The Religious Blind Spot of Modern Liberals
I often wonder what advantage publications like the New York Times Book Review see in unabashed identification with political and social liberalism. What place, for example, do the surprisingly strident and crude attacks on President Bush in its pages during the last election have to do with the review of books for an upper-level general audience, a mission that would seem to profit from a reasonable degree of editorial equanimity?
There have been times during the last several years when the magazine has brought me the uncanny sensation of swift backward movement: Suddenly I am no longer reading a distinguished review of books, but underground newspaper juvenilia from the seventies. One would think a more effective approach, given the desire for the largest possible audience, would be for the editors' liberalism to be expressed in cooler and more understated ways.
As someone who has read the Review for years, my suspicion is that its editors have settled into the mood of those for whom nonliberals simply don't count, in the sense of being worthy to understand or appeal to. Books as carriers of knowledge and information are for those who can profit by reading. Books as entertainment are of no interest to puritans. So why maintain the useless ruse that the magazine is for anyone but People Like Us? (I suspect this decline into journalistic solipsism among liberals because I have seen it happen among conservatives. It takes a good deal of editorial discipline to keep it from happening.)
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