One of two things explains the New York Times’ belated (by 15 hours) online obituary of the author Harlan Ellison, which I first saw on Facebook by way of a post from Variety. Either the Times’ servers achieved consciousness and organized a metaphorical walkout against management, a news item suppressed by the paper since the servers may still be alive but unaware of the range of their powers, while simultaneously, in what is the first crisis negotiation between man and machine, a makeshift team of generals and computer scientists try to disarm the leader of this strike—a terminal, in a warehouse of identical-looking black boxes with blinking lights—before it tries to terminate the Times’ human staff; or, no one at the paper will admit what many suspect and some, in fact, know: the New York Times does not give a damn about Los Angeles.
I am partial to the latter, because it confirms the Times’ caricature of Los Angeles as a basin of smog and marijuana smoke, a Great Gray Spot of Jovian storms of carcinogens and CBD oil, where residents live under a permanent contact high. For the Times to suggest otherwise would require its reporters to do actual reporting.
It would require them to read Ellison’s essays and short stories, including his homage to Los Angeles. It would require them to visit his favorite eatery and eat a hot dog from Pink’s instead of alfalfa sprouts. It would require them to abandon their portrayal of a city of cultists and concubines—all of them hypnotized by a dwarfish ex-convict who looks like a Nazarene version of the Antichrist. It would require them to visit the city’s bookstores and its annual Festival of Books.
Until then, the Times will continue to betray its motto by printing less than all the news that is fit to print, because the timing of its piece about Harlan Ellison was ill-timed and unfitting.
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