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I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the New York Times Opinion Desk

I work for the Gray Lady, but my loyalty is to the Take.

Posted on September 5, 2018, at 8:08 p.m. ET

Zak Brian / ZAK BRIAN/SIPA

BuzzFeed News today is taking the rare step of publishing an entirely satirical, and anonymous, op-ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior editor for the New York Times Opinion page, whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers.

The New York Times Opinion section is facing a challenge unlike any faced by a modern American newspaper.

It's not just the Sarah Jeong controversy. Or Quinn Norton's firing. Or Bret Stephens' problems with college leftists. Or Bari Weiss's problems with college leftists. Or Judith Shulevitz’s problems with college leftists. Or David Brooks’s problems with college leftists. Or Frank Bruni’s problems with colleges.

There is yet another dilemma that Opinion Editor James Bennet does not fully grasp. Many of the senior editors on his own Opinion page are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

I would know. I am one of them.

To be clear, ours is not the reflexive Gray Lady hatred that animates the Twitter mobs. We want this newspaper to succeed, and we believe that many of its articles have already improved America and its guacamole.

To walk through the turnstiles on Eighth Avenue is to feel the solemn silence, the slow contemplation, the unshakable self-confidence that has always defined great American opinion journalism. And to imbibe a sacred duty to the Take. The Take — the sanctity of an exquisitely mixed Tom Friedman metaphor, which rings like a thunderbolt as it breaks the surface of the bottomless pit.

And our Opinion section, as it is currently conducted, presents a clear and present danger to the Take as we know it.

That is why we have been working, quietly, to preserve the best of what this section stands for, and resist our leadership’s darkest impulses. We have watched, in shock, as our leaders have indulged and even recruited a new crop of writers who may have youth on their side, but lack the nuance, caution, evenhandedness, and sensitivity that has long defined the tenured chairs of thought leadership that define this noblest of pages.

Our readers can rest assured that there are people on the inside doing their best to resist this pointless generational changeover. A true Times columnist does not spend their days concerned with marginal trends like the internet, and our spirits sag when we see contributors like Zeynep Tufekci and Tim Wu writing about — about, not on — their computers, obsessing over issues that surely no more than a dozen of our readers will live to understand.

The belittling of our institution doesn’t end there. Mara Gay has been getting people to read unsigned opinion articles, which were never intended for human consumption. Ross Douthat has smuggled fringe ideas like religion onto our pages and, worse, engaged in conversation about it with strangers on the internet. Michelle Goldberg has given voice to the opinions of young women barely graduated from the Seven Sisters.

We have even witnessed unseemly boasting in our publicity materials about recruiting new writers from disreputable websites like Buzz-feed.

But what our readers must know — what all serious people must know — is that from the inside, we are resisting this dangerous trend in ways big and small. We come in every day and make sure that the vital voices are still heard, and that the energy of new political movements, such as Andrew Cuomo’s inspiring underdog run in the New York governor’s race, are brought to the forefront of the conversation. We promise you that if any of our columnists ever get high, they will freak out and write about it.

This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state.

The bigger issue is not what is happening to the world’s most important Opinion page, but rather what is happening to you, the reader, as your mind loses its most vital nourishment. Like the impossibly complicated Italian sandwich that terrified David Brooks’s working-class friend, these pages have always contained a thoughtful mixture of intellectual sopressata, idea capicola, and thought mortadella. Our current leadership wants to replace such a complex delight, as Brooks did, with a common plate of nachos — to concede ground to the masses. We will resist.

Sen. John McCain explained our Opinion pages best in his farewell letter. “We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history,” he wrote — and our support for the liberation of the Iraqi people was indeed one of this page’s finest moments. “We have acquired great wealth and power in the progress,” he wrote, and we are, indeed, rich and powerful.


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