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Notes from the Anthropocene Age: THE NEW YORK TIMES

The New York Times 'Business Section' debuted May 17, 1978, as 'Business Day.' Before that business news in The Times was contained in the Main News Section and was quite modest, limited to news of large mergers and daily stock market listings.

CEO's weren't rockstars then as they are now, or so regularly the subjects of major profile pieces in The NYT, not only in the 'Business Section' but in other sections of The Times (a fashion designer named Tom Ford is given a novella length airing in this past Sunday's NYT's aptly named 'Styles' section, and the Murdoch family, who are in the business of media, was featured in NYT 'Magazine' the week before).

This journalistic shift seems undeniable, a shift from the emphasis on production in the mid-capitalist age to the emphasis on consumption in the late capitalist age, to the age we're now in the midst of, the age of anthropecenic capitalism, in which man-made products and their consumption are exerting a new peak period of influence on the environment, its ecosystems and climate.

In the elevation of Business as a subject deemed worthy of increasing journalistic attention, is The NY Times in the business of simply reflecting the time and reporting on it to its readers? Or is The Times in the business of promoting the times, dressing up the capitalist narrative so that it continues to appear viable, even enviable?

One of the richest men in the world, Carlos Slim, a Mexican businessman, owns 17% of The New York Times.

I spent some earnest time in the mid 1980s tracking the full page ads in ARTFORUM to see if there was any correlation between advertising and editorial. Most of the ads were taken by galleries promoting their shows. I wanted to know if buying a full page ad 'bought' a gallery a review in the editorial content of the magazine. It was about a 60/40 proposition--that is, about 60% of the time there would be a review when there was an ad. The ratio was somewhat skewed however, as the bigger galleries were mostly the galleries taking down the full page ads and the bigger galleries featured the big-time artists more likely to be reviewed.

WC Williams called a poem "a machine made out of words', apropos of nothing. But Williams' statement makes a sort of sense when I'm reading a poem. On the other hand I don't know what to make of the 'journalistic' like The NYT (which is currently running full pg. ads on its journalistic penchant for "Truth": subtext in the age of Trump) and other major media, other than to keep in mind as I read it that it's supremely capitalistic enterprise. 


It's fashionable to criticize capitalism now, as all its faults are becoming manifest in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the landscape we're creating for our children and their children. Such an easy target! It's also possible that too much information is our real enemy. Reading a wildly popular writer for the first time the other day, The Writer of His Generation, a writer I'd put off reading, feeling overwhelmed by his reputation, it seemed to me that his hyper-intelligence did him in: the sheer amounts of intelligence he consumed and the energy expended in making sense of it, making the connections he thought necessary to make himself and his readers understand what he'd consumed, cut his life short, a suicide. As good as his prose sometimes is is it's also frantic: it seems as if he's too intent on taking notes about what's outside him rather than what's inside. Reading, I often couldn't tell if his mind was trying to keep pace with his writing or his writing with his mind, or both, and quickly became exhausted. If I, the reader was exhausted, I can't begin to imagine what the writer was feeling.

Perhaps all this information we now have and all the intelligence we've 'raised', the creative writing degrees, this supra-literate class of people that are well-traveled, sensitive, multi-cultural, progressive, liberal, is creating a kind of Age of Stupor not unlike The Dark Ages.

Finally, these lines from a poem by Skoorb Naddor, as translated from the Finnish:

We have named more/ than we have known/therefore the danger.

Interior, San Francisco Public Library, Anza Branch, Spring, 2019. We have named more/than we have known/therefore the danger.

Reader Comments (1)

Umm, frankly I'm skeptical of the NYT being the proverbial "bible."

May 3, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTom Raher

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