A year or two before he started the Daily Caller, I remember hearing Tucker Carlson get booed at a Conservative Political Action Conference in D.C. His crime that evening was paying a compliment the New York Times – a most serious offense at a gathering of the country's most engaged conservative political activists.
Carlson's point hadn't been that the Times promoted good ideas or that its editorial board was wise and judicious, but rather that the paper had an established reputation for solid journalism. The respect and esteem they commanded offered liberal politicians a powerful ally in carrying their agenda to the masses.
At that time, I was hosting my own radio show and knew precisely what he meant. Whenever I was short on preparation time and needed an easy target to obliterate, there were plenty of prime left-wing websites to mine for fodder. Think Progress, the Daily Kos, Mother Jones, Salon – they were all goldmines of superficial thought. If I only had 5 minutes to obliterate a liberal narrative, those sites made it all too easy.
But digging into the Times required far more effort, preparation, and consideration. Arguments there tended to be well-researched, well-developed, and well-reasoned, even if ultimately wrongly concluded. That was about a decade ago.
Little did anyone know that in ten years' time, the Old Grey Lady would willfully diminish itself into an intellectual laughingstock, exchanging a once formidable reputation for the right to become a poor man's Huffington Post. Consider that today the most recognizable name associated with the once proud paper is notoriously discredited pseudo-historian Nikole Hannah-Jones.
When you consider that the woman who, with inexhaustible resources, churned out the historically clownish 1619 Project, now commands the platforms once held by credible left-wing thinkers like Andrew Sullivan and Bari Weiss, it's as astounding as it is pitiful.
Not that the latter two haven't pinpointed how this all happened. Sullivan expressed precisely what is transpiring there in his final op-ed in New York Magazine:
"They seem to believe, and this is increasingly the orthodoxy in mainstream media, that any writer not actively committed to critical theory in questions of race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity is actively, physically harming co-workers merely by existing in the same virtual space."
His analysis was echoed by more than one Times alum. In her own much-publicized divorce with the paper, Weiss highlighted precisely the same trend:
"A new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn't a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else."
This is the very methodology employed by the 1619 Project: rather than critically observe events, study competing philosophies, and render an appropriate conclusion, it is better to begin with a conclusion, then reinterpret all historical events in a way that reinforces what you'd already decided. It isn't scholarship, it's advocacy.
Perhaps we can be thankful that rather than masking their propaganda, by hiring someone as un-credentialed and disreputable as Nikole Hannah-Jones, the NYT has embraced their new place in the country's journalistic landscape.
Maybe the market for credible journalism is dead in these days of narrowcasting, and the Times has merely made a business decision. No longer competing for the minds of critical thinkers, the paper has prostituted itself to the shallowness of political sycophancy and ideological groupthink.
If that's the case, promoting the "work" of propaganda artists like Hannah-Jones likely makes sense.
In his CPAC talk, Carlson begged conservatives to move beyond blog screeds and to create a rival news operation capable of competing with the Times. Little did he know then that in just over a decade the Times would take care of the problem themselves by replacing their credible journalist voices with blog screed writers of their own.