Two media events were informative this past weekend. Well, perhaps three, the third one being the drifting silence from the White House Correspondents’ dinner. One hears it was a cheerless affair, which seems unfortunate. But then, one wasn’t paying much attention. What were they going to do, except get together and bash You-Know-Who? And sure enough, that’s what they did. Whatever.
The first media event was previewed for us on Friday, when Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal column was posted online, under the subject line “How Trump Lost Half of Washington.” The slug read:
The old ambassadors were willing to give him a chance. He destabilized the whole town instead.
And right away, you knew that although the lady can write, and you enjoy her writing immensely, there probably wasn’t much point in pursuing the matter. That lament in the slug?
He destabilized the whole town instead.
That was the point. That’s why Trump voters sent Trump to Washington: to destabilize the place. To destabilize the whole town.
In April 2019, it hardly seems necessary to lay out the thinking behind that purpose. But then, I don’t live inside the Bubble, where a stable Washington is the measure of prosperity and security. I live out in the real world, where Stable Washington is a deaf bronze idol, one that doesn’t care what impact its policies are having on everyone else.
Did Peggy not see that manufacturing jobs are surging back at a clip Stable Washington swore three years ago was 100% impossible? Does she not understand that that, and not the sociopolitical stability of Washington, D.C., is what matters to Americans? People want to work, they want to build their own futures for their families as they see fit, they want to walk tall as contributors to their communities – and they can again.
They’re also pretty sure the old ambassadors are just fine, and will be A-OK without the people having to give up their own hope and future by voting for a Democrat in 2020, as Ms. Noonan prescribes.
The people can tell a hawk from a handsaw, out here in not-Washington-land. Suddenly they’re employable again. The people understand that the uptick is not in spite of Trump’s “destabilizing” impact on Stable Washington. It’s because of it.
How odd to see it so differently from inside the Bubble: to prefer unemployment and economic decay for the people. Trump has proved in two years that quite a bit of America’s problem was predatory overregulation and a tax structure that attacked and chewed up investment capital. Stable Washington is invested in both of those policy shibboleths, so I’m sure it’s a psychological blow to see them under assault.
But let’s be honest here: Stable Washington isn’t facing foreclosure now, as the middle class was three years ago, and having to file for unemployment benefits or face raising its families without health insurance.
There’s no need to feel sorry for Stable Washington.
Doing so is a personal problem for those inside the Bubble. Outside it, people are too busy working and living again to weep.
The one thing the people are certain of? “Re-stabilizing” Washington, as Peggy Noonan outlines it, would send us backward to the unpleasant and failing conditions people voted in 2016 to get out of.
I was struck this weekend by the difference in good cheer and energy level between the Correspondents’ dinner and the Trump rally in Wisconsin. The sense was palpable that actual life was what was happening in Wisconsin.
And that same sense emerged from the second media event that seems to have defined the weekend. Its defining quality wasn’t even so much the event itself, although it was an awful one, and needs to be taken seriously. The defining character of it lay more in what I think it revealed about the Bubble.
The event was the New York Times’s publication of a grotesquely anti-Semitic editorial cartoon in the overseas, European edition. We headlined it at LU on Saturday, and I watched the predictable reactions to it flare across social media throughout the day.
2. Here’s the anti-Semitic cartoon that the NYT published pic.twitter.com/ucLCLIyTgJ
— Yashar Ali ? (@yashar) April 27, 2019
It really is horrible. There’s no excusing it, and every bad import of it you can think of is a justifiable basis for exhortation and lament. In fact, I devoted an uncharacteristic amount of social media time to calling it out and condemning it, especially after the shooting at the Chabad synagogue in Poway, California, which occurred so shortly afterward.
I want to make it clear that I do take it seriously, because my view of what’s happening goes beyond that first-order, fully-justified reaction. The view comes into focus through the lens of the backlash. And what I noted about it – as it gathers steam now, although it was slow outside of Jewish organizations in the first 24-48 hours – is that where the backlash appeared seemed to depend largely on who pays attention to the New York Times.
This may be hard for those inside the Bubble to understand, but most of America gets through the weekend without being aware of what was printed in the New York Times on Thursday or Friday – and that includes plenty of politicians as well as ordinary citizens. We don’t live in a world anymore in which NYT is the “mainstream” publication in terms of broad popularity, reaching America with the news, deciding what the news is, or setting the tone for the public dialogue.
That means something of extraordinary significance. It means that we cannot say, today, that if the NYT has printed something, that means the something has been “mainstreamed.” The number of Americans for whom that may be the case is too small for that to be a valid proposition anymore. The NYT is no longer capable of mainstreaming anti-Semitism.
The New York Times can only besmirch itself, by presenting images and thoughts to us that are repulsive and offend the conscience. It can pollute the public dialogue; it cannot shape the public mind. The people’s stubborn refusal to buy the Russiagate narrative – their refusal to hope against hope with the NYT editorial department that there really is something there to destroy Trump with – is good evidence of that. So is the people’s impassive refusal to reject Trump in the polls, and knuckle under to the NYT editorial posture on border security and illegal migration.
The real, decisive sentiments of America are not swayable by the old-guard legacy media now. Nor are they expressed by the mentally beset, overheated fringe element, like the synagogue shooter, that takes up weapons and attacks Jews – or attacks Christians, or Muslims, or Hindus, or anyone else.
Make no mistake, as our old POTUS-in-Chief used to say. There is danger out there. It is indeed a problem that we are seeing genuinely, blatantly anti-Semitic attacks in our communities, and a storied, high-status newspaper putting up an anti-Semitic cartoon and then being coy and insincere about any apology for it.
But the social elements in which this is happening are not our leading ones. They are not prominent. They are not defining. Anti-Semitism is not going mainstream. It’s trying to, and we must be vigilant against it. But it isn’t mainstream.
Appearing in today’s New York Times, unfortunately for the NYT, is appearing on the ash heap of history. The people are moving on. It’s the folks inside the Bubble, like the acolytes of Stable Washington, like the ones swapping morose repartee at the Correspondents’ dinner, who don’t see that.
Mainstream is what the happy people in Wisconsin are doing. It’s what the citizens of my little town are doing: getting jobs back, paying down mortgages, looking around to see who needs help, because, thank God, they have help to give again. We saw that come out in Poway, as we do on what seems like a daily basis around the Los Angeles area when bad things happen.
The New York Times should think shame on itself that it does not have the taste, character, and discernment of the ordinary Americans who would never approve the publication of that disgusting cartoon. Ordinary Americans are off cheering for the embassy move to Jerusalem, and the bedrock American proposition that Jews in our midst should be safe and enjoy the same rights, respect, and protections as everyone else. The real American sentiment is “Never again,” with not one single caveat to follow.
I would urge my fellow Americans, if I could urge something, to stop imagining that they see a true representation of their country through the lens of old-media paradigms. Go to your workplace or your kid’s soccer game or the grocery store, and you’ll see that the truth is different from what the old-guard media are bringing to you. America has better bones, and is in better shape to weather storms, than you think – because of the demise of Stable Washington and the diminishing influence of the New York Times.