Saturday, September 17, 2005

From Me to the New York Times: Kiss My Ass.

Starting in two days, on September 19, access to "influential columnists" at the New York Times online edition will be limited to people dumb enough to pay $50 a year for a "Times Select" subscription. Oh, yes, there's a $10/year discount for early subscribers. Big deal. Whoop dee doo.

People can argue that the New York Times is a for-profit endeavor and that they therefore have every right to charge money for their content.

But that is not the point. The point is that they are now charging money for something that, up until now, has been free, even though they have no financial need to do so. This is known as "greed." I quote the definition of greed:
"An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth."
An alternate definition is,
"excessive desire to acquire or possess more (especially more material wealth) than one needs or deserves 2: reprehensible acquisitiveness; insatiable desire for wealth (personified as one of the deadly sins)."
This makes it pretty clear, doesn't it? Greed has long been recognized as a social ill. Yet, in modern American society, this fundamental moral fact has been deliberately pushed under the rug, in the name of "growth" and the free market--indeed, even in the name of "freedom" itself, as if having a small number of people hoarding ridiculous amounts of wealth for their own personal use somehow miraculously enhances "freedom" for everyone. Charging every penny the market will bear is not just perfectly acceptable behavior in modern capitalist America--it's the basis for our entire corporate economic system.

It's no wonder this world is so completely fucked up.

In any case, getting back to the "Times Select"--their primary selling point, apparently, is the access subscribers will have to "influential columnists". I wonder if anyone at the Times stopped to consider precisely why these columnists are influential in the first place. Influence occurs when one person's opinion carries weight with a large number of people. Cut off access to those people, and the person's influence is reduced or eliminated. Their "influential columnists" will no longer be influential. How many people will be able to read Paul Krugman's column now, for example? And what effect will this have on his influence? At worst, we will no longer hear what he has to say at all. At best, we can expect to only hear him quoted by other people who do have access to his column. How am I to know that these quotes are being presented in good faith? I will no longer be able to read the entire column for myself. I will just have to trust the quoter that the essence of Krugman's words are being represented faithfully. And that is ridiculous. In neither case will Krugman be in a position to directly influence me anymore, nor anyone else who doesn't subscribe to this stupid pay service. Krugman's opinion, as well as that of all their other "influential columnists," will now be under the control of others. Perhaps that, and not greed, is the ultimate point? I doubt it--I honestly believe the primary motivation is pure greed. But I also doubt the people who made the decision are unaware of the chilling effect their decision will have in the competitive realm of ideas. I imagine they're a-okay with it, because, by taking control of the columnists' ideas, they are in turn increasing the influence of their own ideas.


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