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Vox Tempora, Vox Dei

By James Bowman
November 5, 2008

President-elect Obama has been magnanimous in victory. Senator McCain has been gracious in defeat. Do you find it surprising that neither magnanimity nor grace appears to have any place at The New York Times? I thought not. Of course, the Times has made no secret of its advocacy on behalf of Senator Obama on its editorial page. The election results would seem to the meanest intelligence to have confirmed the success of that advocacy. You won, guys. But here is the Times’s editorialist this morning, taking another shot at Senator McCain, now that he is down and indeed out, by saying that he "forsook his principles for a campaign built on anger and fear."

That this, in spite of being utter nonsense, was the Democrats’ and the media’s line on the late campaign as waged by their common opponent — I had almost written "enemy" — is very well known, but why do those presumably less engaged in the struggle still feel the need to keep reiterating their partisan propaganda now that the campaign is won? I think the answer is that, if the Times had been capable of grace or magnanimity to a defeated opponent, it would have had to acknowledge that he was an opponent — which would also, of course, have been an acknowledgment of its own partisanship. Doubtless the editorialist preferred not to come down off his self-erected pedestal and admit to being partisan, as mere mortals are. Such "objective" Olympians, far above the partisan battle have no need of grace, since they speak with the voice of the gods.

Actually, it’s even worse than that. Another line in the same editorial tells us that Senator Obama’s "triumph was decisive and sweeping, because he saw what is wrong with this country: the utter failure of government to protect its citizens." One smells a paradox somewhere nearby. Say what you will about him, President Bush has what would seem to be undoubtedly to his credit the fact that he and his administration have protected the country from any attacks on the homeland since 9/11. Yet the Times doesn’t need to bother with paradox any more than it does with grace or wit. The voice of the gods has no need of that either. It merely delivers itself of what, to some of us, is an obvious and blatant falsehood as a simple statement of fact, and we can like it or lump it.

That’s because those of us for whom it is an obvious and blatant falsehood don’t really exist, so far as the Times is concerned. The paper’s idea of being an advocate and a controversialist is to pretend, in its characteristically high-minded way, that there is no controversy, and that its own self-defined reality — the reality of the Democratic party’s talking points, essentially — is the only reality there is. It’s the same state of mind that refuses to review conservative books, or reviews them frivolously only to ridicule them. This, too, comes from the colossal self-conceit of the media in general and, in the Times’s case, the worst case of Media Madness known to me, now that Dan Rather has faded into the mists of cable TV.



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