No Irish blood in this Gray Lady

The New York Times would more easily get people to trust its terrific (truly) reporting if it didn’t insult them so often with its cultural assumptions. Take the “Irish blood” story today..

Though a previous post of mine may have given the impression that I love the New York Times and all its works without qualification, not so. I still love its reporting prowess and, yes, its accuracy—better than all available alternatives, as opposed to utopian ones. But those who accuse it of cultural condescension are, well, often right.

Take this story (no “please”: the substance is very interesting). In case the link is Select or expired, here’s the money quote:

Listen more kindly to the New York Irishmen who assure you that the blood of early Irish kings flows in their veins. At least 2 percent of the time, they are telling the truth, according to a new genetic survey.

Now it’s not technically an ethnic prejudice to assume that “New York Irishmen” is a group whom New York Times readers talk to rather than being New York Times readers. (“I’m sure there are lots of fine people in this country who don’t read the New York Times—where’s the insult?”) But boy, if I were an Irish-American reading that, I’d sure find it annoying. Unless I were used to it—which no doubt I would be.

UPDATE: OK, could it possibly be that the above is, on reflection, oversensitive and in general a bit silly? And perhaps not the most important issue before the public? As I practice this blogger role more I’ll try to strengthen, and slow down, the neural pathways between eyes and fingers. For now, sorry.

Author: Andrew Sabl

I'm a political theorist and Visiting Professor (through 2017) in the Program on Ethics, Politics and Economics at Yale. My interests include the history of political thought, toleration, democratic theory, political ethics, problems of coordination and convention, the realist movement in political theory, and the thought of David Hume. My first book, Ruling Passions: Political Offices and Democratic Ethics (Princeton, 2002) covered many of these topics, with a special focus on the varieties of democratic politics and the disparate qualities of mind and character appropriate to those who practice each of them. My second book Hume's Politics: Coordination and Crisis in the History of England was published in 2012; I am currently finishing a book on toleration, with the working title The Virtues of Hypocrisy, under contract with Harvard University Press. A Los Angeles native, I got my B.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard. Before coming to Yale I taught at Vanderbilt and at UCLA, where I was an Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor; and held visiting positions at Williams, Harvard, and Princeton. I am married to Miriam Laugesen, who teaches health policy and the politics of health care at the Mailman School of public health at Columbia, and we have a twelve-year-old son.