Sunday, March 11, 2007

The New Yorker, Anniversary Issue

At the risk of repeating myself, I love the New Yorker. Lately, however, my favorite magazine’s recent and obvious democratic political slant has been disturbing me in ways that are getting harder and harder to ignore. One of the things that initially pleased me when I began reading the magazine in 2002 was its seemingly bipartisan political stance. I liked that, while there were incredibly informative articles on politics and the current state of affairs in Washington, the magazine writers seemed content to merely provide the facts while letting you draw your own conclusions. Yet, since the New Yorker’s endorsement of the Gore campaign in the 2004 presidential election, it seems as if the New Yorker’s bipartisanship is a thing of the past and that, no matter how much of a Democrat I am, saddens me.

In The Financial Page’s “Troubled Waters Over Oil” (Feb. 16 & 26 Anniversary Issue), James Surowiecki, after arguing that threatening war with Iran makes oil prices rise through an effect called “risk premiums” which in turn only strengthens Iran and its president, writes, “Talking tough may look like a good way of demonstrating U.S. resolve, but when tough talk makes our opponent richer and stronger we may accomplish more by saying less.” It’s an interesting point, probably even a valid point, but does it have to be such an obvious refutation of the Bush administration’s Iran foreign policy? Mayhap my memory is faulty, but I recall a time when The Financial Page followed the money instead of the politics.

Immediately following The Financial Page is the article on “24,” “Whatever It Takes” by Jane Mayer. The obvious disapproving liberal slant of this article was palpable. In fact, Mayer made almost no attempt to hide or subvert her own opinion. Disclaimer: I’m an avid fan of “24,” and despite what Mayer would have you believe about anyone who watches the television show, I don’t advocate, support, or believe in torture. In the perfect fantasy world in which “24” exists, torture – and there is a lot of it – is always practiced on the “bad guy” and it always garners some key information which allows Jack Bauer to save the world at the last minute. In that perfect world, Bauer is a patriot and torture is never wrong. Yet, I’m perfectly capable of separating fact from fiction; I’m perfectly capable of recognizing that this isn’t a perfect world and that torture is never right because it often causes more harm than good and that it isn’t always practiced only on the “bad guys,” but on the innocent ones as well.

Unfortunately, it seems as if everyone isn’t as smart as I am, at least according to Mayer they aren’t, and the creators of “24” are rabid conservatives with dangerous ties to the White House. Mayer goes to considerable length to quote military opponents of the show and its tactics (“The kids see it, and say, ‘If torture is wrong, what about ‘24’,” says Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point) and conservative fanatics who support it (“They [the public] love Jack Bauer…In my mind, that’s as close to a referendum that it’s O.K. to use tough tactics against high-level Al Qaeda operatives as we’re going to get,” says Laura Ingraham, a talk-show radio host). However, at no point does Mayer even make an attempt to speak to Democrats who are also fans of the show, such as Bill Clinton and Barbra Streisand. What ever happened to balance?

What did ever happen to balance in New Yorker? I miss the magazine that assumed I was intelligent enough to draw my own conclusions. I miss the magazine that wasn’t so blatantly liberal as to offend a Democrat like me. I miss the magazine that already knew I don’t read to reinforce my assumptions; I read to broaden them.

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