MSNYT: Innovations in bias technology are coming at an increasingly rapid pace in the New York Times–it’s a regular Singularity of self-reinforcement over there. In June the paper deployed its powerful “Draws Attention To” template, the formula for which is
X event in the news (go find one if necessary)
“draws attention to”
Y argument the Times wants to push
This weekend, the paper field-tested a companion bit of technology, the long-rumored “GOP on Defensive” device, as in
This powerful bit of software, now in beta, tries to solve a problem created by the “Draws Attention To” device–namely who was “drawing” the “attention” (aside from the Times editors)? It turns out, in Jackie Calmes’ story, that the answer is “some well-known economists, financial analysts and corporate leaders.” Also “these critics” and “many forecasters.” And, on occasion, simply “analysts.” Here is Calmes’ lede:
WASHINGTON — The boasts of Congressional Republicans about their cost-cutting victories are ringing hollow to some well-known economists, financial analysts and corporate leaders, including some Republicans, who are expressing increasing alarm over Washington’s new austerity and antitax orthodoxy.
Among the names dropped are Martin Feldstein and Henry Paulson, the latter elevated from a can-do Wall Street bailout impresario into a “onetime standard bearer of Republican economic philosophy.” Feldstein, for his part, has been advocating increased revenues for a while, and is such a GOP standard bearer that he served on Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Calmes offers no evidence of the “increasing” quality of their alarm.
Also cited is Ian Sheperdson, who works for an outfit called High Frequency Economics, and three other economists. News flash: some economists want a “mix of cuts and revenue” and others think we need an immediate stimulus!
Completely missing, however, is any convincing indication that Republicans are, in fact, “on the defensive.” A quote from Rep. Eric Cantor, vowing to resist “pressure to compromise on tax increases,” doesn’t seem very defensive at all. (Defensive would be, “Well, what did you expect us to do?” or “We only said we were against revenue increases while there was a recession” or “We were drunk.”)
Lack of evidence of defensiveness is not a fatal flaw in an “on the defensive” story, however, since the whole premise is that the conventional wisdom of “well-known” economists, financial analysts and corporate leaders” (as divined by the Times), is arrayed against the Republicans. They are therefore inherently, by definition “on the defensive,” no matter what they say or think or what they sound like.
Indeed, the whole “On the Defensive” device is probably best viewed as a CW amplifier. It allows the Times not only to promote an unsurprising chorus of anti-GOP alarm–make that “increasing alarm”–but to claim that its side is winning.
That must be heartening to Times readers. It’s also the stuff of which delusions are made–the familiar process of cocooning, in which Times-addicted Democrats wake up election day expecting President Kerry to have been swept into office only to discover that the paper of record has mistaken the views of its editorial board for the views of voters.
I used to think the paper’s editors were also deluding themselves along with everyone else. Now I’m not so sure. The Times is a struggling new media company now, and in new media the readers, viewers and dollars go to those who tell committed partisans and ideologues what they want to hear. So why not tell your mainly Dem readers that the other side is “on the defensive”? They’ll eat it up. They might even subscribe. Better yet, throw in some macho chest-thumping: The GOP is not just “on the defensive.” Their “boasts” are “ringing hollow”! Yeaaaghh! If the Republicans nevertheless inexplicably win the next election–hey, deal with that then. Meanwhile, the eyeballs are behind the paywall.
The NYT gets more like MSNBC every day.