Falling Awake

Just Darts Since 2009

No wonder The New York Times is hurting

Take a look at the comments on this piece at The New York Times’ blog, and try to deduce the type of reader the newspaper appeals to.  Are they mainstream enough to support the massive newsgathering infrastructure of the Times?

The blog post was written about Reverend Rick Warren’s invocation at President Obama’s inauguration, and the reaction it drew around the blogosphere.  The comments quickly turn to critiques of Warren’s invocation versus Reverend Benjamin Lowery’s benediction.

For the record, here’s what Lowery said:

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around… when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen. Say Amen…

Forget the implication that white people, strictly because of their skin color, currently embrace evil.  I can’t get past the line: “When the red man can get ahead, man.”  Red man / ahead, man?  Is this a put-on?  And no, despite what you might assume, this prayer was not written by Nipsy Russell.

Warren, on the other hand, said the Lord’s Prayer.  (That’s the “Our Father” one.)  It was written by Jesus Christ.

Now, try to guess which comments refer to which prayer:

  • “I was glad that emotion of the moment did not catch people up into a loud round of clapping.”
  • “[It was an] exclusionary invocation. It was appalling and unnecessarily divisive, and I hope never to see him at another national event of this type. This country is full of [decent] religious leaders… One would hope Obama could find one.”
  • “Thank God President Obama had the decency to say something more inclusive.”
  • “On President Obama’s day celebrating new beginnings, [the reverend] chose to dwell upon past practices.”
  • “Not the place for it.”
  • “[President Obama should not] have chosen a…bigot to give the invocation.”
  • “[It] was a disgrace to an event that might have been an opportunity for Obama to begin his presidency on a tone of true inclusion and reason… One can only hope that Obama will atone for this appalling lack of sensitivity during his presidency not just in words but also in deeds.”
  • “[The reverend’s] presence cast a shadow over an overwhelmingly affirmative ceremony… Sorry, it was a sour note in my judgement.”


Yeah, you guessed it.  Those comments were all made about Reverend Warren.

Oh, and what did they think of Reverend Lowery’s divisive bit of venom?

  • “And I did enjoy Rev. Dr. Lowry schooling Mr. Warren…”
  • “On the other hand, I thought that the Rev. Benjamin Lowery…was amazing. Less than 10 seconds into his benediction I (and most the people I was watching with)  had tears streaming down their face.” [sic]
  • “Rev. Lowry should have done the invocation. His remarks were more appropriate.”
  • “Rev. Lowry on the other hand, totally rocked!”


Then, of course, there were those who were upset—no, appalled—that there was any prayer at the ceremony at all.  After all, ubelievers are Americans, too.

Bear in mind that all these comments appeared on the first page—they’re all among the first 25 comments on the article.  I didn’t have to cherry-pick from among the hundreds more that follow.  Thank goodness; I didn’t have the stomach for it.

The question is, can a major newspaper depend so heavily upon a lunatic base—and survive?

[UPDATE 1/22/09:  It has come to my attention that the text of  Reverend Lowery’s prayer I quoted above is incomplete.  The ellipsis in the quote elides the phrase “when yellow can be mellow.”  I regret the error.  I strive to be inclusive here, and of course believe that we should pray for all races, including the yellow ones.]


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