Isn’t The New York Times supposed to be the standard bearer for journalistic excellence and purity in the age of Trump? Doesn’t it fancy itself a news outlet that would never stoop to the kinds of attacks on the media it condemns the president for? That was certainly the impression conveyed by the Gray Lady when it’s publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, Jr., requested and received an audience with Trump in July 2018. At that meeting Sulzberger told the president — and the nation — that the kind of incendiary rhetoric he used to characterize journalists was hurtful and dangerous.
How ironic, then, that Sulzberger’s paper should publish a column on Sunday that not only attacks a fellow news organization, but resorts to ad hominem insults. The article, by David Bentley Hart, “a scholar of religion and a cultural critic,” appeared in the opinion pages, and while its main drift was a defense of socialism against “unjustified” attacks by the Right, the piece goes out of its way to take gratuitous shots at Fox News.
The writing itself betrays a level of flatulence surpassed only by that of Times resident op-ed columnist Charles Blow. Take the lede, for example:
To be trapped in the boarding area of a smallish airport in the upper Midwest is, as often as not, to be subjected to that bestial din of fricatives, gutturals, plosives and shrieks of hysterical alarm that constitutes political discussion on Fox News, pouring incessantly from those obnoxious pendulous ceiling televisions.
My guess is that Hart took a course in college in articulatory phonetics and is showing off that fact by mentioning fricatives and plosives. Never mind that the average reader has no clue what those are.
But Hart is just getting warmed up:
And unless one fancies running the T.S.A.’s gantlet of gropers again, there’s no escape. The experience is especially nasty if one’s wait coincides with the prime-time shows hosted by those two almost indistinguishable fellows with the suety faces, bouffant coiffures and nerve-racking mezzo-castrato voices.
Suety faces and mezzo-castrato voices? Heavens!
Hart goes on to tell readers he was subjected to a fate worse than Fox News, and that was to have “commentator Ben Stein hovering over me like some grim heathen god, exuding all the effervescent charm of a despondent tree sloth, glumly wobbling his jowls and opining that Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez espouses a political philosophy that in the past led to the rise of Hitler and Stalin.”
But the mention of Ocasio-Cortez in particular evidently touched a nerve in Hart, who continues down that track:
I am painfully aware that the male Fox commentariat nurtures its sickly obsession with Ms. Ocasio-Cortez partly because they resent her cleverness, charisma and moral vitality, but mostly because they suspect that in high school she was one of those girls they had no hope of getting a date with (though, really, she comes across as someone who could look past a face of even the purest suet if she thought she glimpsed a healthy soul behind it).
The bitter irony is that the news anchors on Fox News Channel, which Hart obviously never watches despite his unkind words for the network, are unfailingly polite and professional when talking about Ocasio-Cortez. But that makes no difference to Hart for whom the “excitable right” (his term) is one monolithic entity.