The Times’ Ethicist on Gatesgate

A reader sent me an column by Randy Cohen, the Ethicist of the New York Times—yes, the Times has its own Ethicist, capitalized—entitled, “Why Henry Louis Gates Should Sue,” and wondered if I might do my usual job of taking apart its false assumptions.

After reading it I replied to the reader that when statements leave reality completely, and have no bearing in any facts or reason, as is the case with Cohen’s column (as well as with many of his readers’ comments), it’s not possible to analyze it, or in any case analysis would take more energy than it’s worth. All one can say is, here is intellectual irresponsibility taken to the level of intellectual dementia, here is something with no connection to reality.

On the same page as the column is this bio, accompanied by a photo of a fatuously smiling Cohen:

About Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen has written humor articles, essays and stories for numerous newspapers and magazines. His first television work was writing for “Late Night With David Letterman,” for which he won three Emmy Awards. His fourth Emmy was for his work on “TV Nation.” He received a fifth Emmy as a result of a clerical error, and he kept it. For two years, he wrote and edited News Quiz for Slate, the online magazine. Currently he writes the Ethicist for The New York Times Magazine. Each week, in Moral of the Story, he will examine a news story from an ethical perspective.

Now let us remember that David Letterman is not just a comic. He’s a “comic” whose main theme is to subvert all meaning and value. Traditional comics see the humor of the world while reaffirming the world. Letterman’s loutish “humor” deconstructs any world. And the New York Times designates as its in-house authority on ethics a person whose most important career accomplishment was writing jokes for this postmodern (and extremely unfunny) ironist. It would be like hiring a rapist to head New York City’s sex crimes division.

It’s things like this that make me feel at times that the entire editorial and writing staff of the New York Times are enemies of society who should be exiled from the United States for life, like Philip Nolan in “The Man without a Country.” Actually that’s a polite way of putting my thoughts.

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Laura W. writes:

Cohen argues here that it is unethical to argue against the public insurance option in Obama’s health care bill. He doesn’t say that critics of the public option are wrong, he says that arguing against it is unethical.

His bio also mentions he received an Emmy award due to a clerical error, but “kept it.” Aristotle wrote the Nicomachean Ethics. Cohen is compiling the Letterman Ethics.

LA replies:

Yes. Cohen as a television writer helped create a relativist/nihilist world without meaning, a world where everything is a goof. But when it comes to the leftist agenda to turn America into a socialist country Cohen suddenly comes out as a morally absolutist dictator, prohibiting all dissent in the name of ethics.

This is yet another example of my idea of how “liberalism is both liberationist and totalitarian.” Liberalism “liberates” people from normal morality, in order to impose on them its own leftist “morality,” to which no dissent is allowed.

Laura W. continues:

Can you imagine an intellectual of the ’40s or ’50s being seen with the goofy, hug-me-til-I-pop smile you see in photos of people like Randy Cohen or Times science writer Henry Fountain? Shouldn’t someone who pronounces on significant life-and-death matters show just a teensy-weensy bit of sobriety, if not genuine gravity and self-effacement?

LA replies:

I wasn’t going to reproduce Cohen’s photo, but Laura’s description of it conveys so well my own unformed thoughts about it that I change my mind:


Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 29, 2009 10:15 AM | Send

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