Emmanuel Macron incurs the wrath of the New York Times. Expect more of the same.
In the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, when liberal America was reeling from the most devastating psychological gut punch in recent memory, I was heartened to read that a French magazine, unwilling to wallow in the pervasive climate of doom and gloom that had become the cloak of choice among liberal pundits who strafed the viewing public with daily bulletins that Donald Trump’s unprecedented victory served simultaneously as a death rattle of American democracy and a confirmation of the country’s status as a racist, sexist hellhole, decided to send a correspondent stateside to visit some of the so-called Trump hotspots.
To boldly go, in essence, where no mainstream media outlet had bothered to go in the run-up to the election and find out why these people had voted the way they had. Why had they thrown this wrench with a giant, graffitied F-U into the System? You might say they believed in the scientific method. To learn and reach a better understanding of the world through questioning.
There were a number of strange things I noticed the run-up to the election that year. Polls, pundits, and people constantly affirmed the inevitability of Hillary Clinton’s victory. Polished politician vs. uncouth pretender: what could possibly go wrong?
But as I listened to podcasts with comedians, I noticed that they were saying that they were seeing something different. as they toured the country and talked to regular people. Reporting back from the heartland, they’d say, softly…I think Donald Trump is gonna win this thing.
Rather than frolic amidst the balmy waters of reinforced notion—I am good! My enemies are evil!—this unprecedented killer combo of intrepid souls, comedians and Frenchmen, put their boots on the ground and set about trying to understand this movement that was bubbling forth.
If every national election invariably tilts on a 51% to 49% victory-to-defeat ratio, that makes a lot of “losers” every four, or eight, years. Rather than go “Nya nya” when your side wins, why not count to 10, let that burning desire to inflict verbal pain upon your enemies slide away, and work toward a better understanding?
It is in that spirit, then, that I remember reading that the current president of France, Emmanuel Macron, run afoul of the preeminent tastemaker in American media, the New York Times, after the spate of terrorist attacks that riddled his country in November—the most notable the beheading of Samuel Paty, a teacher who dared show his class pictures of the prophet Mohammed.
With their favorite bugaboo of the past four years now on his unceremonious way out, the paper of record will have to find new enemies—and it’s no surprise that they got started a bit early to try and ease their transition. Once the Orange Man is gone, it’ll be back to tsk-tsking people around the world for not adhering to a set of strictures that the New York Times lays out for the rest of us. Because when one thinks of the duties of a Fourth Estate, throwing shade is chief among them.
That Macron dared defy the Times’ chosen strategy, after the spate of attacks, of apologizing profusely and moving on as if nothing had happened, the Times decided to run this piece to put him back in his place.
You can’t begrudge the Times—always get a kick that the New Yorker refers to the paper with that fabled moniker…the…TIMES…because of course a readership as erudite and well-heeled as the New Yorker’s wouldn’t possibly ever imagine it would mean anything other than the paper of record—for trying to throw its weight around.
This is the institution, after all, that informed the world (through a tweet, quickly deleted) that the role of declaring the winner of a presidential election falls to the news media. After that, you can’t begrudge the Times trying to put a puny political leader back in his place. They control the levers of democracy, after all! Their endorsement can make or break a candidacy.
Well, could. Traditional media is dying, through every fault of its own.
This attitude of unearned superiority trickles down into the dinosaurs who still imbibe the likes of the Times. Everyone’s looking for a reason to feel better than their fellow man, and what is media’s duty if not to provide that service?
It always puts me in mind of when I’d walk around San Francisco these past four years…it tended to happen more frequently around “important” elections, like the midterms two years ago, but you’d hear snippets or see glimmers of it at pretty much any point you stepped outside. What it entailed was a well-heeled couple, usually, wondering aloud how so many stupid people could ever have elected Trump. Or vote Republican. Or yada yada yada.
The sentiment was seen on bumper stickers, yard signs, wherever, whatever. We believe in science. Hate has no home here. Can you think of more insipid slogans? We’re running out of ideas here…
Because as we move forward as a society, it is important to always maintain a separation—the most welcoming and egalitarian societies just want to keep a sizable section of the population in its place.
I’d make a point of snickering loudly as I passed by these types of people—who says you can’t be petty once you’ve passed 30—but as I’d continue walking along, the white heat of resentment and injustice fading away with each passing step, I’d realize that I was joining them in that desperate dance we normal citizens lead. It’s the snarky tweet, the pathetic Instagram post. We’re trying to forget our own insignificance for a little bit. So much of what we do now is lob snark rockets online at people we’ve never, and probably will never, meet. We deepen the ideological divide.
Meanwhile, terrifying sorts of suits are being sewn in the silence of Big Government. The next spending bill that does nothing for small business? Bipartisan support. The next mass surveillance bill? Same same.
That well-heeled couple felt they’d restored democracy to its rightful place, following four years of the constant refrain—which hit fever pitch this past summer—that whiteness was over, they voted the oldest, whitest man to ever assume the Presidency, who’ll become an octogenarian in office, joining the esteemed likes of Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein and however other many crotchety cranks currently line our halls of power, because…why, exactly?
Anyhow, the president-elect who spent a summer welcoming Progressives into the fold, promising to consider their legislative preferences, only to slam the door shut and pull up the ladder once he won. It was time for moderate rule. Call him after the next election; until then, it’s too important to insert the next agenda to brook any criticism. ’Twas ever thus.
The lesson is, you do not matter. When you realize that, you can devolve into a despair-filled muddle, or, you can quietly embrace your own insignificance and carve out a little pocket of the world and try to make it as good as you can. Humans throughout history did that, and humanity continued. It even improved, bit by bit. Even in some instances without the New York Times’ approval.
That’s a miracle, to my mind. We’d do well to remember it before we go all reach-exceeds-our-grasp and do some real irreparable damage. It might help us tune out the emails that blare a sale that we just like have to seize upon and order some article of clothing that will then ship cross-country. We could do lots of things, but we don’t. We won’t.
But well-heeled couples will continue to find ways to feel superior. They’ll keep ordering online from mega corporations that vote for stuff like Prop 22 and turn an increasing number of people into debt slaves with no protections to speak of. But they vote for the right color tie. So they can rest easy, and sleep well.
We’ll watch our rights slowly erode away. And we won’t care, because it’ll keep happening to the “other side.” When really, the only sides are us vs. them—the general populace, and everyone who takes a seat in the corridors of power. If even the president of France can run afoul of our media, imagine how insignificant that makes us.
When a paper takes aim at a politician, it should give you pause. Because now you know they pick and choose when they turn up the Fourth Estate flashlight, and it often benefits someone in a corridor of power you’ll never meet. But who wants your vote, and who might label you a subversive if you do not give it to him.
2021. Should be fun.