The resignation this week of columnist Bari Weiss from the Opinion section of the New York Times came in the form of a scalding letter to the Times’s publisher that will burn only those who allow it inside their bubbles. What she wrote does not devalue the work of Nicholas Kristof or Bret Stephens or other writers who remain on those pages. But, combined with the absurd hysteria surrounding the op-ed last month by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), the paper’s crisis — and its shrinking bubble — is fully revealed. The limited worldview that Weiss described inside the newspaper will asphyxiate everyone left behind and poison those for whom it is their only source of intellectual nourishment.
I see it as relentless as the bubble that always — always — captured actor Patrick McGoohan in the late ‘60s British TV show “The Prisoner.” He could never escape it. Its real-world counterpart is the confirmation bias consuming the New York Times’ Opinion pages.
The closing of the American left’s mind has advanced far beyond the condition Allan Bloom described in “The Closing of the American Mind,” his 1987 book about the rise of moral relativism on U.S. colleges and universities. That is true on the right as well. Intellectual curiosity about worlds, and worldviews, other than our own is at a low ebb.
So seek out the bubble-breakers. Are you a President Trump supporter who wants to run into an argument you cannot dismiss or treat with reflexive contempt? Pick up Eddie Glaude Jr.’s new book, “Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own.”
My enthusiasm for Glaude’s book came through in my interview with him this week, and it is not because we agree about Trump — we don’t — but because his work obliged me to respond. It expanded my bubble. It helps, of course, that Glaude is an elegant writer and superb scholar, but the power of the book is in its ability to teach a willing reader about the experience of black America in the years since Baldwin began writing in the late 1940s. It’s stunning to anyone who has lived overwhelmingly in an Anglo world.
The left needs to make its journeys as well. I read a lot about my own religious faith, Christianity, and especially Roman Catholicism. One of Catholicism’s greatest explainers today is George Weigel. His new book, “The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission,” may have the same impact on a reader who knows nothing of Catholicism as Glaude’s book did on me.
Point being: This column on this page just pointed you to two very different, very deep wells from which a serious person should want to drink. If the online sources you are reading or the cable news channels you are watching don’t surprise or at least nudge you, they are failing you.
Bubbles are not bad. They often suggest deep learning and lifelong commitment. But not when the subject matter is politics. As Charles Krauthammer wrote, “Politics . . . is sovereign.” He was correct. And politics cannot be conducted with blinkers firmly affixed.
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