Hilarious takedown of the New York Times

Pomposity accompanied by ignorance makes for some great mockery.

The New York Times pridefully presents Pulitzer bait with a special issue of the New York Times Magazine entirely devoted to one subject: “Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart."  This special issue is a signal the Serious Journalism is on the way.  So is the act that there are no ads, and it was funded by a grant: (via Poynter):

It doesn't have any ads. In print and online, the story is devoid of promotional messages, thanks to funding from the Pulitzer Center.

"What Scott wrote is basically a book," Silverstein said. "It's 40,000 words, it's one voice. It feels like a book. And we thought it would be really cool for readers to get it in their hands and have it feel like a book, which is to say: No breaks from the continuous narration of Scott Anderson. No advertisements, nothing but Scott's words and Paolo's pictures."

The Magazine’s editor in chief Jake Silverstein tells us in a preface:

This is a story unlike any we have previously published. It is much longer than the typical New York Times Magazine feature story; in print, it occupies an entire issue. (snip)

It is unprecedented for us to focus so much energy and attention on a single story, and to ask our readers to do the same.

Do your homework! We’re really smart, and it will be good for you to read this whole thing.

We would not do so were we not convinced that what follows is one of the most clear-eyed, powerful and human explanations of what has gone wrong in this region that you will ever read.

So with all this pomposity and circumstance, you’d expect that they would dot the i’s and cross the t’s, and really nail down everything. Silverstein assures us it is “[t]he product of some 18 months of reporting.”

Tom Maguire of Just One Minute is not fooled.

So this story is a BFD and the result of a major editorial effort. And here we go, first paragraph - I exhort the gun enthusiasts to strap themselves in and swallow any coffee. Or if you're hitting the hard stuff, that too:

Before driving into northern Iraq, Dr. Azar Mirkhan changed from his Western clothes into the traditional dress of a Kurdish pesh merga warrior: a tightfitting short woolen jacket over his shirt, baggy pantaloons and a wide cummerbund. He also thought to bring along certain accessories. These included a combat knife, tucked neatly into the waist of his cummerbund, as well as sniper binoculars and a loaded .45 semiautomatic. Should matters turn particularly ticklish, an M-4 assault rifle lay within easy reach on the back seat, with extra clips in the foot well. The doctor shrugged. “It’s a bad neighborhood.”

The M-4 takes clips? Who knew? (snip)

But at some point, one does wonder. Does anyone think that if a NY Times food critic submitted a review lauding a SoHo restaurant on West 8th St that the editors would not find their red pens?

Why can't they take the trouble to learn about topics they routinely write about? Why ask why?

And since most of the editors are determined to learn nothing about icky, scary guns, why can't they let Capt. C.J. Chivers (ret.) glance at these pieces for a reality check?

The level of expertise needed to spot the mistake is not terribly arcane. Scores of millions of Americans who own guns recognize the basic names of the components of their guns, just as car owners know about engines, transmissions, wheels, and so forth. Yet nobody involved in the 18 laborious grant-funded months recognized the basic error. That is proof of the extent of their embeddedness in a blue bubble that misses important parts of the reality they frequently write about. 

Hat tip: Clarice Feldman

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