Why I will no longer subscribe to the Wall Street Journal

I have been a subscriber to the Wall Street Journal for some time now. Since I live in the New York area it IS in fact a sort of local paper for people who don’t really care about day-to-day local issues — I get plenty of those by switching on the telly — and it does occasionally feature op-ed pieces written by current and former heads of states, something which, if nothing else, tends to appeal to my personal vanity. Besides, as crowded as the field of New York journalism is, the WSJ was pretty much the only thing I wished to carry to work daily; the Times is too liberal for me (perhaps I’ll write another article on this one day, the Observer is hard to get outside the City while I live and work in New Jersey, the Daily News is too content-light (although it does have two crossword puzzles, which is a plus), Newsday is more of a Long Island paper and the Post… well, let’s forget about the Post, and concentrate on genuine journalism instead.

That being said, something I read in the op-ed page on the edition for Friday April 25th has convinced me that I no longer wanted to spend my money on the Journal. Now I’m not usually one to dwell on specifics, and I’ve even let a few such pieces breeze by unobserved when they were obviously incorrect, but this op-ed piece was so brazenly insulting of its audience’s intelligence that the decision to let my soon-due subscription lapse was made in a heartbeat.

The article is entitled “Santorum and Tolerance”. It is a piece lionizing a candidate for the Senate who goes by the name of Rick Santorum. Since this is the WSJ putting someone up on a pedestal one may safely assume (and correctly too) that the man is a Republican candidate. Be that as it may, Mr. Santorum recently held an interview with an AP reporter during which he said (and this is not disputed): If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to anything.

Yes, go ahead and re-read that. Then again. These are not the words which have been reprinted from some obscure speech made decades ago, nor are they privately held views coaxed by a cunning fedora-hatted “scoop”. This is something Rick wanted to say and be associated with. Not in the 19th century either. In the twenty-first century.

Mr. Santorum, in his political wisdom, made these statements regarding the Supreme Court’s decision to reexamine the anti-sodomy laws of Texas, so of course the Journal has decided to defend Mr. Santorum’s indefensible position — namely that there ought to be no right of privacy anywhere or at any time — by invoking (get this) Mr. Santorum’s right to privacy, which he himself waived by exposing his views to reporters, and then (no doubt realizing how pathetically stupid that appeared) by hiding behind the Bible, of all things. Mr. Santorum, in his open opposition to “homosexual conduct” but not to homosexuals themselves, is being no less than a hero to the piece’s unnamed author (there’s journalistic courage for ya). Apparently Mr. Santorum loves the sinner but hates the sin; he should then surely be the idol of the closeted and self-hating gay set!

I am not gay myself, and frankly sexual orientation is in fact very germane to the reason why all right-thinking people should be casting rotten eggs — and not their votes — at Mr. Santorum, although the Journal is working very hard at cubbyholing all the opposition as coming from the “gay fringe”. Why? Because what Mr. Santorum is saying is that no matter who we are, we are criminals in waiting. And a man willing to say that he holds these opinions has no place whatsoever in government at any level whatsoever. He explicitly says that without Big Brother being omnipresent in our lives we’ll all turn into vicious criminals overnight. And make no mistake, he means that.

Clearly to Mr. Santorum there is no such thing as being innocent until proven guilty; if it weren’t for the constant level of surveillance, in Mr. Santorum’s mind, people would be having sex with their entire families! Sometimes more than one family even! What nonsense. Do we want to have people with that sort of fascistic extreme view (that all of us are just criminals waiting to strike) to the Congress? I don’t think so. I certainly hope that the rest of America doesn’t think so. Such an avowed authoritarian in Congress, combined with John Ashcroft as Attorney General, makes me greatly fear for the future of the US Constitution, which is already under great sustained attacks by Mr. Ashcroft alone. Not that you’ll hear much about it in the Wall Street Journal — Mr. Ashcroft is a Republican, after all.

So much for Mr. Santorum. The Journal, in the article, goes to mention that “Our own view is that state anti-sodomy laws are almost never enforced…”. Is that really the Journal’s justification for that garbage? The Journal’s staff is made up of business types, who are increasingly lawyer types. Are they seriously saying that it simply doesn’t matter that certain laws are on the books? Does it then make it permissible to break those laws? Surely from a legal standpoint it does matter that those laws are still in effect! By denying the fact, however, the Journal seems to be encouraging Americans to break whatever laws they don’t like, simply on the basis that those laws are “almost never enforced”. You’ve got to be kidding!

However the Journal’s biggest sin in this piece was to step away from the matter at hand and attempting a ‘red herring’ manoeuver by taking ill-aimed potshots at the opposition to Mr. Santorum and essentially calling them hypocrites, when there is clearly no argument there. We’re back in the cold war with the Journal it seems, except that the “commies” are now referred more subtly as “the opposition”. Pathetic.

Clearly this effort was half-hearted, however, and one is left to ask “why”. The smart money says that if elected Mr. Santorum would be a soon-forgotten mediocrity. So why on earth is the WSJ casting its lot with such vehemence and lack of restraint? Well, the 2004 elections are on the horizon, and clearly the Journal has a lot riding on a Republican victory, so much so that they are evidently willing to run on their journalistic sword in order to influence public opinion in favor of the GOP. Which, given the notorious level of “competence” at the Administration as regards domestic matters, seems like quite a task indeed. The President wouldn’t the first one to try and coast to electoral victory on the basis of foreign policy only to stumble badly on domestic issues. Heck, he would not even the first Republican president named George Bush to do so! Exactly what the Journal’s stake is in a Republican victory in 2004 is, franly, unclear, but there is no mistaking where its political tendencies come from.

So I, who have no wish to encourage such trashy, obviously partisan editorials, will not be renewing my subscription to the Wall Street Journal. It’s a little sad to see how far the mighty have fallen sometimes.