Put Aside Logic
THE FINAL FRONTIER
I dreamed that Spock saved our planet, The Daily Planet of journalism.
Instead of swooping in to figure out the dimensionality and logarithms to rescue the world from red matter, as Spock does in J. J. Abrams’s dazzling new “Star Trek,” I imagined Spock rescuing read matter for the world.
Newspapers are an “endangered species,” as John Kerry called us in a Senate hearing last week, just as the Vulcans are in the new prequel.
And it was clear from his very first news conference, when I began covering his long-shot bid for the White House and he began referring to stories he had read in The Times, that Mr. Obama’s supple mind was nourished by news and books. You knew he would never inspire alarm as W. did, that if Condi walked too far away or his notes blew off the lectern, he’d be utterly lost.
Once, during his campaign trip to Europe, Mr. Obama told me that he had briefly sold subscriptions to The New York Times when he was at Columbia University to help pay for school, but confessed he wasn’t very good at it.
I said that if he won the presidency, he’d be pretty busy, but that maybe he could find time to sell a few more subscriptions. It would really help us out in the current business crunch.
He gave me that wry Spock look.
In the “Star Trek” prequel, Spock’s father tells him, “You will always be a child of two worlds,” urging him not to keep such a tight vise on his emotions. And Spandexy Old Spock, known as Spock Prime, tells his younger self: “Put aside logic. Do what feels right.”
Mr. Obama is also a control freak who learned to temper, if not purge, all emotion. But as a young man of mixed blood, he was more adept than Young Spock at learning to adjust his two sides to charm both worlds, and to balance his cerebral air with his talent for evoking intense emotion.
Just as President Spock pledged to make hope and government cool again, Mr. Abrams said he wanted his movie to make optimism cool again.
Commanding his own unwieldy starship of blended species, with Cheney, Limbaugh and other pitiless Borg aliens firing phasers from all sides, Mr. Obama has certainly invoked Mr. Spock’s Vulcan philosophy of “Infinite diversity in infinite combinations.” And he even recruited some impulsive Rahmulen muscle for his Utopia.
Many other corporations are being coddled by the president. But, as Robert Gibbs correctly pointed out the other day, a government beam-up for newspapers is not logical.
One of the things Young Spock has to learn in the movie is the difference between what is morally praiseworthy and what is morally obligatory. Newspapers do a praiseworthy job of trying to keep the dark side at bay, by shining sun on it. But society may not consider us obligatory, as we’re finding out.
Senator Kerry’s hearing tried to determine, in a metaphor that was whipped to death, whether there was any way to shut the barn door now that the ink-stained horse has gotten out into the virtual pasture (making readers pay for content now that they’ve gotten used to getting it free online).
David Simon, the creator of “The Wire,” who worked for 13 years as a Baltimore Sun reporter, testified that “high-end journalism is dying,” and when that happens, and no one is manning the cop shops and zoning boards, America will enter “a halcyon era for state and local political corruption.”
He said he thought the horse could be lured back into the barn. “I work in television now,” he said, “and no American, for the first 30 years of television, paid anything for their rabbit ears. Now they pay $60, $70 a month for better content.”
Newspapers no longer know how to live long and prosper. It’s enough to make a Vulcan weep.