From Ruth

Boldly, the hyper-liberal New York Times takes on one of the most pressing instances of class conflict in America:

When there is a division between the old [money] and the new, it is apt to express itself on the most time-honored of battlefields: the putting green, the tennis court or the marine berth.

The existing clubs are still the preserves of the old wealth, but new clubs are springing up to welcome newcomers, as well as some longtime residents who grew impatient with waiting lists. For years the Sankaty Head Golf Club had a waiting list that seemed to extend for decades. So in 1995, Edmund A. Hajim, an investment banker in Manhattan, and others created the Nantucket Golf Club, assiduously designed to look as if it had been around forever. It became such a hit that its list is now full, too, even at a cost of $325,000 (80 percent reimbursable upon departure), as opposed to the $30,000 it costs to join Sankaty Head.

It sure takes cojones to write about issues this provocative and important. The whole series, of course, not being written from quite the critical, inquiring perspective one might hope for. As the Boston Phoenix accurately observes,

The New York Times is in no position to deliver. In contrast to, say, the paper’s conscientious reporting on the ’60s-era civil-rights movement in the South, its foray into class consciousness suffers from a fatal flaw. Social class is at the core of the Times’ institutional identity, which prevents the paper from offering the sort of dispassionate, critically searching discussion the subject demands…

So the many installments of “Class Matters” — a now nearly completed work in progress — come across less like an authoritative exercise in social criticism than like an oddly anxious series of Tourette’s-style asides, desperately sidestepping the core economic inequities that the Times can never quite afford to mention outright. Getting the New York Times to explain the real operation of social class in America is, at the end of the day, a lot like granting your parents exclusive license to explain sex to you: there are simply far too many conflicts that run far too deep to result in any reliable account of how the thing works.


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