NYT Columnist Disdains Justice Scalia for Avoiding Liberal Media and Choosing 'Self-Reinforcing Discourse'

From inside The New York Times – where they like to believe they’re not insular, even though their idea of a fierce conservative is David Brooks – media columnist David Carr is carping about Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia's interview where he said he doesn’t read the Times or The Washington Post.

Scalia proved “that the tendency to limit one’s sources of information to avoid dissonance is not the province of a bunch of narrow-minded, politically obsessed characters who send mass e-mails from their mother’s basement.” No, Carr believes Washington is suffering from “gerrymandered news” at the extremes:

Political analysts trying to explain the current standoff in Washington are quick to point to redistricting as helping to foster ideological extremism in Congress. Representatives have been skillfully gerrymandered into safe districts of like minds where they can do as they please, listening only to reflections of their own thinking without fear of political consequence.

But given that politics in its current form is threatening to produce a crisis that threatens to create financial mayhem on a global scale — while striking one more blow against claims of American “greatness” — perhaps something more complicated than sketching out voting districts is at play. The polarized political map is now accompanied by a media ecosystem that is equally gerrymandered into districts of self-reinforcing discourse. Justice Scalia and millions of news consumers select and assemble a worldview from sources that may please them, but rarely challenge them....

The village common — you know, that place where we all meet to discuss our problems, relying on the same set of facts — has shrunk to the size of a postage stamp, surrounded by the huge gated communities of like minds who never venture into the great beyond.

This can sound like self-interested pleading: "How can you possibly tell people you don't read The New York Times?" Obviously, Scalia spends large chunks of his day reading the arguments of liberal justices, lawyers, and law clerks, so he's hardly closed off from the liberal mind. He doesn't need Maureen Dowd twaddle to deepen his intellect.

Carr seems self-aware enough to know that the Times isn’t exactly a bastion of open-mindedness when it comes to those conservative “troglodytes” they can’t stand. The Times hasn't exactly demonstrated that it believes there are any conservatives who are professional enough to consider reading and considering.

So he turned to Commentary editor John Podhoretz for agreement about the extremes, and he found it:

“What’s different is the intensity level, the level of vituperation,” he [Podhoretz] said, adding that he had been on the receiving end of some of that by suggesting that the Tea Party was goading fellow Republicans into a suicide mission. “You can dial up the intensity level by following 200 more people who think like you on Twitter or by turning on MSNBC or Fox News.”

What's amazing about the anti-"vituperation" folks is how they're shocked that people are angry when they're accused of being on a "suicide mission," as if that language isn't inflammatory.

Carr concluded: "More often than not, when we tune in to cable or fire up the Web, we are staring into the mirror, not looking out a window. If we did look out a window, we’d see government officials talking past and around one another as they all fall down a flight of stairs, perhaps a perfect reflection of the people they represent."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis