In the old movie classic "Citizen Kane," there is a dramatic scene where a political opponent has just found a way to thwart Charles Foster Kane's bid to be elected governor.
"This should be a lesson to you," the politician says to Kane. "But you are going to need more than one lesson -- and you are going to get more than one lesson."
The scandal of disgraced reporter Jayson Blair should have been a lesson to those who run the New York Times. But it is obvious from an account of a staff meeting at the Times in its aftermath that it is going to take more than one lesson to get through to the top brass -- if it ever does.
First of all, managing editor Howell Raines announced: "I am here to listen to your anger."
This is classic liberal condescension. Other people do not have ideas, knowledge or principles that need to be examined and considered. They just have emotions -- and Raines graciously agreed to let them blow off steam.
Raines' version of what happened was that "I was guilty of a failure of vigilance" while Jayson Blair spent years writing inaccurate and even made-up stories. But is that fact or spin? It would not seem to require "vigilance" when one of your own editors -- more than a year ago -- sent out a memo stating bluntly: "We have to stop Jayson from writing for the Times. Right now."
That's not a subtle hint that anyone has to ponder. It was as plain as day -- and it was plainly disregarded, as Blair was afterwards promoted to covering national events. The great emphasis now on the journalistic failings of Jayson Blair over the past several months ignores the fact that such a blunt warning a year ago was not just an emotional outburst without any factual basis, unless anything that goes against the grain with Howell Raines can be dismissed as just an emotional outburst.
None of this is peculiar to Mr. Raines or to the New York Times. Weighty national and international issues are often argued on the left in the same smug, dismissive style. Affirmative action controversies, for example, are pictured as being due to "angry white males." Opposing viewpoints on all sorts of other disputes are depicted as showing that these are "emotional issues."
Facts, logic, and principles do not have to be confronted by other facts, logic, or principles. That would be arguing on a plane of equality under the same rules on both sides. But the mindset of the left is apparent in such phrases as "raising the consciousness" of other people. They are like missionaries carrying The Word to the unlettered natives.
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