Chris Lehmann deconstructs “Class Matters,” the New York Times‘ “epic inquiry into the widening economic divisions of the new millennium,” and argues that the paper’s “supremely undeviating affinity for the cultural habits of the rich and celebrated” precludes any thoroughgoing engagement with poverty. Here’s an excerpt:
Scott joins the hapless maid on a grocery-shopping junket and loses all patience: “Cruising the 99 Cent Wonder store in [Brooklyn’s] Williamsburg, where the freezers were filled with products like Budget Gourmet Rigatoni with Cream Sauce, [the maid, Ms. Gora] pulled down a small package of pistachios: two and a half servings, 13 grams of fat per serving. ‘I can eat five of these,’ she confessed, ignoring the nutrition label. Not servings. Bags.”
Not servings, people! Bags! When Times scribes are reduced to sentence fragments, you know their patrician forbearance is running dangerously low. And how can you blame them, considering that the pistachio episode follows a sobering litany of other trespasses? When first stricken with her heart attack, Gora dismissed her husband’s suggestion that she was seriously ill and needed an ambulance, and instead tried to collect herself with a glass of vodka; against explicit doctors’ advice, she sneaks cigarettes and doughnuts, and even clips a cockamamie diet from a Polish magazine that permits her to eat generous portions of fried food and steak. And so Scott’s telltale moment of exasperation carries an unmistakable subtext: There’s just nothing to be done with these people.