The advantages of not being a NYT subscriber

It’s a matter of perspective. Nowadays, when the internet lights up with the latest idiocy from their opinion pages, such as the newest mad screed from David Brooks and I wonder what orifice he’s stuffed his foot in now, I can succumb to temptation and click on the link, and the New York Times immediately comes roaring back, “YOU MUST PAY ME MONEY TO SEE THAT!” and I think, “Hmm. How much money would I pay to read Brooks’ column?” and my answer is always “None. They should pay me to read it”, and I wisely just close the window and move on.

Ditto for anything by Bret Stephens or Thomas Friedman or any of the other sinecured bozos they’ve got over there. Sure, they reasonably want to recoup some of their investment in that freak show, and I can understand that, but still, it’s a freak show. Set them free, let them find some dignity in honest work and a decent way of living, instead of being propped up as a spectacle for the mob to jeer at.


  1. Allison says

    My commute to the office takes me through NYC, so I see plenty of NYT (or sections thereof) free for the taking.

    I used to pick some up and read them, but I eventually decided it wasn’t worth the effort. I long ago realized that the NYT is in the same business as the National Enquirer, the only difference is in the target demographic. In the NYT’s case, it’s Upper East Side snob wannabees. It’s great, I suppose, if you want to know what to parrot to impress other rich (or would-be rich) idiots at pretentious cocktail parties, but my forehead ends up hurting too much (from head-desking) to read it on anything like a regular basis. That it chooses what to print and how to slant it so as to always support the current power structure is an additional disincentive — I keep asking myself, what aren’t they telling us?

  2. robro says

    I don’t want to encourage your criminal enterprises, PZ, by suggesting that you steal from the NYT, but there are ways to avoid these paywalls…almost any paywall such as the Washington Post. I’m sure the info on how to do that for your system and web browser is readily available on the Internet. I read as much as I want of both, which isn’t much…about the same as their monthly free allotment…though I do go over sometimes.

    I occasionally contribute to the Guardian.

    My wife recently discovered that the Marin county library system provides online access to the NYT, which she’s been using. Perhaps your university has a similar service.

  3. hemidactylus says

    I trudged through Road to Character. It wasn’t a great book. It was a milquetoast virtue ethics and benefited from its dilettantism and didn’t get bogged down in deep history and theory of moral philosophy. Better than Sam Harris though! Got me to skim Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy. Biographic treatments were cool just to learn about people whom I knew little about. But I had difficulty finding a larger point except that people, as influenced by culture, have become more egoistic and less other oriented. Romanticism sensu Rousseau ate away at our social fabric and made us self-centred because authenticity. He did flub a reference to some social science research hinging on a question “Are you a very important person?” which may have had a semantic shift over the decades, undercutting Brooks’ thesis a bit:

    No real engagement with existentialism in Road to Character. Take home may have been to find your calling and you will struggle and find character. He has made a metaphoric transition from exegesis of the contrasting Adams in Genesis (Rav Soloveitchik) to two mountains and he has recently stumbled or tripped into Christianity.

    This column in the OP is some sort of both-sides centrist critique written in a confusing mode of sarcastic irony. I can’t quite tell when he’s being serious or facetious. I think the coffee and yoga pants thing was facetious but I wonder if he was channeling the incels or MGTOWs there. He decries a lack of moral frameworks and seems to be subliminally pitching his recent books. There is some vague allusion to Peterson’s 12 Rules and Lukianoff and Haidt Coddling.

    This part in Brooks’ column speaks to angst (???):
    ““I am indignant. I am superior. I read Dostoyevsky’s “Notes From the Underground.” I am alone.”

  4. hemidactylus says

    Aha, I caught another veiled reference to pop psych:

    “I have helped create a harsh world in which vulnerability is impossible and without vulnerability there can be no relationship.”

    Which seems to be hinting toward the work of Brene Brown (???): [trigger warning- TED talk]

    So Peterson, Haidt/Lukianoff, Brene Brown…I call pop-psych BINGO!

  5. Sili says

    Dear robro,

    I understand your desire to contribute to the Grauniad, but please consider their horribly transphobic coverage.

  6. robro says

    Thanks for the tip, Sili. I’ll keep an eye on that. Not that it’s a valid excuse, but I haven’t contributed very much.

  7. says

    Just a quick note to say this is one of the five best blog posts over. Anyone who can make me laugh out loud about (not at) David Brooks has done something good.

  8. PaulBC says

    Brooks provides some comedy, just seeing how lost he is in the new conservative world that doesn’t look anything like a congenial marketplace of ideas or his ludicrous “Bobos” thesis that may have described his social circle at the time, but little else. I don’t hate him anymore. Sometimes I feel a little sad, but mostly I laugh.

    I miss Krugman’s regular blog that was not behind a paywall. NYT also has fairly solid news reporting with occasional lapses. (I won’t forgive them for their Iraq War coverage, but I’ll read them anyway.)

    I still cheat on the paywall, though it is increasingly difficult. Occasionally I think about paying, mostly for reporting, not columnists.

  9. PaulBC says

    When I was younger my eyes pleaded: Tell me what adulthood and manhood are supposed to look like! All you said was, “You can be anything you want to be!” How does that help? You told me I was special, but the world goes on as if I don’t exist.

    Brooks’s shorter thesis is “Hippies ruined everything.” What upsets him most is that dangerous ideas once confined to academia (including the moral exploration of Dostoyevsky) have spread to the masses, who are not only mentally unequipped for this level of intellectual freedom, but ultimately unsatisfied by a world in which they’re unmoored from ritual.

    In short, nearly anything David Brooks has written in decades can be summarized as “In my grandpa’s day a man knew what it was to be a man. But after those hippies came with their crazy ideas and their devil’s music, it’s been nothing but tomfoolery ever since.” He can’t phrase it like this, because of his affinities, but I don’t see how to read it any other way.

  10. bcwebb says

    I had home delivery for years to support journalism, and stuck on through Judy Miller and the Hillary emails but finally under Bennet it was just too much. I still have a delivery subscription but it will remain on an endlessly-renewed 6 month vacation delivery holds for as long as necessary. I get online access but send them no more money.

  11. Ridana says

    I used to encounter paywalls at the NYT, but for some reason I don’t anymore. I used to have to go through other sites’ links to articles to avoid it, but I don’t even have to do that anymore. I don’t even accept their cookies. As for WaPo, I have to disable the adblocker to load the page, but I immediately enable it to stop the deluge, and when I get the “You’re almost out of freebies” notice, I just clear the cookies (enabled for the crosswords) if there’s anything else I want to read and we’re good to go.

  12. hemidactylus says

    @10- PaulBC
    He does make a critical contrast between Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath along those lines. I don’t think he is 100% against the alleged social shift given: “But where many of us would see this as a contest between the square gray ’50s and the Summer of Love, Brooks ­traces Namath’s swagger back to the relieved exhilaration of the years immediately after World War II. Besides, he notes, the cult of self-esteem did have the happy effect of encouraging women, minorities and the impoverished to see themselves in the context of possibility.”

    It was more perhaps in his estimation taking a good thing, self-esteem, too far. One can’t reflect on say former Rand acolyte Nathaniel Branden (or Yuppies) and not wonder if there is a kernel of truth there.

    My issue with authenticity wouldn’t be with the alleged over-correction where we go from humility after the sufferings of WWII to athletes celebrating the most trivial things (another recurrent Brooks trope), but the problem cognitive philosophy presents for a sense of self-hood.

    Brooks did get into a weird place when contrasting Ike’s dimbulb aw-shucks facade with Ike’s true Machiavellian cunning self that bothered me and made me prefer authenticity of some sort. Given CIA shenanigans under Ike’s watch that mask wearing ain’t a virtue.

  13. PaulBC says


    Maybe it’s more accurate to say that David Brooks has a love/hate relationship with countercultural changes. “Bobos” reads like a work of escapist fantasy. He thinks there’s a world in which you can be “bourgeois” and “bohemian” at the same time and would like to tell you how much fun it is to live there (and there was already a word for it: “middlebrow”). Unfortunately, Brooks’s black sharpie is no more powerful than Trump’s is in changing reality. The actual people around him have very different priorities. He is increasingly conscious of the fact that some possess violent intent.

    His most recent editorials amount to non-sectarian preaching, and there is nothing horribly offensive about them to me, but it is just strange that the NYT still prints it. It is partly about having a “tame conservative” on staff, but I’m not sure Brooks even counts as a conservative now.

  14. anbheal says

    Oh Brother! One of the sweetest of my 18 or two dozen sisters gave me a year-long subscription (online, can’t get it delivered to your door in central Mexico) for Christmas a few years back. And it was more expensive then, so it was probably a generous $100 gift. I told her to see if she could cancel it and get reimbursed, because I can’t tolerate their neo-liberal libertarian corporate-farthole-tonguing columnists and op-eds. Ever since GE (or whoever) bought them, they have been toadies for multinational rapaciousness, and madly hawkish. She seemed a bit irked, as if I’d gone off the deep end with Mexican revolutionary fervor.

    “They are NOT conservative, Ace!”

    “Emmm, yeah. they are, and it’s the worst sort of insidious Trojan Horse conservatism, evident in even the choice and placement of stories.” You may recall a 70s comedy, Kentucky Fried Movie, which was interlaced with little promos for the nightly news. One of the little 5 second ads said “Moscow drops the big one on Washington, film at 11.” And so it is with the Grey Lady, page 11, little eighth of a page blurb, “Congress moves to ban blacks from voting”.

    So I was taking a new sweetheart to Italy, and the sister gave us cocktails and appetizers at Harry’s American on the Grand Canal. Oh man, soooo much better than a subscription to All The Crap That’s Fit To Print!

  15. drew says

    Every time I see his name I get excited and think it’s Albert Brooks.Then I realize he’s no Einstein.sigh

  16. unclefrogy says

    the only times I hear Brooks are on the radio or the News Hour.
    He seems to be increasingly at sea kind of lost reaching for straws that he can bind together to save himself from the fact the the conservative ideals he thinks he believes lead to the crap that is the republican politics we sees today. It conflicts with his basic christian beliefs and he dos not seem to know what to do about it, so he makes up rationalizations that almost make sense.
    really kind of pathetic in the face of reality grinding away regardless of belief.
    uncle frogy

  17. DLC says

    Kinda weird, throwing the whole paper out because you don’t like a guy in the Op-Ed section ? I just cringed as the NY Times hit my bank account for $4.00 for my online only subscription. Yes, money is that tight that $4.00 is an extra hardship. I’ll be selling blood Monday if this keeps up. But hey, let’s not talk about me when we can talk about what a Doody-Head PZ is. Or not. I pay the $4.00 to have access to the main page news articles, not the Op-Eds, although I sometimes read Krugman, Blow and the odd guest piece by Robert Reich.

  18. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Oh, but wait. Don’t answer yet! It’s not just the Op Eds. You also get features profiling ignorant Trump voters in Bumfuck Ohio who are donning white hoods only because of their economic insecurity and not at all because they’re racist and have small penises. Aside from the occasional piece by Robert Reich or Paul Krugman, I can’t even remember the last time I read anything illuminating in the Old Grey Lady–and finding David Brooks or Ross Doutthat on the Op Ed page is just the shit-flavored icing on the dung cake.

    The Times used to print “All the news that’s fit to print.” That in itself was pretentious and presumptuous enough. Now they just print “All the news that won’t disturb a robber-baron hedge fund manager in his Manhattan penthouse. “

  19. PaulBC says

    Usually I read as many news sources as I can online, though I admit I avoid Fox News. NYT is as good a source of facts as anywhere else. I just don’t accept their reporting uncritically. I don’t have to. I will see what comes up in a search of the latest news and accept the facts that different outlets agree on.

    Another rule is not to trust investigative reporting that relies on exclusive sources. Anyone who did that would have had a much better understanding of the Iraq war. NYT (especially Judith Miller) had lots of sources in the White House feeding them bullshit. Knight Ridder (now defunct) was a second-tier source that couldn’t get the exclusives so they had to report the facts and did a much better job reporting that the Bush admin was lying about WMDs.

  20. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    There are many reliable sources of facts. WaPo has better coverage in general and more investigative and thorough reporting. NPR is still good, and for a center right perspective I can disagree with, there’s The Economist.
    My dog won’t even shit on the Times anymore.