The Absurdity of the New York Times

BY JAMES BEMBRIDGE

Being British and having an appreciation for sound journalism, much of the New York Times’ recent output has mercifully passed me by. But a tweet from one of their writers asserting that baby gender reveals are violence compelled me to visit their site. Much of what I found on there was awful but the absurdity of the Trump derangement articles never quite reached the laugh out loud lunacy of their author’s Twitter feeds. I suspect this is due to despairing yet defensive editors cutting out the really loopy stuff and trying to patch together in vain the paper’s now ragged reputation. Before I could leave, I was urged by a lurid pink banner to listen to what appeared to be the New York Times’ flagship podcast: Nice White Parents.

Tempted to get the hell out and press X, I steeled myself and pressed play instead.

Nice White Parents is a podcast that is as pleased with itself as the name suggests. Throughout the five punishingly long episodes, journalist Chana Joffe-Walt speaks to other privileged white women about little else but their privileged whiteness and with such intense sentimentality that you’d assume she was kidding were it not for her American accent. When not obsessing over others’ race or privilege, Joffe-Walt can be induced into talking about something that at times dares verge on journalism: the story of a troubled New York City school.

The school, we are told, is situated near a wealthy and white neighbourhood which Joffe-Walt solemnly adds has ‘gotten wealthier and whiter in the last decade’. Having low enrolment, the school’s headmistress was keen to attract parents whose children hadn’t made some of the more competitive schools in the catchment area. But such parents came with certain expectations, their child’s safety being one. And so questions were put to the headmistress such as whether the school is safe and how many metal detectors are on its premises. Being that these parents were white and most of the pupils were not, it is inferred that their safety concerns were motivated by the pupils’ skin colour rather than the school’s location: Brooklyn.

A group of these white parents somehow manage to overcome what the podcast tells us is their innate prejudice long enough to find ways of attracting more people to its metal detector free corridors. One of them thought a dual language French program might do the trick, and being an annoying professional fund raiser, managed to get the French embassy to pay for it. The school was soon home to not just ethnic minority children but a new influx of white French speaking ones, something Joffe-Walt gushingly refers to as ‘diversification’. And as if to assure us of its goodness, she leans into the microphone to whisper it slowly: d-i-v-e-r-s-i-t-y. Sadly, this comes off as more hilarious than helpful due to the woman’s chronic nasal condition.

Thankfully, she doesn’t flirt with this ridiculous idea for too long and soon comes up with another woke word to describe this white French people phenomenon – instead pigeon-holing the school’s diversification as gentrification. Like witch dunking, it would appear that the white parents are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. And as was the case in so many witch trials, Joffe-Walt decides to secure her conviction with the testimony of a child.

Maya is a 7-year-old girl who was a pupil at the school long before the influx of white French speakers and the language they brought with them. Though she struggles with French (as anyone new to it would), she is fluent in the language of her parents: Arabic. To Joffe-Walt, this is indicative of some imagined racial hierarchy and she believes more value is given to the white European language than Maya’s Middle-Eastern one.

Just as we think this podcast has reached a characteristically cretinous conclusion, the Racistfinder General then turns her sights on those white parents who chose not to send their children to this school. Enter Ellaine, the hapless housewife who, thanks to the efforts of Miss Joffe-Walt, people will now wrongly regard as a bigot. When pressed on why she opted not to send her children to the school, Ellaine cites the unruliness of the classrooms. Joffe-Walt, with the bonhomie of a barrister, assures Ellaine that we’re all a little bit racist and asks if what really put her off was not the behaviour of the children but that most of them were a different colour to her own.

I had played two episodes by this point and noticed in a mirror that all the colour had been drained out of my face. I decided that, like Ellaine, I had to opt out.

Whilst Chana Joffe-Walt questions whether people are racists or gentrifiers, I suspect many listeners will be left asking how this tripe ever got on air. Then again – like businesses taking on Diversity Officers – the World has not yet built up the courage to tell these grifters that they do more harm than good and that their services are superfluous at best. The likes of Joffe-Walt can’t be called talentless cretins because that would be discriminatory, just as diversity officers cannot be expelled from businesses because that would risk the dismissed Diversity Officer telling the world your business was racist. Blackmailing bastards, the lot of them. Wake up, people – we’re neither discriminatory nor are we racist. They are predators.

James Bembridge is the Deputy Editor of Country Squire Magazine.