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The New York Times in New England

By       Message Donald de Fano     Permalink
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The New York Times
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The New York Times by Photo by Don de Fano
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In preparing to respond to David Brooks' op-ed piece on capitalism in my New England edition of the New York Times, I referenced the on-line version of the piece so that I could link to sections of it for on-line readers.   I was astonished to discover that the two pieces, on-line and New England edition were not the same, not even close.   These were not simple editing changes.   For starters, the amount of text the two columns had in common was less than the text they didn't.   They were even headlined differently: on-line was called The Capitalism Debate, and the New England edition, More Capitalism, Please.   The on-line version, below the header, said "By David Brooks Published July 16, 2012."   The citation following the piece, in familiar custom, read "A version of this op-ed appeared in print on July 17, 2012, on page A25of the New York edition with the headline "The Capitalism Debate."    My paper, the New England edition, had it, in its More Capitalism, Please format, on the same date, on page A23.   The internet signature you get when downloading the on-line The Capitalism Debate ends with the designation"/brooks-more-capitalism-please."   I do not have access to the New York edition, so it's even possible that the Times has yet a third "version" of the piece published.

 

The focus and tone of the two pieces I do have access to are substantively different, as befits the different titles.   The "debate" column is a vehicle for Brooks to attack in a very personal way what he, predictably, perceives as Obama's hypocrisy in portraying Romney as the "embodiment" of "modern capitalism as it now exists."

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In Brooks' view, Obama's position is a cynical strategy to divert attention from his own failures in office.   Romney's strategy should be to embrace his talent as an efficiency expert with the ability to be the "corporate version of a personal trainer" for the nation.  

Overall, the Debate op-ed is a personal and vitriolic screed on the character and integrity of Barack Obama.

 

The other column, More Capitalism, Please, has an entirely different perspective. And tone.   Gone is the excessive personal attack on the President.   Brooks' premise is a more nuanced assertion that that people are wrong to condemn modern capitalism, which in fact   is chock full of redeeming social value, a crescendo of positive consequences culminating in the observation that "global hiring has been fantastic for the world's poor." The pivotal assertion in the piece,(and of course absent from the alternate "version") states the theme clearly, "that all postwar presidents have embraced the general logic of globalization, that American companies should take advantage of foreign opportunities to make themselves more productive."   As befits his Republican perspective, Brooks' eyes glaze over the reality that the "foreign opportunities" he's talking about include the "opportunity" to profit from the labor of human beings working obscene hours, for starvation wages in execrable conditions.

 

None of this answers the question of why the august grey lady would publish the two op-ed pieces as if they were the same.   I've counted on the Times throughout my life for integrity, and some class, in choosing what it decides to print.   I would hate to think that it is currently inclined, clandestinely, to provide "red meat" for its Wall Street readers and more temperate fare for its New England audience.

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I am a retired boatbuilder with a fascination for political thought. Most of my life I cheerfully described myself as an "eastern establishment, knee jerk, liberal Democrat."

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