July 26, 2004

RESPONSIBILITY

Normally I avoid reading things I have to register for, but I was so intrigued by this NYTimes title that I had to go through the rigamarole: Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?. I really recommend it; it's an honest admission that the NYTimes is "of course" liberal.

However, I did notice one thing that always makes me prickle, something that I also noticed when Atrios' gang descended on me a few months ago: the Left often uses religion as the only line in the sand. The Right doesn't like the NYTimes because of the risque fashion models, articles on gay marriage, and evolutionary theory in the science section. Sarah doesn't like this poll because she's an "evangelical Christian" who refuses to listen to reason. In fact, in discussing evolution in the science section, the author says:

Newspapers have the right to decide what's important and what's not. But their editors must also expect that some readers will think: "This does not represent me or my interests. In fact, it represents my enemy." So is it any wonder that the offended or befuddled reader might consider everything else in the paper - including, say, campaign coverage - suspicious as well? [emphasis added]

So people on the Right think that those who support evolution are "the enemy", and therefore we shouldn't listen to anything else they have to say? Please.

What about all the people I've met on the Right who are atheists? They don't fall into the stereotype that the NYTimes just laid out: either you're happy that the "articles containing the word 'postmodern' have appeared in The Times an average of four times a week this year" or you're a close-minded fuddy-duddy evangelical Christian who wants the Ten Commandments in every courthouse and a cap in every black ass. Ridiculous.

What about all the people I've met on the Right who are libertarians? They don't fit the stereotype either. Some don't like gay marriage, or do believe in "one nation under God", but they still don't think the government has any business poking a nose in. They believe in personal responsibility instead of the "my way is right and you're the enemy" dichotomy the NYTimes set up.

In fact, I'd say a lot of us belong on the Right not because of our religious views but because of our views on Responsibility. (If you've never read Bill Whittle's essay, now's a good time...)

One of the things that makes the current political debate so rancorous is that we do a lot of talking past each other, because the old labels no longer seem to apply. Rachel Lucas is a gun-toting, idiot-intolerant, pro-gay, pro-choice conservative. My Liege Lord and Master, Emperor Misha I, the Hammer of Idiotarians, is a deeply religious, formidably armed firebrand who smashes with righteous fury any homophobic or racist morons who darken his cyberdoor. And Kim Du Toit, the rootinÂ’-est, tootinÂ’-est bad-ass hombre who ever lived, a veritable poster boy for the idea of an assault rifle in every crib, is a former South African who marched in the streets against racism and took huge risks fighting for the equality of all of his fellow citizens before he came home to America.

They, like me, call themselves conservatives, but we are indeed a new breed: pro-choice, pro-gay, vigorous defenders of equality of race, religion, gender and sexual orientation. WeÂ’re big on freedom and big on responsibility.

The left hates us. We are harder to attack than the racist, homophobic, misogynists that they formerly could comfortably lambaste as right-wingers. (And they deserved to be lambasted, by the way – and I’m not even sure what lambasting is, but it does sound nasty and severe.)

The point is this: labels donÂ’t really work. As one of my readers brilliantly pointed out in my comments section, itÂ’s not like the vast sensible middle of the nation is divided into Red and Blue camps, Republicans vs. Democrats, Liberals vs. Conservatives, Left vs. Right. TodayÂ’s politics are more like a RubikÂ’s cube, where someone you may stand shoulder-to-shoulder with on one subject, can become, with a simple twist of the issues, a bitter opponent in some other fight.

This is where WhittleÂ’s Theory of Political Reduction comes in handy. (If thatÂ’s too wordy we can call it BillÂ’s Electric Razor.)

I contend that there is a single litmus that does indeed separate the nation and the world into two opposing camps, and that when you examine where people will fall on the countless issues that affect our society, this alone is the indicator that will tell you how they will respond.

The indicator is Responsibility.

I appreciate that Daniel Okrent of the NYTimes can at least see that his paper doesn't exactly represent the views of a large chunk of America, but I wish he wouldn't naively herd us all into the "intolerant right-wing nutjob Christian" group that the Left thinks we all belong in. There are a plethora of reasons that the NYTimes disgusts me, and virtually none of them have anything to do with religion.

Posted by: Sarah at 03:25 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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1 Yeah, but Okrent was talking about creationists, not The Right (it was in the part of the paragraph you left out of the quote). He merely states that some people do not like evolutionary theory so will judge the NYTimes other coverage on the basis of their disdain of the Times' science coverage.

Posted by: Sander at July 26, 2004 01:25 PM (9v8mw)

2 I thought that's what I said...? Was that not clear? Call it "creationists" or "the Right", whatever, Okrent is saying that if you disagree based on your religious views, you won't like what the rest of the paper is saying. I think that's a load of crap. It's a guise for the left-leaning NYTimes to be able to say that the only reason readers on the Right don't like their coverage is because of their religious views, which I reject. The problems at the NYTimes are deeper than religious differences...

Posted by: Sarah at July 26, 2004 02:03 PM (FyW95)

3 On the first point, I don't believe so. Okrent makes a distinction of various groups on the right. As an example he picks out creationists and the Science coverage. On the second point, I think Okrent has a point. He didn't say that every creationist won't like the other coverage per se, he said 'some readers'. It's not psychologically implausible to associate parts of something to the whole. Yes, the examples Okrent uses have a religious undertone, but only if you believe that the socially conservative believers represent all believers. He explicitly (but jokingly) states the groups he believes could take offence to the Times coverage ("devout Catholics, gun owners, Orthodox Jews, Texans"). Perhaps I'm missing something, but I don't see the inference you read in it.

Posted by: Sander at July 26, 2004 08:47 PM (3nJmx)

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