When Forbes published that op-ed a few weeks ago suggesting that Amazon replace local libraries, the condemnation was swift and fast. It was too late, of course- as soon as any hare-brained idea is placed into the public, it’s only a matter of time before it begins its slide towards the mainstream of social, cultural and political thought. Soon, what seemed like an unthinkable suggestion in that op-ed will start showing up in more conservative writing and media, and then finally “nonpartisan” (and I use that term VERY loosely) and leftist publications. Even simply taking the time to refute an idea gives it power. That’s the perniciousness of ideas. They can’t actually be defeated through reasoned argument or intelligent discourse or even force of arms- the was an entire world war about Nazis being bad, and we still have them rallying. Ideas can only be marginalized and suppressed, never destroyed.
As bad of an idea as privatizing libraries is, it at least has a coherent ideological framework behind it: the worship of money above all things. The article framed privatization as a cost-saving move for taxpayers of course, and even if we take that as the genuine impetus for the idea (as opposed to being a bonanza for Amazon), both the goal itself and the motivation to pursue the goal is money. Forbes is a magazine about making money. It doesn’t make it right, but it at least makes sense that Forbes would be the place to publish such a piece.
The true danger comes from the wolves in sheep’s clothing, the people who claim to be above it all and presenting discourse and ideas for its own sake. No one does anything for its own sake, but people and organizations like to act as if they are, that their motivations rise above the baseness of pursuing profit. The decision by David Remnick and the New Yorker to invite Steve Bannon to their festival, is the perfect example of this behavior. Hiding behind the fig leaf of putting Bannon and his ideology in front of a hostile crowd (which Bannon loves anyway), the organization made a purely money-based decision. Trump’s election has been a windfall for news organizations, both due to the coverage of his racist, sexist campaign and the collective pearl-clutching which resulted after he won. Liberals had no idea what to do besides write “This is not the America I know” on every form of social media they use and suddenly start buying newspapers again.
The New Yorker is no exception- they had their highest month of subscriptions EVER the month that Trump was inaugurated. This isn’t about ideas or hostility to Bannon. This is all about money, from Sean Spicer being invited to the Emmys to Anthony Scaramucci being a featured speaker at a Forbes event. Left or right, up or down, like they said on The Wire over and over again: follow the money.
And the money is the grease which lets ideas slide into the mainstream. You don’t have to go to Breitbart to get your racist white supremacist fix anymore, the New Yorker will bring it to you! Or MSNBC, or CNN, or the New York Times or any other news organization because you’re going to tune in and watch it. They’ll poo-poo it, but they’ll also give it a stage and eat up the advertising and subscription revenue from disgusted and scared people hate-watching as immigrants are targeted, people of color are terrorized and refugees are turned back to the various human meat grinders around the world. But hey, it makes a buck, so the psychopaths who run our media will give a minute of their time to the psychopaths who run our government. Unlike Forbes, the New Yorker will just make us feel morally superior about it while they play us.