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Dumb and Dumber!

Two NYT embarrassments in one day.


Posted Thursday, December 23, 1999

        Liberal Media Bias Lives! Exhibit A: "Minority Growth Slips at Top Private Schools," read the headline on Monday's front-page New York Times story by Randal C. Archibold. You could have been forgiven for muttering, "Uh oh," and thinking here was another example of the project of racial integration collapsing. But the alarmist headline was a Nixonian trick--Nixonian in the sense of that president's notorious declaration, while prices were soaring in the early 1970s, that "we have slowed the rise in the rate of inflation." Prices were still rising. The rate at which prices were rising was still rising. Only the rate at which that rate was rising wasn't rising anymore.

        The Times headline wasn't quite that deceptive, but it was close. It turns out that minority enrollment isn't falling. It's increasing. It was 11 percent in 1970, and 19 percent in 1990, and it's "about 21 percent" now. What's the problem, then? It seems, Archibold ominously notes, that "the pace of growth has slowed." But should we really expect the minority share of enrollments not just to keep growing but to keep growing at its initial pace? Even in the best of all possible civil-rights environments, the rate of increase would have to slow down sometime, wouldn't it, as minority admissions approached a fair, non-discriminatory level? ...

        It turns out there is a story buried in Archibold's piece, but it's mostly a success story. Minority children are indeed accepted at private schools, but even though "they can afford the steep tuition," their parents "often choose other options, including parochial schools and a move to the suburbs" where the public schools "have a better reputation." Isn't this basically a heartening trend? Integrating the suburbs is arguably more important than integrating Fieldston. At elite private schools, Archibold tells us, minority students fear cultural isolation. They also fear becoming the "subject of speculation" as to whether they are beneficiaries of race preferences. Yet the overall picture is positive: The private schools are becoming more integrated while the suburbs are becoming more integrated too. "Private School Minority Enrollment Holds Steady Even as Qualified Students Move to Suburbs" would have been a more accurate headline. ...

        Liberal Media Bias Lives! Exhibit B: Meanwhile, on Page B3, the spread of half-baked faux-Dowdism continues with John Kifner's "Metro" section story headlined "Giuliani's Hunt for Red Menaces." Kifner writes: "A decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall signaled the swift collapse of communism's Evil Empire, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani is still darkly wary of Marxist influence in the nooks and crannies of the city." It seems the mayor didn't like it when the leader of a dissident group of transit workers decried "an orgy of profit-making" by New York business over Christmas. The union leader said, "They're not going to rake it in if the trains aren't running." Giuliani argued that that "means taking jobs away from people," and said it reflected a "true misunderstanding of what America is all about. That comes from the influence of Marxism, and if you need any better indication of it, it was said at a Marxist study group."

        Kifner implicitly ridicules this statement--the mayor, he says, "has discerned a sinister Marxist tinge"--but he never explains why it's ridiculous. Are there no Marxists left after the fall of the Wall? Was the power of Marx and Marxism entirely bound up in the fate of Eastern Bloc capital "C" Communism? That's not what they taught me in my Marxist study group! Has Kifner heard of the New Left? And isn't it true that Marxists have a vision of class conflict that is at odds with a vision (embraced by Giuliani) that sees an "orgy of profit-making" as a good thing because everyone has an interest in capitalist prosperity? ... Kifner doesn't even tell us whether the union leader's statement really was "said at a Marxist study group." Giuliani apparently must be a wacky McCarthyist paranoid regardless of whether he's telling the truth. ... Kifner's piece makes sense only as an appeal to the unexamined liberal (anti-anti-Communist, or maybe just anti-Giuliani) biases of his readers. ... A couple of Kifner's other examples do show that Giuliani has a tendency to view any deploring of class disparities as "Marxist." But the mayor pays Marx more respect by recognizing that his philosophy has some meaning worth criticizing than Kifner does by acting as if it is so dead and meaningless that anyone who takes it seriously is a fool. ...

        In the middle of his piece, Kifner veers off and makes fun of Giuliani for having "expanded his horizon to foreign affairs last week." He describes the mayor urging asylum for 6-year-old Elián González and lamenting that Fidel Castro had been "romanticized." And this was ridiculous because ... why, exactly? Because Castro is a Marxist? But Giuliani didn't use the word "Marxist" to describe Castro (though it surely would have been appropriate). He was adding his two cents to a controversy in the news, and his position on asylum was hardly outlandish. ...

        Kifner's smug, sneering piece wasn't labeled "News Analysis." But that wouldn't have saved it. ...

        [So the Times has a liberal bias. Isn't that an easy target?--ed. "First shoot the fish in the barrel." Plus the Times seems to be getting worse, playing to its target NPR demographic the same way NBC Nightly News plays to geriatric women.]

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Gore's Secret Weapon

posted 08.03.99

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Copyright 1999 Mickey Kaus.