I’m not sure I completely agree with John that Jeff Bezos can be relied upon to be a down-the-line liberal as the new owner of the Washington Post in the same way as Chris Hughes, the Silicon Valley Obama-worshipper who bought The New Republic. People have combed Bezos’s political activity and statements to deliver a mixed picture, but one deed stands out: Bezos broke with Bill Gates in giving six figures to defeat a Washington state ballot initiative to
increase income taxes on high income earners establish a state income tax. [ERRATUM: Washington has no state income tax at the moment.] (Gates had supported the measure.) And whatever else you may say about the cultural liberalism of the Silicon Valley world, raising income taxes is always the first priority of contemporary progressivism. (And Bezos has apparently contributed to the Reason Foundation, a sign of some libertarian sympathies.) My expectation is that Bezos will do too little to change the Post, and will allow the liberal inmates to continue to run the asylum until the Post has no readers left at all.
More interesting is the discreet silence among all the media analysts about the obvious question: how long until the Sulzberger family follows the Graham family (who followed the Bancroft family in selling the Wall Street Journal) in selling the New York Times while it’s still worth something? Does anyone really think the Graham family wanted to sell the Post? Of course not. It was the cornerstone of their social status and clout. (As Post columnist Ruth Marcus put it without the slightest trace of self-awareness: “Their identity is so inextricably bound up with that of the newspaper, and the newspaper with that of the Graham family, it is — or at least it was until Monday afternoon — unimaginable to consider the two as separate entities.” Also this: ”My e-mail has been buzzing, my phone ringing, with family, friends, government officials, asking the same question: Are you okay? They don’t mean economically. They mean emotionally. The answer: Not really.” Yes, Ruth, because it’s all about you. Also: sympathetic e-mails from “government officials“? Yeah, we’re not cozy with our sources here at the Post, are we Ruth? That’s some real adversarial journalism for ya.)
But social status and clout go out the window if you’re not rich any more. The Post would surely have sold for a billion dollars as recently as a decade ago, instead of this week’s $250 million. A decade from now, it could be worth as little as Newsweek, which the Grahams once owned and sold for $1.
If you think Liberalworld is upset about the Post leaving the fold of the Rich Liberal Establishment (keep in mind that while Bezos may be a liberal of some sort, he’s just not a member in good standing of the Acela Corridor Club), imagine the rending of garments that will happen when the Times is sold.
If by some chance the Sulzberger family waits too long and can only sell the Times at a fire sale price to the Koch brothers, mass suicide will ensue. Someone needs to start the Times Sale Countdown Clock. Fun times (pun intended) ahead.