people who grew up poor and have stayed poor in an era when economic mobility is worse than it’s ever been. In 1987, economists measured income heritability (the likelihood that you would earn the same income as your parents) at 20%. By 2004, it had risen to 50-60%, and that was before the Great Recession. The poor people I know already do work hard; what they lack is a job that actually pays enough to cover their needs.
Publicity photo for ‘The Court Jester’ (1955) - With Danny Kaye, Glynis Johns and Angela Lansbury
What a great way to spell the name of our 16th president