The Purpose of The Raging Lady

On December 21, 2002, in response to a racially insensitive remark by Republican Senator Trent Lott, The New York Times in an editorial entitled “Changing The Guard” said “The Party of Lincoln has a serious civil rights problem.” The editorial also said Mr. Lott’s surrendering of his post as majority leader “will not magically erase more than three decades of cynical Republican manipulation of the race issue.”

The editorial, as well as articles in the National News section on Lott, while they seemed to reflect reality, couldn’t have been more artificial.

People who rely on big city dailies, and especially The New York Times, for their news know that on issues like intolerance they only receive half the story. When national-level Democratic Party leaders and their pressure group and Hollywood allies speak or act intolerantly, Times reporters do not cover the story, and The Times editorial page doesn’t express its outrage. It is impossible to escape the conclusion that The New York Times practices a double standard, or a floating standard, in its treatment of events.

Information is a food, and we depend upon it to survive and prosper. Newspapers are our kitchens, and reporters and editors, and especially publishers, are our cooks. As readers, we hope the diet the chefs are serving us will help us grow. As citizens residing in a political community, we hope and expect the information and analysis our paper gives us will help us understand the realities about politics and government.

The purpose of The Raging Lady is to help us understand big city dailies, because newspapers deal in information, and information is power. Newspapers are more than just agents of influence – they are agents of power. Most observers of politics understand the utility of scapegoating and double standards in political discourse. They know these devices are useful in legitimizing some elites and de-legitimizing others. What many people may not realize, however, is just how uncontrollable these devices are. They can lead to intellectual stagnation, the stifling of political dissent, and the ruination of the reputations of innocent people. The purpose of The Raging Lady in analyzing and criticizing The New York Times is to understand how she influences, because to understand how influence occurs is to prevent the abuse of power.