Saturday, February 10, 2018

Sexing Up The New York Times

The New York Times announced this week that its paid subscription revenue had passed the record $1 billion mark, thanks in large part to its reinventing itself as the go-to source for #Resistance fighters of the liberal class, hungry to share their hatred of everything the Trump regime stands for.
During an earnings call on Thursday, Mark Thompson, the chief executive of The Times, said the company was pleased with the “continued strong retention” among the users who subscribed to The Times amid the 2016 presidential election.

“We’ve continued to make encouraging progress and are seeing far lower monthly churn than a few years ago,” he said.
Digital advertising revenue increased 14 percent last year, to $238 million. In the last three months of the year, digital advertising revenue rose 9 percent, to $84 million; it now represents 46 percent of the company’s total advertising revenue.
And to complement the never-ending appetite for Donald Trump, the newspaper has honed its own edginess to razor-sharp intensity by dishing ever more salacious dirt on the lives of Trump, his detestable inner circle of unworthies, and all manner of Trump-like predators and schmucks. Unfiltered quotes from the potty mouth of the Mooch, details of the crimes of Harvey Weinstein so graphic that it would have been unthinkable for the Times to print them even a year ago, lurid gossip from previously discredited opposition research dossiers - it's all fit to print now. 

And given its own long history of prudish standards and practices, the Times certainly has a lot of catching up to do. Just witness how many times its staid op-ed writers have been inserting "shithole" into as many columns as they can, just because they suddenly can. Trump, who rose to power in New York City through regular sleazy publicity in the tabloids, has succeeded in turning the Paper of Record into a tabloid practically all by himself.

Still, when the Times decided to publish its latest weekend book review section as a click-worthy treatise on sex lit, both ancient and modern, it just can't help displaying its historical squeamishness. Even when unabashedly selling sex, the editors find it necessary to paint their project with the gloss of virtue and clinical intellectualism.

It fell to a 20-something book review staffer named Lauren Christensen to write the Times Insider "explainer" piece about the project, because "everybody knows" that 20-somethings are shallow creatures who are mainly interested in reading about Kim Kardashian, cute pets, "The Bachelor," teen pregnancies, and sex.

In the interests of her target audience, Christensen had already recently reviewed a book about the history of sex toys. Then she claims to have been surprised when a male colleague dropped by her desk to recommend other books in the genre, such as "Buzz" and "Vibrator Nation."

Since these books were written from a feminist point of view, the referrals were construed by Christensen to be a matter of professional collegiality and not an instance of sexual harassment in the workplace. Thus, like any minion at the bottom of the heap, she "dutifully" posted some blurbs to Instagram, to many ensuing clicks and eyeballs.

"Thus the seeds of what has now resulted in the Sex Issue — brilliantly christened 'Pleasure Reading' by our editor, Pamela Paul — were sown," enthuses Christensen, in a cute and suck-uppy attempt at double entendre humor.

And now we get the birth product resulting from the great unsheathing.

First the disclaimer: For all her heavy reading, Christensen for some reason finds it necessary to defend her own virtue, skating right on the regressive edge of learned female helplessless. She can't seem to stop insisting in her "explainer" piece how truly naive she is at heart, and how embarrassed she initially felt about doing the project. I guess she hasn't been reading her own newspaper's articles on Trump and Weinstein and their ilk. And she really should start, because whenever women feel forced into doing uncomfortable things at work, the psychological damage can last a lifetime. Then again, maybe she's just acting the part of the arch Times critic:
Inevitably, oversight of the issue fell by consensus to me, the lone 20-something. I have ever since been trying to pretend that, when it comes to sex, I have the slightest clue what I’m talking about. I started by pooling my resources, aggregating 50 covers of the most erotic books throughout literary history for the week’s visual back page, “Under the Covers.” (Please appreciate the word “seminal” on that page; it is one of my proudest career achievements to date.) The day that email went out revealed my impossibly erudite colleagues in a new light, instantly transformed as they were into giddy schoolchildren trading naughty jokes behind the teacher’s back. One by one the previewers revealed the steamy, guilty pleasures of their literary pasts. We’ve collectively done some pretty dirty reading.
As edgy as it pretends to be, the Times still very much dwells in the Victorian Age, when people also merely pretended to be squeamish about sex as they lustfully went about reading about it, writing about it, and doing it.  How does one even censor a Sex Issue, anyway? Christensen daintily explains:
The real fun began once these pieces started rolling in — turns out it’s not so easy to compile a Sex Issue while maintaining The Times’s elevated house style. Some edits were obvious: As much as I admired Ms. Marnell’s rough-around-the-edges, colloquial and honest writing style, I simply couldn’t run either of the two “b” verbs she used as synonyms for intercourse. Less obvious was that I’d need to remove a detailed, explicit quote from the memoir she reviewed, “Getting Off: One Woman’s Journey Through Sex and Porn Addiction.” I had to paraphrase it at the expense, I felt, of the full force of both the book’s and Ms. Marnell’s prose. Mercifully, Philip B. Corbett, the paper’s standards and ethics arbiter, did allow me to keep the quote, “I came so hard I thought my heart would explode.”
The Times recently got rid of its copy-editing desk, but thankfully, Corbett's job is still apparently safe.  He's the guy who pretends to carefully weigh what is and what is not acceptable to print, so as to give the repressed writers the pleasure of exploding with joy whenever they're allowed to keep in the naughty bits, like "seminal." After all, seduction wouldn't be sexy if it didn't maintain the aphrodisiac of coquettish modesty.

But back to how good Trump has been for the Times Narrative brand. The president being a self-described non-reader, I wonder if the "Sex Issue" might even inspire him to add some of its titillating recommendations to his lonely bedside table copy of Mein Kampf. The volumes would certainly enhance the pleasure of eating cheeseburgers in bed, and might even inspire him to turn off Fox News for a few minutes every day as he laboriously mouths all the words between bites. Perhaps he can start with the YA (youthful audience) section before finally working himself up to Ovid (for poetry in Tweets) and Joyce (for improving his stream-of-consciousness skills.)

I think I'm being arch.

1 comment:

Erik Roth said...

All that comes to mind:

"... Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
And you think you're so clever and classless and free
But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see
A working class hero is something to be ..."

~ John Lennon