Talk To Me Like I Am Stupid: Things I don’t get about my side

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87 Responses

  1. zic says:

    Some people want to see their lives reflected instead of investigated. Both are worthwhile.Report

  2. Zac says:

    I think that that “chunk of the left” sees the upper-middle-class life as emblematic of exactly the sorts of excess they think leads to bad outcomes in society, and despises them on that basis.Report

    • Don Zeko in reply to Zac says:

      I suspect that most of the people Saul is talking about would strenuously object to the notion that the NYT Styles Section discusses the life of any reasonable definition of the upper middle class at all.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Don Zeko says:


        This is an interesting part of the problem. The United States has a very difficult time discussing socio-economic class. We have very nebulous definitions on what is working class, middle class, and upper class. The middle class is broad and possibly broader than it should be. The definition of where one falls in the middle class is very more problematic. What is the cut off from middle-class to upper middle-class? From upper middle-class to upper-class? etc.

        I grew up in an upper-middle class suburb of New York where people moved for the good school district and the close commute to Manhattan (half hour train rides with trains running at least twice an hour for most of the day.) The town was filled mainly with doctors, lawyers, consultants, engineers, some academics, etc. Were we an upper-middle class town or a upper-class town?

        Whenever I read articles about the declining middle-class, they rarely talk about people with college agrees but do focus on people who were formally able to graduate from high school and get a union card and a good paying job. I think in any other country, this group would be seen as working class and not middle class even if they did have a lifetime of steady employment at good wages.

        So what makes the middle-class or the upper-middle class? Where is the cut-off? Does being in certain professions move you into one and out of the other?Report

      • Don Zeko in reply to Don Zeko says:

        I’ve had arguments about this before, and I think they tend to be pretty unproductive. I think that many people are unwilling to attach the “upper class” label to anyone for whom money is still a meaningful constraint on that person’s lifestyle, which to my mind is far to high a bar. I don’t know where exactly I’d put the line myself, but certainly to me upper class would include a number of professionals and would absolutely include any person making more than $250,000 or so. Ultimately I don’t think the label is super important when we’re talking about the very upper middle class or lower upper class or whatever, and we only treat it as such because people are so inclined to stake moral opprobrium, their own self-concept, and such on the title.Report

      • Pinky in reply to Don Zeko says:

        @saul-degraw : “The United States has a very difficult time discussing socio-economic class.”

        If only!Report

      • Damon in reply to Don Zeko says:

        @saul-degraw @don-zeko

        I’d actually put upper class as the propertied folks who’s income is derived more from investments and cap gains than a salary from an employer. Some doctor making 250k doesn’t necessarily have that much discretionary income.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Don Zeko says:

        @saul-degraw, @don-zeko, I think @damon has it right. In European societies, an upper class person was somebody that usually did not have to work for a living. The same should be true in the United States. An upper class person is one that could live a luxurious life without much work.Report

      • Don Zeko in reply to Don Zeko says:

        @leeesq Isn’t this defining the term out of existence? CEO’s work. Lebron James works. Neurosurgeons work. How is calling them “upper middle class” not rendering the term meaningless?Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Don Zeko says:

        @don-zeko, I meant more in the ability not to work. CEOs and celebrities might work but are rich enough not to. If you can live a life with more than a little luxury and not work than you are upper class.Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to Don Zeko says:

        Saul – For convenience’s sake, and because I think of class primarily in economic terms, I tend to split things based roughly on income quintiles. Bottom 20% = lower class, second 20% = lower-middle class, middle 20% = middle-class, fourth 20% = upper-middle class, top 20% = upper-class. The New York Times itself uses the same definition.

        I would estimate that the real estate section of the NYT caters to the upper class (households with over $100,000/yr).Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Zac says:

      I am somewhat amused that the first two comments came from Zic and Zac.

      I suppose but to me internet snark and hate reads just sort of reveal a barely admitted to powerlessness. I don’t see how snarking against these things is going to get people to stop wanting them and people are complicated, so saying that wanting upper-middle class things makes you an enemy of the left is kind of counter-productive.

      A while ago there was a story about a young African-American man (probably under 20) who was accosted by Barney’s security when he purchased an expensive belt. The kid saved up to buy the item. He was racially profiled and this was immoral and wrong but that does not change the fact that the kid wanted the belt and perhaps saving up and being able to purchase the belt symbolized something very important to him. Or maybe he just thought it was aesthetically pleasing and would help make a killer outfit for going out. It doesn’t matter.

      Maybe this is what marks the difference between being liberal and being on the left? It seems to me that the rage against this kind of stuff is very prescriptive and going closer to the idea of THE GOOD LIFE instead of a good life.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Zac says:

      And going after the upper-middle class professional yuppie types seems odd because many are Democratic. So a trust-fund radicals who sprout the proper amount of Marx and live semi-Bohemian existences* are okay but someone who wants a decent upper-middle class life style and is willing to work for it is el diablo? That seems strange to me.

      *I’ve known plenty of unaware rich types who pat themselves on the back for not caring about yuppie item X but fully going into yuppie item Y like expensive foodie items and not realizing that they were being yuppie by doing so.Report

      • Don Zeko in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Why are we assuming that the people that sneer at the NYT styles section don’t also sneer at the trust fund bohemians of the world? In both cases, there’s a perfectly fair critique of people who, by virtue of their own limited experience, seem to have a hard time understanding the kinds of economic difficulty that the rest of the world has to live with.Report

  3. Michael Cain says:

    Do they also complain that Car and Driver reviews cars that the vast majority of their readership will never be able to afford? Cars which are, incidently, just as much art as the subjects in Real Estate and Style.Report

  4. LWA says:

    Back when I was a conservative I argued with, but respected my Marxist friends.

    I sneered at the college art school consumers of the alt-weeklies as yuppy liberals who wanted the moral veneer of solidarity with the working class while grasping at the lifestyle of the bourgeoisie.

    Now that I am older, mellower, and lefter-than-thou, I don’t despise them, so much as see them as unreliable fellow travelers who, come the revolution, will be sacrificed in the first wave.

    I kid, I kid!

    Sort of.

    Aspirational consumerism married to liberal piety only yields a horrific monster, a consumer item that announces class privilege and status, varnished with moral preening.

    If we embrace the aspiration of the consumer lifestyle that more is always better, then it doesn’t matter if the aspirational item we are being told to lust after is fair traded, locally sourced, or hand made by lesbian artisans in a sustainable co-op. At some this chain of consumerism will revolve on a gear of injustice.

    The aspirational items undercuts the very liberalism it announces. It instructs the working class that this item is to be desired for them too, triggering a demand which can only ever be satisfied by massive price and wage cutting, or automation and displacement.

    Because the aspiration was never about having a product that was useful; the item was merely a totem, a badge of membership in the elite class. Once the working classes are able to participate in ownership of the aspirational item, it (by definition) is no longer aspirational, and must be immediately replaced by another, triggering the cycle all over again.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to LWA says:


      I agree and disagree.

      Yes there is a lot about consumerism and aspirationalism which is about totems and class status but…

      To me the prime goal of liberalism is to make life less brutal, nasty, and short for as many people as possible. There are things that can do this universally and across the board like universal health care, good wages, laws that mandate employee protection including guaranteed minimum vacation and sick days (for oneself or to take care of loved ones if necessary), universal pre-K, good roads, good public education, good libraries, good parks, etc.

      But making life on earth more comfortable also involves consumer products. It does not involve producing happy communal workers for the Soviet commune. Now we should warn against overconsumption for environmental issues but at the same time I cannot ignore the fact that the world has become wealthier and people better off as luxury products have become available to the masses from indoor running water to chocolate to radio to TVs, etc.

      The problem with people who decry consumerism is that they (like all people) are very good at coming up with justifications about why their choices aren’t consumerist but the choices of others are consumerist (especially if it is a choice they would never make because it is a product that they are not interested in). It always struck me as odd to see someone rail against clothing or furniture beyond IKEA but also make a facebook post about eating out at a really expensive restaurant or purchasing an expensive bottle of alcohol. What is so hard about letting things be in this department or saying “I value X. You value Y and this is okay.”Report

      • Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        The problem with people who decry consumerism is that they (like all people) are very good at coming up with justifications about why their choices aren’t consumerist but the choices of others are consumerist (especially if it is a choice they would never make because it is a product that they are not interested in)

        Consumerism is to consumption as alcoholism is to alcohol.

        It is not defined by consuming consumer products. It is about finding identity through ones purchases, and defining one’s life around the acquisition of material goods.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to LWA says:

      This is a challenging comment for someone like me who consciously affirms consumerist liberalism. I thank @lwa for giving me something to think about (make that for reminding me of this argument, since I know he’s made before).Report

    • Damon in reply to LWA says:

      Of course they will. True believers will always turn on those deemed not fully in agreement. And then on the next group and so on.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to LWA says:

      @lwa and anyone else:

      Serious question, what do you want in place of a consumerist economy? Should we all be living on a commune?

      The reason I am suspicious of the status symbol argument is that can be very condescending and it is treating people without autonomy. Does marketing and advertising play a role in what people want? Surely but it I’ve always been rubbed the wrong way by arguments about how we all have the wool over our eyes and need to be lead out of the Cave. Another variant of this is the Bullshit jobs article which would seemingly declare people to be duped if they think that their jobs serves a valuable role instead of merely being the victim of social control by the elites.

      Maybe people just always liked things and comfort?Report

      • Damon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I don’t want to live in a commune. What’s mine is mine and I like it that way. I worked hard for what I have and I’ve sacrificed for it. You get yours.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Well obviously you don’t. I am interested in lwa’s alternative.Report

      • LWA in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Consumerism is part of the warp and woof of human nature, as is status consciousness and greed, and all the other deadly sins.
        But so also is the desire for community and brotherhood, righteousness and discipline.

        It is the conceit of political philosophies to imagine a world in which these aren’t constant struggles.

        Which is to say there there doesn’t exist any singular solution to consumerism. Which really should be called excess consumerism, creating an imaginary and impossible to clearly find line between reasonable consumption and excess.

        There is a logic connecting consumption, individual freedom, and its limits.

        But this deserves a bit more reflection than I can devote to it tonight, but I would like to flesh it out a bit more over the next day or so.Report

  5. greginak says:

    To many liberals still respect the NYT as an institution and treat it as a “paper of record.” It still that in many ways but is also very much Establishment. I think many liberals can’t seem to square their dissonance over their, correct, cynicism and criticisms of Big Business and markets with their real love of some big business and brands.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to greginak says:

      This could be part of it. I’ve noticed when I’ve said that the real estate and styles sections subsidizes the investigative reporting that the NY Times does, the responses are usually.

      1. Snarking at me for believing that the NY Times does good reporting because that just makes me a tool of the establishment man….

      2. Some grumblings of recognition but wishing this wasn’t so or claiming that the NY Styles section should be held to the same level of ethics as the front page.*

      *Example: There are a lot of people who work in the arts because they come from large-inherited fortunes. Sometimes or often these people have very nice pads like the theatre director Trip Cullman (heir to the Philips Morris tobacco empire). I’ve seen a lot of debate and very angry debate about whether the Times should reveal that these artists are trust funders when covering them in the Arts or Real Estate or Styles section. Now of course most people would refuse to give the Times access if these things were revealed. Maybe they are wrong for doing so but this puts the Times in a conundrum. Do you not cover or do you cover and follow the wishes of the subject?Report

    • greginak in reply to greginak says:

      People do forget that the NYT is a local paper besides being The Establishment. It still does some good reporting but people are misremembering a bit if they think the NYT was ever some completely anti-establishment institution. It was always Establishment although they have been better at times with not sucking up to power.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to greginak says:

        Every now and then you will see someone get angry on the Internet about how the New York times Arts section spends too much time reviewing stuff in the NYC-Metro area.Report

  6. Kazzy says:

    “Yet there is a large chunk of the left that is absolutely horrified by the existence of the New York Times real estate and Styles section.”

    Neither of those links suggests anyone is “absolutely horrified by the existence” of either section. The most fervent criticism I see of the sections in general is an aggressive eye roll. Individual articles may draw more derision… but what else is new?Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

      “Basically I think snarking about the real estate and styles section is a counterproductive strategy for the left and I frankly don’t see how it is going to lead to worthwhile and necessary progressive programs like true single-payer health insurance, more rights for labor and employees including better policies for sick leave and vacation, fighting climate change, etc.”

      Why do you assume that those who snark do so to further the liberal agenda? Maybe they’re just, ya know, snarking.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Kazzy says:

        I generally don’t see the point in snarking or trolling and this goes for the left and the right. I used to work for a left-wing radio station in NYC. They had a guy who used to call up pretty frequently and just say “Go Back to Cuba……” in an old-school NYC accent. From what I gathered he used to call up during the old days and say “Go back to the Soviet Union….Go back to Russia….”

        I felt a lot of pity for that guy and was also perplexed by him.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        That guy wasn’t snarking.Report

  7. Chris says:

    Oh, I remember this conversation.Report

    • Chris in reply to Chris says:

      What I like about this post is that we’re asked to perform armchair psychoanalysis on non-present, non-linked people who may exist partly or even primarily as an anxiety-induced figment of the author’s imagination. And it’s not the first time the author has raised this exact specter as a shoulder-shrugging-with-palms-raised question about the mysterious and confusing “left” that serves as both his main stalking horse and his biggest bully.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:


      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Hey, he’s gotten more than 70 comments on a post about cartoonish bogeymen he made up, so he must be doing something right.

        If one were to believe Saul, “the left,” in all its Saul-bullying glory, is filled with stupid, unreflective hate-balls who exist only to hurl insults at well-meaning liberals and the excesses of late capitalism. Which I find interesting, because it makes it seem as though, for all the reading he does, he has never read anything to the left of a George Lakoff book.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:

        @chris @stillwater

        A post that you didn’t like or agree with got 70 comments. So what?

        And congrats Chris, the last comment is the Internet equivalent of a drunk guy at bar telling us how he really feels.Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Link to one example of each. One.

        No Kim links like the last time I asked you to link to evidence that a non-existent “left” phenomenon you’d made up was real. This time, links in which someone does exactly what you accuse “the left” of doing here.

        You see, it’s not that I don’t like the post, it’s that it’s another example of your fearful fantasy of the “left,” perhaps the one group you can get away with making stuff up about on this blog.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

        A post that you didn’t like or agree with got 70 comments. So what?

        Depends on what you’re trying to accomplish, I guess. If the goal is to attribute a bunch of beliefs or sentiments to a putative enemy in order to circularly confirm your own views, then have at it. None of it touches reality as I conceive it tho. Or a worthwhile use of mental energy except to express disagreement with you.

        Alsotoo, what important issue hangs on topics like this other than your own sensitivities? I can’t see any. If you want people to talk to you like your stupid, lots of people have done so by accounting for your worry on purely practical, functional, economic grounds. Seems to me you’re seeing ghosts because it’s comforting to you.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

        Also, when Tod writes a post with the “talk to me like I’m stupid” title, he’s genuinely asking for people to explain to him why he doesn’t understand a prevailing thought process or a state of affairs or a judgment regarding X. Your use of it was to ask for an explanation of a question-begging strawman, one which you constructed. Which no one could possibly do (tho they could possibly explain why people invoke strawman arguments if you were interested in that topic).Report

  8. Burt Likko says:

    Perhaps your fellow travelers on the left would like to forget why the New York Times exists: to sell itself. While there are many readers who look to the Gray Lady for coverage about current events, politics, and finance, there is also surely a class of newspaper consumer who immediately passes the front page and goes directly to the real estate and style sections, and it turns out that those people tend to have significant disposable income, and are therefore attractive readers for advertisers.

    Being the sort of person myself who is interested in the paper of record covering government, the economy, and other kinds of hard news, I have no problem with this sort of thing subsidizing the activities of investigative journalists and beat reporters Who are still out there doing something resembling journalism, a prospect which, on its own, might not provide sufficient content to keep an enterprise of the New York Times’ scope afloat. That means I must tolerate its glossy Sunday supplement pretentiously referring to itself as “The Magazine” as though no other magazines existed to flatter its readers, so be it.Report

    • zic in reply to Burt Likko says:

      @burt-likko +1.

      And if I were to have a ‘Talk to me like I’m stupid’ moment about my tribe, it would be about the anti-business/anti-success venom flowing through the veins of the body liberal. The sea we swim in is capitalist; adds (and the eye-candy reporting that draw eyes to those adds) pay for the rest of the paper, subscriptions don’t, even with the subsidized mail-delivery costs newspapers receive.Report

      • Chris in reply to zic says:

        I’d hate to have a real discussion in the comments of a entirely imaginary OP, but I will say that perhaps at the source of some of what you mention is a disagreement over the nature of success and the relationship between over- or at least conspicuous consumption to some “liberal” preferred outcomes. Or perhaps it’s a matter of moral ideals: buying a fifth car as children within a couple miles suffer food insecurity can seem less like success and more like obliviousness or even callous indifference.

        And let’s not forget that even the left of this country and the rest of the west comes out of a Christian ethos within which, until about 3 centuries ago, our economic and social system was anathema, and which, in its more theological and philosophical strains today, still abhors our all-encompassing materialism.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to zic says:

        Even at the height of the so-called Age of Faith, success meant wealth. The only difference between now and then is that in those days wealth meant land, that it was acquired by arms and advantageous marriage, and that many fewer people were in a position to pursue it.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to zic says:

        @zic, many of the anti-business/anti-success “liberals” aren’t really liberals. They are further left folks that are forced to identify with liberals and progressives because of the compressed nature of American politics. Outside the United States, most would belong to the Far Left political parties and would be more explicitly anti-capitalist.Report

      • Chris in reply to zic says:

        Success within a class, or within two classes (aristocracy and merchant).Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to zic says:

        I was thinking of the aristocracy in particular. I don’t recall their pursuit of land and power being considered anathema, except where they came in direct conflict with the Church’s pursuits of the same.Report

      • Chris in reply to zic says:

        I should specify, then: within much of the non-aristocracy, which included much of the local clergy, and even much of the theological elite, capitalism or something like it was explicitly decried as usery or unbiblical in some other way.Report

      • Chris in reply to zic says:

        Also, “the theological elite” were mostly from the aristocracy and later the merchant class (you know, 4th sons of the propertied elite). My laziness in thumb-typing might have made my conjunction in the previous comment imply otherwise.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to zic says:

        The forms capitalism takes today didn’t exist in medieval times: the pursuit of wealth for its own sake and the sort of conspicuous consumption the post describes absolutely did.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to zic says:

        @zic @burt-likko

        It’s amazing how pro-capitalism American liberals can sound when they’re not being put on the defensive by semi-anarcho-capitalists about their belief in government augmenting market outcomes with a degree (greater than that which others embrace) of regulatory structure and softening of hard times for individuals, innit?Report

      • Chris in reply to zic says:

        No, it didn’t, and couldn’t. As it began to take shape in the last 5 centuries, many of its critics came from the clergy, Catholic and Protestant, and even into the late 18th century you’ll find usery as a common criticism of profit and its worship.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to zic says:

        Ever been to Versailles?Report

      • Chris in reply to zic says:

        I have. And I’ve stipulated your point about the aristocracy, and I will further stipulate that the Church engaged in rampant hypocrisy in its justification of and living next to the aristocracy. Hell, most of its leadership came from the aristocracy, and lived lavishly as clergy.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to zic says:

        Then I don’t know where you think we disagree.Report

      • Chris in reply to zic says:

        I doubt we do.Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to zic says:


        I don’t think American liberals were ever fully anti-Capitalist. Isn’t the old joke that the New Deal saved Capitalism from itself?

        American liberals (at least me) believe that capitalism should be well-regulated and there need to be laws to prevent frauds and reckless speculation or also make sure products are safe. I believe that capitalism is good for some things like a wide selection of craft beers, entertainment options, etc but not good for other things like providing healthcare and running prisons. Somethings are public goods and should be run for the benefit of everyone without concern for profit.

        But I think that trade and profit-seeking are innately part of the human experience and have been for a long, long time. We have always traded. We have always been into luxuries and aesthetics, etc.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to zic says:

        No, that’s the point. Liberals in this day are pretty much fully capitalists, and long have been. It shouldn’t be any kind of surprise, but when they get int o arguments with people who make questioning the outcomes of free markets tantamount to questioning capitalism itself, it can not seem that way, as people tend to rush to their corners, and liberals are forced to defend their belief in government actions that adjust market outcomes rather than talk about their belief in the power of markets.

        OTOH, certainly all of the Left has not always been fundamentally on board with capitalism, and parts are not now. (Go read Jacobin, etc.) So liberalism is largely of the Left, and liberals are generally (mixed-economy) capitalists, but liberals are still only part of the The Left, and there is a significant liberal-versus-socialist split on the Left, as you know.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to zic says:

        The New Deal was capitalism with a human face, and many people still regret that there was no equivalent of the Soviet Union to deal with it analogously.Report

      • zic in reply to zic says:


        If you’re starting place for holding a discussion is having to define a framework from which regulation works, you never get past that to discuss capitalism working. I feel like I’m constantly being put in that position; and I often ask what would you prefer for regulation? Tell me how it would work?

        Answers are typically similar to the Republican plan to replace Obamacare — people so consumed with undoing current regulation, but no thought to what regulation there should actually be. Sometimes, I’m surprised at the things people find aren’t regulated federally, too, most particularly from conservatives; there’s often this assumption that their state laws and standards are actually federal.

        If, and when, we get beyond all that, it’s frequently possible to hold a decent conversation. But the anti-business tribal signaling from the left can be every bit as annoying as the religious tribalism of the right.Report

      • Zac in reply to zic says:

        @mike-schilling “The New Deal was capitalism with a human face, and many people still regret that there was no equivalent of the Soviet Union to deal with it analogously.”

        Can you expand on this a little? I’m not sure I quite understand what you mean here, but it intrigues me, if only because I love few things more than a good historical counterfactual.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to zic says:

        Wikipedia explains Socialism with a Human Face better than I could, but basically, it was a set of reforms made to Communism by the Czechoslovakian government in 1968. The period during which they were in force was called the Prague Spring (whence the Arab Spring got its name). It was ended after a few months by a Soviet invasion that restored the status quo ante.Report

  9. LeeEsq says:

    A lot of the critics of the New York Times real estate and styles sections probably see themselves as further left rather than liberals. As further left types, they hate aspirational, consumerist bourgeoisie culture with a passion. They want media with New York Times level investigative reporting on important issues that caters to their cultural preferences. This doesn’t exist in the United States.

    During the golden age of the metropolitan dailies, roughly 1890 to 1950, newspapers made their money by advertisements and fun parts of the newspapers. That fueled all the investigative reporting. The real estate and styles section of the New York Times is what allows the NYT to continue the metropolitan daily level investigative journalism. People forget this.Report

  10. Morat20 says:

    Given I have no idea how widespread this is, the answer can range from “Dude, there’s always someone angry about ANYTHING. Cute puppies romping in a field? There’s someone screaming in spit-flecked rage about it” to “I dunno, maybe the Style section just sucks a lot?” to “Because of the fatal psychological flaws of liberalism, communism, Marxism, and America itself”.

    I’d imagine it can’t be TOO widespread, since I am clearly ‘of the left’ yet I have never actually heard of such rage. I’ve heard of…Ohio Truthers (Bush stole 2004!), anti-vax morons on the left, communists, socialists, LaRouchies….

    So it’s probably a smaller group than those. And if it’s less people and less impact than the LaRouchies, it’s probably not worth caring about.Report

  11. Tod Kelly says:

    Is this a thing? I confess I haven’t seen it. (I have hear the NYT get slapped up and down by people on the left for all kinds of reasons, but the style and real estate section is a new one for me.)

    If it is a thing, then I suppose it doesn’t seem that odd. The left tends to dislike conspicuous consumption, especially when it involves status symbols. Hard to see why they would like the NYT style and real estate sections.

    And fwiw, I confess I find the NYT style and real estate sections dopey. I’ve never really understood the difference between them and Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous. They don’t make me hate the whole paper, though.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      The extent to which the Styles section (in particular) is problematic beyond simply being out of touch is when they inspire pearl clutching about non-existent trends that they extrapolate from minor flavors of the week that may or may not actually be popular among the very small subsection of society they profile. “OH MY GOD! Yoga for cats?!?!?! Oh… wait… it was an NYT Styles article. Never mind.” Usually follow by an eye roll. Some folks don’t know enough to eye roll but that is about as ‘dangerous’ as these things are.

      Also, those sections are chalk full of advertising and other forms of revenue for the paper so they are as much about solvency and the economics of the newspaper industry as they are about news. I don’t know anyone who takes them seriously. Well, except Saul, apparently.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Well it is dopey and it is basically what it is. Does Portland’s newspaper have featured real estate on their website? Do these houses run to the ordinary or to the nicer end of things? The SF Chronicle’s website also features houses in SF and around the Bay Area and those houses tend towards the higher end.

      Google “hate read” and NY Times real estate and Styles section and you will see a lot. Of course what is hard to tell is how much hate reading is done in the “I want these things but can’t afford them vein so I will sneer and mock” vs. “I don’t think these things should exist kind of thing” veins.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        “Of course what is hard to tell is how much hate reading is done in the “I want these things but can’t afford them vein so I will sneer and mock” vs. “I don’t think these things should exist kind of thing” veins.”

        Your argument above is that “…a large chunk of the left that is absolutely horrified by the existence of the New York Times real estate and Styles section.” Yet you offer no evidence that this “large chunk” exists and here concede that it is hard to tell if those who are critical of it even fall into that category.

        Can you point to any evidence that any noteworthy people (either by individual or collective influence) want these sections not to exist?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Also… a third category (and probably more) exists for hate reading… The “Look how silly this is” which I think make up the majority of these sections ‘critics’.

        Compare it to Guy Fieri’s All American Grill or whatever his monstrosity of a restaurant was called. While I don’t think people “hate ate” there, criticizing it become the-thing-to-do for a brief while. But I bet if you asked those critical of it, none of them would have seriously said that they A) thought it was an affront to common decency that it even exists or B) they were secretly jealous that they couldn’t scarf down chili cheese fry cheese steak burgers. Rather, the restaurant was ridiculous — somewhat intentionally so — and people had fun making fun of it. That is the age we live in nowadays.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Portland newspapers have those kinds of features, though they tend to get folded into the life/arts section. And I’m sure that someone in PDX who hates status symbol consumption will hate it when the Oregonian does it as well.

        I do think the NYT is a little different, though, because they market themselves pretty aggressively as a national paper. So if you live in Portland and your newspaper says, “look what rich Portlanders are doing with their decorators!” it inspires a different level of eye rolling than your newspaper saying “look what rich New Yorkers are doing with their decorators!” For people who don’t live in Manhattan, the NYT probably adds an element of perceived snobbery that just grates that much more.Report

  12. Tod Kelly says:

    Also, this is a very little thing, but…

    I’m not sure that asking why other people are can be wrong or short-sighted really works with the intended spirit of TTMLIS.Report

  13. Michael Drew says:

    Perhaps common ground on the Broad Left wrt to the paper-of-record’s coverage of these issues can be re-established around an agreement that, however we might feel about its Style and NY/Region (real estate gossip) sections’ coverage of the triumphs and travails of the Lesser and Greater Wealthy of the region, the paper still does do actually valuable reporting on these issues, and that this kind of reporting is indeed of greater value than the other kind. Perhaps the issue of whether the lives of the wealthy are interesting enough to report on can just be set aside in view of that.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

      …Or maybe those who have such a problem with the “other kind” of real estate reporting wouldn’t even recognize this as being of a different kind. In which case, I would ask why to even bother entertaining their thoughts on the topic?Report

    • Saul DeGraw in reply to Michael Drew says:

      That is my view on it but it seems other people disagree. The arguments I get when pointing this out is that the good journalism that the NY Times does not justify the puff or there is not enough of it to justify for the puff.Report

  14. What purpose do they think the mockery and snark are going to produce? Which one of us is right about the nature of the American public? Why is it hard to just ignore the real estate and lifestyle sections if one doesn’t like them?

    I think we all engage in mockery and snark about things that we could just ignore and be happy. It’s hard to be an internet commenter without doing that. I do it about Jon Stewart. Other people do it about other people or other things. Sometimes, the object of mockery/snark is seen as something like a real threat to the mockers or snarkers. Sometimes the mockers or snarkers are at least partially right. Sometimes they’re more right than wrong and sometimes they’re more wrong than right.

    The fact–and it probably is close to being a “fact”–that most everybody does it doesn’t really answer your questions. But I think it’s relevant to the discussion.

    (As an aside, if we really are talking about “the nature of the American public” and who is right and who is wrong about what that “nature” is, we need to answer a pretty large number of questions that go to the very heart of what it means to be “the American public” (if there is indeed just one “public”) and how we can even being to determine what its nature is.)Report

  15. Gerald says:

    Real Estate and Style is still news. They are both interesting in their own way. They should be reported, because that is newspapers’ job. This reporting typically regards expensive items not because they are aspirational, but because they are newsworthy.Report

  16. Road Scholar says:

    Well, I’ve heard HGTV described as “house porn” so it seems to me the first thing to understand is that the Style, Auto, Real Estate, etc sections are really just a kind of aspirational pornography. It’s showing you a bunch of stuff most people can never have — the Gucci handbag, the top-of-the-line Lexus, the million-dollar condo — exactly the same way Playboy shows men nekkid women with big hoots that the average guy doesn’t have a chance in hell of bedding. It’s there for the same reason as the Page 3 girls in Britain’s Sun rag: to sell newspapers to people who otherwise wouldn’t bother.

    The thing about porn is that it feeds off covetousness. We all covet something and there’s always going to be someone out there willing to feed that impulse with the appropriate porn. The other thing is that while we all have our own porn, and we may or may not recognize it as such, we are generally pretty good at recognizing other’s porn and all too eager to condemn it.Report

  17. Mo says:

    Dunno about the Real Estate section, but the Styles section is so ridiculous that it borders on parody of upper middle class/upper class liberals. The wedding section is essentially a Mad Libs of “Person X from old money family A, met person Y from new money family B at top tier liberal arts college Z. They met while doing C (TFA/Peace Corps, etc)…” And many of the trends typically consist of something that 2 people that are friends with the columnist are doing and no one else, but extrapolate to the rest of the trendsetters. tl;dr, the Styles section is mocked because it is so worthy of mockery.

    * Disclaimer, not a liberal, but I hate the Styles sectionReport

  18. Jacob says:

    The Public Editor addressed this very issue back in November:

    TL;DR: It pays the bills, we can’t write about “the neediest” without selling furs and handbags to the 1%. Deal with it.Report

  19. NoPublic says:

    For me, speaking as an ex New Yawker, here’s my big beef with the thing. One part “Woe is me, it’s soooo hard to find a place to live with ridiculous requirements in trendy neighborhood of the week on 10-20x median salary, one part trendy neighborhood of the week is so over, it’s not “real New York” any more, and one part “some rando is doing some weird thing, let’s call it a trend and claim that it means something”. Meanwhile there are millions of people living in “real New York” on comparative pennies and living fulfilled lives doing it without whinging to the paper of record about how they just can’t find a good hot yoga place that’s pet armadillo friendly. And we wish that the two types of New Yorker everyone knows weren’t these jackholes and the drunk Yankees fan.Report

  20. Francis says:

    What purpose to snark? Mostly, it’s fun. Being jealous of, and therefore laughing at, the better-off probably dates back to the earliest days of sentience. Not everything in life is about deeply intellectual forms of persuasion, and those mostly don’t work anyway.

    And for those who aren’t snarking, the Style and Real Estate sections are a pretty fair demonstration of the way that allocations of wealth, income and power are becoming increasingly unequal in this country.Report

    • j r in reply to Francis says:

      And for those who aren’t snarking, the Style and Real Estate sections are a pretty fair demonstration of the way that allocations of wealth, income and power are becoming increasingly unequal in this country.

      This is a true statement, but I’m not sure that it means what you think it means. I could be wrong about what you think it means, though.

      Income and power have always been unequal in this country; they are just manifesting in different ways. Personally, I am not convinced that, on the whole, it is getting worse.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to j r says:

        You’re aware of the “hollowing out” of the middle class caused by the outsourcing/robotification of manufacturing?
        American CEOs make many times more than their workers, and that ratio has been increasing, not decreasing…

        What stats do you bring to counter these facts?Report