When in Paris, I read the International Herald Tribune daily. Which was a change of pace: it’s been years since I regularly read any paper other than the Mercury News regularly. (In particular, it’s been a while since I’ve read the New York Times regularly; I read several news magazines regularly, but just the one newspaper.)
And, all things considered, it was a pleasant change of pace. Like all newspapers, it has its target audience, and in some ways I would seem to be not too bad a fit for it: I’ve spent enough time with people who don’t seriously consider any newspaper other than the (New York) Times, and I’m happy with the more international skew on the news that the IHT gives. (To the former point, I would say that I still think it’s weird that the only newspaper that Stanford’s math department subscribes to is the Times: why not the Mercury News or the SF Chronicle? Except that I don’t think that it’s weird at all: academia works very hard to break down loyalty to physical locations, to make you loyal to your discipline as opposed to any other grouping you might be part of, so it’s not so surprising that people are loyal to the paper that does the best job of presenting itself as the paper for the intelligentsia. On a more prosaic note, lots of people who pass through the math department are from elsewhere, so the Times is more likely to be familiar to them than other papers; people who aren’t transient are likely to subscribe to a local paper at home.)
There were times, however, when I would realize that I wasn’t quite the target audience after all. When it moved away from political news, there were a lot more articles on high-end fashion than on baseball, for example. The longest obituary while I was there was about some New York socialite whom I’d never heard of and couldn’t see any reason why I should care about. Even some articles along those lines were vaguely interesting to me, though: I liked the article talking about how you could buy a French chateau for only 700,000 Euros (a lot cheapter than chateaus in Mountain View, that’s for sure), and the weekly opera advertising section amused me.
And then the bombing came, which I should probably devote a separate blog entry to, but whatever. I’m glad I had my vacation in Paris instead of London, though we would have been just waking up at the time of the bombings anyways. George Bush is a liar and asshole. Yes, the bombings are horrible; twisting them for your own political ends is not the correct response. “And the contrast couldn’t be clearer between the intentions and the hearts of those of us who care deeply about human rights and human liberty, and those who kill, those who’ve got such evil in their heart that they will take the lives of innocent folks.” Sure, not a single innocent Iraqi has been killed by US forces, right. Of course, our only motivations for our foreign policy are human rights and human liberty, how could anybody think otherwise? But these comparisons are beyond the pale, in the IHT just as much as in Bush’s brain.
Several other columnists were also happy to use the terrorists’ actions for their own ends: in particular, there were digs at Spain for electing an anti-war government after its bombings, claiming that that’s morally wrong because it’s doing what the terrorists want. Sure, if you don’t know whether doing X or Y is a good idea, then doing the one that terrorists don’t want you to do is probably a good strategy. But if you are sure that one of them is better, then changing your mind because a terrorist agrees with you is only marginally more sensible than changing your mind because a terrorist disagrees with you.
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