In 1990 Michael Jordan infamously quipped “Republicans buy sneakers too!” The issue here is that Jordan was a Democrat, and people wanted him to weigh in on North Carolina politics, which were racially polarized at the time. But Jordan was a national figure, whose cultural influence and reach is hard to explain to young people today. At the time I thought Jordan was being kind of a coward. He should have expressed his views, and not stressed too much about it.
I think about that more now because we do live in a very polarized society, and there aren’t unifying figures like Jordan who try to keep politics low-key.
Consider The New York Times. I still subscribe, but just barely. It has slowly and then more quickly turned into the journal of American wokeness. There are huge sections that I don’t even bother reading, because they don’t have any credibility with me. They’re written with a particular audience in mind, and I’m not that audience. It’s preaching to the choir masquerading as reportage. They’ve moved beyond the “view from nowhere,” and though it has been profitable, cultivating a deep and loyal subscriber base, it has reduced the paper’s broader cultural reach.
I thought about that when reading this article on Coinbase, ‘Tokenized’: Inside Black Workers’ Struggles at the King of Crypto Start-Ups Coinbase, the most valuable U.S. cryptocurrency company, has faced many internal complaints about discriminatory treatment. It was an interesting piece, and I read it out of curiosity. But it changed my views not at all. It was never going to change my views. The reason is that I feel that the journalists who work in the tech space are very biased, and of course, they were “out to get” Coinbase. If, for example, they couldn’t get sources, they wouldn’t have published a piece with the title “Coinbase faced accusations of racism, but that didn’t check out.” From the beginning, you knew there was only one conclusion that would sell copy, and they were going to find that conclusion. Coinbase has 1,400 employees now. It would be easy enough to find “sources.” The story writes itself.
A lot of my perception of the tech reporters at The New York Times is colored by Mike Isaac, who has a very obnoxious Twitter presence. He’s constantly showing his ass, and you get the feeling that he thinks non-woke people are subhumans who should be sent to reeducation camps. A lot of this is probably performative, and it sure gets him attention and followers. But, it colors my view of the “objectivity” of these reporters as a whole.
The motto of The New York Times is “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” But my view is that it’s some of the news that’s fit to print. And some of the other news, well, let’s just ignore that…
In the 2000’s many bloggers were behind the idea that the “view from nowhere” was a problem. But now that we have moved beyond that, it feels like a frying pan to fire situation.
There’s a similar problem with academia. I see many people in science saying things about coronavirus that I agree with. Their words and views are judicious, often cautious, and on the whole objective. But, there are other moments when they are not talking about coronavirus when they are highly partisan and engage in very harsh language about the tribal Other. For the purposes of coronavirus we are all “in it together.” But the people who are trying to guide the policy…they kind of hate half the population. Or at least they perform in this way in public on social media. It’s what’s expected for the tribe. So you can just scroll through someone’s timeline, and see them engaging in their tribal passions, and then try and flip into objectivity. But what is seen can’t be unseen.
I have no solution for this, but, I do know that friends who are public school teachers are careful what they say on social media. Or they were a decade ago. Perhaps it has changed. The reason is that they need to create a separation between themselves and their students, and putting too much of their personal life and views out there might puncture that distance.