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July 7, 2009 fascinatedcuriously
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Q: Why does NYTimes Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus wear that shit-eating grin?

A: Because he really does eat shit!

Last week’s post on the nepotism/conflict-of-interest scandal at the New York Times book review seems to have gotten picked up (without attribution!) by a bunch of right-wing wacko bloggers who have recast the story as a case of liberal media bias. These guys only know one tune and they whistle it all day long, so it’s worthwhile to revisit the facts to set things straight.

For those of you who don’t remember last week’s post:

Gawker reports that Lynn Dolnick, a member of the ruling Sulzberger family and a director of the Times corporate board, appears to be receiving more than her share of deference from the supposedly independent editors of the book review. They’ve gone into overdrive promoting a mediocre biography of an art forger by Lynn Dolnick’s husband Edward Dolnick even though everyone from The Chicago Tribune to the New Yorker says that another new book on the same subject–totally unmentioned by the Times’ book reviewers–is far better.

Now the issue here, as far as I can tell, has nothing to do with liberal bias. Having done a little research (much as I hate work in any form) it turns out that the other book is called “The Man Who Made Vermeers” by an author named Jonathan Lopez, and it is not particularly more conservative or liberal than Dolnick’s book. It’s just deeper and better written, at least according to Peter Schjeldahl of the New Yorker, who cites the Lopez book for its “profoundly researched, focused, absorbing depth.”

So, the point isn’t that the Times is run by a bunch of liberal sacks of shit. The point is that it’s run by a bunch of pompous, lying sacks of shit. And therein lies the critical difference.

For instance, consider the case of well-known pompous sack of shit Sam Tanenhaus, editor of the Times book review. In a recent interview in – where else? – the Times, he held forth on how great and important the NYTBR really is:

Our mission is very simple: to publish lively, informed, provocative criticism on the widest-possible range of books and also to provide a kind of snapshot of the literary culture as it exists in our particular moment through profiles, essays and reported articles. There are many, many books published each year – hundreds stream into my office in the course of a week. Our job is to tell you which ones we think matter most, and why…

How many people reading this self-important crap would know that the real reason Tanenhaus thinks a book “matters” is that it was written by the dilettante scribbler husband of his boss’s cousin, who just happens to own a couple million shares of NYT Company stock herself, personally? Is there a footnote to Tanenhaus’s interview that tells us, uhm, that he’s actually just a corporate lackey who does what the fuck he’s told? Or maybe we’re supposed to assume that anyone who looks like such an obvious a-hole has to be full of shit…

In any case, liberalism has got nothing to do with it.


Entry Filed under: Media,Scandal

11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. liberalbiasexposed  |  July 8, 2009 at 6:49 am

    As one of the “right-wing wackos” referenced in this post, I take umbrage at the epithet–you may not like my politics, but, then again, I don’t like your potty-mouthed verbiage–but more important, I also object quite strenuously to your mischaracterization of my comments on this subject.

    I did not in any way attempt to characterize the book by Mr. Dolnick as liberal and the one by Mr. Lopez as conservative. That may well be an accurate description of their political orientations, but I really don’t know, as I haven’t read either book (nor, I gather, have you, by the by).

    My point, rather, was that the clear-cut ethical lapse on the part of Mr. Tanenhaus and the Times book review is entirely emblematic of the low moral, ethical, and intellectual standards of the paper as a news organization–one whose very identity is inextricably intertwined with the so-called “liberal establishment,” which, to my mind, represents intellectual corruption incarnate.

    By way of contrast, I would note that the Chicago Tribune, which is traditionally a Republican paper (although not nearly conservative enough in recent years), did the journalistically honest thing by reviewing the two books side-by-side, which is precisely what the Times should have done, particularly in a case where it so obviously would face scrutiny due to one of the authors being a Times insider.

    Here, the Republican paper acted honorably. The Democrat paper showed itself characteristically bereft of integrity. What is more (and indeed quite amusing), is that by failing to do as the Tribune did, the Times proved not only that it is intellectually dishonest but also utterly brainless. Did they honestly think that no one would notice their actions? Or are they simply so arrogant that they feel they can do as they please, consequences be damned?

    In either case, the fact remains, the Republican Chicago Tribune did the right thing. The Democrat New York Times did not. Since the purpose of my blog is to discuss and expose liberal bias in the media, I think this matter was entirely germane to my interests.

    That said, it is apparently also germane to yours. I do not begrudge you your evident love of tawdry celebrity gossip. Everyone needs a hobby.

    • 2. fascinatedcuriously  |  July 8, 2009 at 2:34 pm

      Dude, lighten up. Nobody “takes umbrage” on the web. People get pissed off! You should appreciate that kind of freedom. America, liberty, pursuit of happiness, etc.

      I don’t buy your argument about the Tribune acting more responsibly because it’s less liberal. The New Yorker reviewed the two books together, and last I checked it wasn’t exactly #1 on the John Birch Society’s reading list.

      The Times fucked up because it’s a way too big corporation whose attitude towards just about everything is dictated by its Yuppie shithead New York owners, who are just a bunch of arrogant fucks. They’ve got this hack writer dude in the family who wants to pretend like he’s a player, so they boost him up with coverage, and if they screw over some other dude, what the fuck do they care?

      The bigger issue is this: Before the internet, newspapers probably got away with this kind of stuff all the time. Now they get called on it. Either the big papers like the Times have to get off their high horse and realize that they can’t dictate to the world what is news and what isn’t anymore, or they’re going down the tubes. And like I said, I don’t think liberalism has got anything to do with it. As far as I can tell, the Chicago Tribune is going down the tubes too.

      • 3. liberalbiasexposed  |  July 8, 2009 at 11:39 pm

        I agree with you that the Times is guilty of institutional arrogance on a grand scale, and this sordid incident is merely an example of that larger problem writ small. But you grossly underestimate the extent to which this cycle of mendacity at the Times is a symptom of the entitled worldview of the liberals who run the paper. They assume that they are so great and good that if they do or say or decide something, then why, naturally, it must be moral and just. This is the way liberals think. They believe they can do no wrong because they are more “enlightened” than the rest of us. The condescension and utter hypocrisy of these people disgusts me more than words can express.

      • 4. fascinatedcuriously  |  July 9, 2009 at 1:12 am

        Well, speaking as an enlightened liberal hypocrite myself, I think you’re full of crap. Google Sam Tanenhaus’s name, dude. He’s not a liberal. He’s writing a book on Mr. Conservative himself, William F. Buckley, who I’m sure is a big hero of yours. So what does that do to your vast left-wing conspiracy theory, Sherlock? Admit it. Tanenhaus is a conservative and an a-hole. I don’t say that one necessarily follows the other, but the two are not mutually exclusive.

      • 5. liberalbiasexposed  |  July 9, 2009 at 4:39 am

        If I were to write a book about Gandhi would that make me a Hindu?

        Tanenhaus draws a New York Times paycheck, and therefore he is a servant of the liberal cause – just another New York Times pseudo-conservative like David Brooks, who hasn’t a clue what the movement is really about. People like Brooks are just there so the Times can say, “Oh, aren’t we open-minded, we have a pet conservative who we let write bland egg-headed gibberish on the Op-Ed page. Let’s pat ourselves soundly on the back for that.” What a pack of scheming rotters.

        Has it occurred to you that the Times has perpetrated this book review fraud in reviewing books specifically ABOUT fraud? It seems almost like a calculated act of contempt. “Oh, we’ll connive and lie and mislead the public to serve our own interests while pretending to comment sagely on the wicked ways of some historical malefactor.” What a pathetic joke. The Times itself is a fraud. I relish the prospect of its bankruptcy, which, as far as I am concerned, cannot come a moment too soon.

      • 6. Read It & Weep  |  July 9, 2009 at 7:06 pm

        Sorry to burst your bubble, guys. Edward Dolnick is not “some hack writer dude.” He’s the former Chief Science Writer for the Boston Globe. If the Times chose to review him, it was not because of any family connection he might have to the Sulzbergers but because he is an established writer. Who is Lopez? Nobody. Case closed.

      • 7. liberalbiasexposed  |  July 9, 2009 at 10:58 pm

        Oh, boo-hoo, yourself, Mister or Miss “Read It and Weep.” My handkerchief remains dry, as do my eyes.

        Your post is self-defeating and unintelligent for several reasons, of which I will mention but a few.

        1) The Boston Globe is a wholly owned subsidiary of the New York Times, so in your pathetic attempt to defend the self-serving Dolnick, you merely underscore that his is a career based on nepotism and preferential treatment.

        2) Although this Dolnick creature may have claimed to his publishers and readers that he had served as the “chief science writer for the Globe,” according to Wikipedia “Robert Cooke was chief science writer at the time Dolnick worked at the Globe,” so Dolnick was merely “a” science writer there, not the chief of anything. Consequently, whatever else Dolnick may or may not be, one can safely draw the conclusion that he’s a resumé falsifying fraud.

        3) As for “Who is Lopez? Nobody,” again according to Wikipedia, Lopez is a respected writer on the arts for a great number of publications, including, I would like to point out, Apollo, an English magazine owned by the Telegraph, a good Tory paper that publishes Christopher Booker, among other writers that I admire. So maybe this book review incident is indeed a matter of liberal versus conservative viewpoints after all. In any event, Lopez would seem easily as qualified, if not more qualified, than the Dolnick to write on the topic of an art forger. So your argument is completely worthless from beginning to end.

        In sum, “Read It and Weep,” I think you’ll have to take your own advice. The incorrigibly despicable Times was clearly remiss in favoring its in-house charity case over an outside competitor of genuine merit. That they did this, however, does not surprise me in the least: they are nothing more nor less than a swarming cabal of liberal hacks.

      • 8. fascinatedcuriously  |  July 10, 2009 at 12:21 am

        Yeah, I’m not shedding any tears either, Read It & Weep. The New Yorker ran like a 4000 word article saying the Lopez book is a lot better than Dolnick’s, so I would take their word for it, or at least I would say that it shows the Times was not, to quote Sam-the-pompous-fuckwad Tanenhaus, giving “a snapshot of the culture of the moment” or featuring “what’s best” in the book world. Actually, they chose to feature the second rate. And if you think Dolnick’s connections had nothing to do with that decision, then, personally, I think you’re a candidate for the rubber room.

      • 9. Michael C.  |  July 11, 2009 at 2:55 am

        In the long run, Dolnick has probably hurt himself more than he helped. It’s one thing to capitalize on your connections to sell a book (every writer tries to do that, and should). It’s a whole different thing when you use your pull to harm another author. Publishing is a small world, and even though Dolnick obviously brings a lot to the table because of his wife’s position, people may just get tired of working with him because of the sleaze factor. I really doubt anyone would engage in these kind of tactics on his behalf a second time. Nobody likes this kind of dirty backroom stuff, and the people involved would probably resent Dolnick for making them do it in the first place. (I’ve met Sam Tanenhaus a couple times, and he seemed like a pretty good guy to me. I doubt he would have been happy about having to do something like this.) Despite what has been said in the other comments, I think that the Times is overall an excellent paper (I read it every day) but when you work at a place and the boss (the publisher maybe?) tells you that you have to do something, then you do it. It’s like working anyplace else.

      • 10. fascinatedcuriously  |  July 11, 2009 at 5:23 am

        I get what you’re saying, Michael. But, really, Ahh vahs just follovink ohrderrhs is a pretty lame excuse and it doesn’t get Tanenhaus off the hook for being such a pompous hypocrite – even if you say he was pretty cool when you met him. I’ll accept that he’s a lame schmuck who has to do the Sulzbergers’ dirty work for them, but if that’s the case, then he shouldn’t act like he’s the arbiter of taste for the western world. That he ain’t.

  • 11. Weedtronic  |  July 9, 2009 at 4:57 am

    Dittos! 🙂

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