Intellectuals this week have been celebrating the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, the great propounder of the theory of evolution, sacred writ justifying the liberal belief that no demarcation or special creation sets humans apart from or above animals.
British philosopher Herbert Spencer contorted Darwin's idea into a powerful social slogan: “survival of the fittest.” This was a tautology, a circular argument. What made a particular mutant the “fittest?” Answer: He survived.
This circularity forced biologists to spawn neo-Darwinism, a new medieval doctrine of plentitude that judged fitness by how bountifully a mutant reproduced itself.
Let us consider the ultra-liberal newspaper The New York Times and its smugly Darwinian slogan: “All the News That's Fit to Print.”
Like the dinosaurs and woolly mammoths of long ago, this giant, once-dominant newspaper is now in a struggle to escape extinction.
With subscribership, advertising revenue, and stock price plummeting, The Times has been offering to shed properties, even to do a lease-back of its Manhattan headquarters at Times Square.
In January the company reported taking a $250 million loan from the world's second-wealthiest man, Mexico billionaire and telecommunications tycoon Carlos Slim Helu, who already owned more than 6 percent of its stock.
The New York Times has not written critically about illegal immigration, but with nearly one-fifth of this newspaper now effectively owned from Mexico, we can safely assume it never will.
The Times faces several challenges to its survival – some from being a newspaper in 2009, others from the burden of its own bias and executive incompetence.
Perhaps the most amusing aspect of this hoary beast's death throes in the tar pit of despond is seen in the Op-Ed articles The Times has published to suggest ways readers could rescue it.
Two Yale University financial folks, David Swensen and Michael Schmidt, discoursed in the Jan. 28 Times on how newspapers should be given the same special tax status as colleges and universities. Contributors who “endowed” The Times then could receive a generous tax write-off.
In effect, The Times was using its pages to suggest that liberalism is its product – and that liberal readers should be enticed to donate money that advertisers no longer supply. The Gray Lady was shaking her begging bowl.
Once-dominant newspapers find themselves in a Catch-22. People now prefer to read – if they can read at all after being educated in liberal-run public schools – on the Internet.
These readers, educated in the liberal welfare state, expect the free press online to be – well – free, like commercial television, which successfully sells its viewers' eyes and ears to advertisers.
When The Times kept its news pages free but attempted to force readers to pay to read its liberal columnists, few paid. The columnists joined in pressuring the paper to let them be read freely again.
The irony, as The Times relentlessly tells itself and us, is that it has more readers worldwide and presumably more influence than ever before, thanks to this new “platform” on the Internet.
But The Times is losing much of what it used to earn from newsstand sales and subscriptions. Neither online advertising dollars nor savings from not having to distribute printed wood pulp and pay union printers have come close to offsetting these losses.
“The harsh truth,” wrote menopausal liberal Michael Kinsley in the Feb. 10 Times, “is that the typical American newspaper is an anachronism. It is an artifact from a time when chopping down trees was essential to telling the news.”
The latest Times hope, voiced Feb. 5 on one of its free blogs by Eric Etheridge, is that online readers might be persuaded to agree to “an iTunes-easy, quick micropayment method. We need something like digital coins or an E-Z Pass digital wallet – a one-click system that will permit impulse purchases of a newspaper, magazine, article, blog, application, or video for a penny, nickel, dime, or whatever the creator chooses to charge.”
“Under a micropayment system,” wrote Etheridge, “a newspaper might decide to charge 2 [cents] for an article, or a dime for that day's full edition and website access, or $2 for a month's worth of editions and web access.
“Some surfers would balk,” he continued, “but I suspect most would merrily click through if it were cheap and easy enough.”
But, of course, what The Times and other liberal newspapers despise about the Internet is that they no longer rule in this new medium. In this realm, Newsmax has nearly 40 percent of the readership of the Washington Post. They preach equality but hate being on the same level playing field with a genuine diversity of viewpoints.
Once upon a time The New York Times was a liberal newspaper widely respected for its integrity. But in January 1992, young Arthur Ochs “Pinch” Sulzberger Jr. replaced his honorable father Punch as Times publisher.
Pinch Sulzberger is a left-wing radical. As a 1960s anti-war activist, he told his father that in Vietnam he preferred to see American soldiers get shot because “[i]t's the other guy's country.” Under his control, even sports columnists at The Times were ordered not to disagree with the official politically correct editorial line of the newspaper.
Pinch imposed a racial and gender quota system, then scarcely seemed perturbed when one of its rising stars, Jayson Blair, published 36 stories that contained plagiarism, fabrications, or outright lies and falsehoods.
A 2003 Rasmussen survey found that most Americans trusted their local newspapers, but only 46 percent regarded what they read in The New York Times as reliable and trustworthy.
And most recently, Pinch ended one of his rare experiments at bringing token balance to Times readers. He purged moderate conservative Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, from the newspaper's almost-entirely liberal stable of columnists.
The far-left propaganda The Times deems fit to print may be the real reason it is not, in Darwinian terms, fit to survive.
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