Russ "Mugger" Smith of the invaluable Splice Today points out something worth remembering. The Times' house editorial, which was published just two days after Brooks' piece, is even worse, and not just because it supposedly carries the imprimatur of the wise folks at the Gray Lady. Writes Smith:
[The Times' editorial] "The Marijuana Experiment" … [takes] a very critical stance on the rapidly moving trend in states across the country that have either legalized pot or are in the process of doing so. The Times editorial board is clearly against such a populist movement—even though: abortion, check, gay marriage, check, unisex bathrooms, coming up—and it's my guess that one of Brooks' superiors at the paper suggested he write such an essay to gauge opinion. Otherwise, why would the editor who presumably reads Brooks' columns before they're published leave him open for such scorn?
Marijuana legalization—or decriminalization—is an issue that gains supporters every day, so the Times triumvirate of publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. (62), executive editor Jill Abramson (59) and editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal (57) knows the paper will have to take a more definitive stand in the coming months, particularly since New York's governor and possible Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Cuomo has proposed the very minor step of allowing medicinal marijuana in 20 hospitals across the state.
I don't buy Smith's suggestion that Brooks was strongarmed into writing a column he didn't believe in, but Smith is right that the Times house editorial is suffused with a slow-twitch, pre-senility panic about all the terrors that might be unleashed upon the world now that weed can be smoked without a potential arrest harshing the buzz. Curiously, the Times editorial doesn't comment on whether the Colorado law is a good or bad thing, choosing instead to lay out a litany of things that might go terribly, terribly wrong.
The Times list of "what to watch for in the early stages of this experiment" include under-age smoking, marketing to youths, driving while drunk and high, and interstate trafficking. About the only thing missing from the list is a Harry Anslinger-inspired anxiety about whether easy access to dope will increase the desire among "white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others."
What does it tell you about the state of mainstream establishment journalism when the liberal New York Times is tut-tutting about "what to watch" for in Colorado at the same time that the conservative National Review is editorializing that "Colorado has become the first state to make the prudent choice of legalizing the consumption and sale of marijuana…"?
It tells you a lot—and nothing that reflects well on the New York Times.