Tipping point of the Times

One of the Scrapbook items (subscribers-only) in the new issue of the Weekly Standard discusses the New York Times under the heading “Physician, shrink thyself.” I had meant to catch up with this story via the excellent Thomas Lifson post at The American Thinker yesterday, but I didn’t get around to it. Lifson’s post is referred to in the Scrapbook item. I’ve added links within the Scrapbook item and will let the Scrapbook do the talking:

Remember how, back on February 1, 2004, New York Times op-ed page editor David Shipley wrote a column describing the high standards he used to select the articles that appeared in his pages? “Our decisions about which essays to publish aren’t governed by a need for editorial variety alone,” Shipley wrote. “Among other things, we look for timeliness, ingenuity, strength of argument, freshness of opinion, clear writing and newsworthiness.”
And remember how, two days later, on February 3, 2004, Shipley published an essay by Erin Sullivan–the author of Saturn in Transit and The Astrology of Midlife and Aging–which used astrological tables to predict the outcome of the 2004 Democratic primaries? “If seeking the presidency is like reaching for the stars, then why not look to the stars–and the other heavenly bodies–for insights on the candidates,” Sullivan wrote. “John Kerry . . . is a Sagittarius with four Gemini planets in the public relationship sector of his birth chart. . . . Born with the rare Mars retrograde, he entered life with a rage–a deep, inner need to overcome (the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also had the Mars retrograde). . . . The long-term picture depicts him achieving his highest goals.” Oops.
When we read Sullivan’s essay last year–title: “The Stars Have Voted”–The Scrapbook chuckled softly to ourselves; how witty and sophisticated, we thought, that Shipley would make fun of his own pretentious “high standards” by publishing a piece of credulous pseudoscience not a week later!
But maybe it wasn’t a joke at all. Last Wednesday, May 11, the Times printed an op-ed by Belinda Board headlined “The Tipping Point.” Board is described as a “clinical psychologist based at the University of Surrey” who moonlights as “a consultant on organizational psychology,” and her article was just as laughable as Erin Sullivan’s–except it wasn’t preceded a few days earlier by a haughty note from the Times’s op-ed editor. There was nothing remotely ironic about it, in fact.
Board’s point, best we can make of it, is that Undersecretary of State John Bolton, the president’s distinguished if embattled nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is a psychopath…not that there’s anything wrong with that. Writes Board: The “characteristics of personality disorders can be found throughout society and are not just concentrated in psychiatric or prison hospitals.” Case in point: John Bolton, who “has been described as dogmatic, abusive to his subordinates and a bully.” Yet the president continues to support him. Why? “Sometimes the characteristics that make someone successful in business or government can render them unpleasant personally. What’s more astonishing is that those characteristics when exaggerated are the same ones often found in criminals.” Board’s conclusion: Successful executives like Bolton “share personality characteristics with psychopaths.”
Her advice to Congress: Weigh carefully Bolton’s combination of “extreme characteristics,” contrasting the “characteristics that have propelled” him “to prominence” against those that “can cause untold human wreckage.”
Incidentally, Thomas Lifson subsequently pointed out at AmericanThinker that Board is identified by the University of Surrey as a Ph.D. candidate. As he points out, “the ‘research’ on which she based her op-ed was done in 2001, four years ago. We have to wonder what her status was at the time. An undergraduate?”
Our advice to the New York Times: Go back to running horoscopes.

Footnote: Linked above is the February 3, 2004 Times op-ed column by Sullivan found at her Erin Sullivan Web site. At her site Sullivan writes that she was invited by the Times op-ed editor “to write a brief synopsis on all seven of the Democratic candidates.”

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