Here’s the New York Times headline for the sentencing of Pussy Riot: “Anti-Putin Stunt Earns Punk Band Two Years In Jail.”
There’s a point at which a “stunt” earns its way into a protest, and I’d say it’s when three women are sentenced to two years in jail for the exercise of speech. I know the Times staff is busy not editing Tom Friedman columns, but I’m sure they could find a moment to consider the coding of their language when writing a headline about people whose very ability to use language is being criminalized to protect a regime.
In an unrelated but simultaneous article, the Times also managed to describe Seattle’s the Stranger as “an alternative newspaper,” as if a) no one had ever heard of it, and b) the writer was taking a used tissue to the trash can. Imagine if I were to go through this post and preface every mention of the Grey Lady with “Jayson Blair’s former rag,”* or “the paper that employed Judith Miller.” When put like that, don’t you kinda want your digital subscription money back?
Both of these instances strike me as examples of the Times either not noticing or not bothering to restrain its viewing of world events through the lens of its own assumptions of preeminence. But given that neither Pussy Riot nor the Stranger has accidentally enabled any Iraq wars that we know of, perhaps they deserve to be taken a little more seriously, and the Times a little less.
* Interesting factoid I discovered while looking up links for this article: Jayson Blair’s Wikipedia page describes him as “an American life coach and journalist formerly with The New York Times.” Wonder who wrote that headline.