24 February 2017
Scene: The New York Times’ main office. The place is clearly failing. The ceiling tiles are either stained or cracked or missing entirely. Loops of high-voltage wires hang from the ceiling. Water drips from the ceiling, too; buckets are scattered about, to catch the water. Rats scurry. A wild dog lopes. The computers are very old first-generation iMacs — the kind that looked like massive, neon-colored bubbles — some of which start emitting smoke if they’re used for too long. Enter the Times’ Managing editor, City editor, and Politics reporter. Politics reporter sits at his desk; City editor stands at the head of the desk; Managing editor sits on a corner of the desk. They’re discussing how best to report on Supreme Chancellor Donald Trump’s administration, which has been doing a whole lot of winning in just its first month.
Politics reporter: Look, guys, all I’m saying is, I didn’t go to a really expensive journalism school in upstate New York so I could make up stories about Donald Trump. If I wanted to do that, I’d have gotten a really expensive M.F.A. degree from that very same upstate New York school, and I’d be living rent-free in my parent’s house in suburban Maryland until my short story collection became a bestseller.
City editor: I hear what you’re saying, Craig? I hear it? O.K.? But what you have to understand is: How this paper approaches its coverage of the Trump administration isn’t up to you.
Managing editor: It’s up to me. And I say we keep drinking out of this fake-news well until it dries up. Which it never will. Because fake news is a goldmine, for us.
Politics reporter: But Trump’s doing such a good job, now. He’s really winning. Shouldn’t the American people know how often Trump is winning?
[Managing editor slams his fist on the desk; the desk cracks and a large, globular carpenter ant scuttles from out of the crack.]
Managing editor: I’m tired of all this winning, dammit! The New York Times has its own agenda, and it doesn’t involve a thriving American people!
City editor: Craig. Listen. How are we supposed to continue being the enemy of the American people if all the sudden we start reporting the facts?
Politics reporter: But that’s just what I don’t get. Why do we have to be the enemy of the American people? Why do we have such an anti-American agenda? Why can’t we just do some good, old-fashioned, responsible reporting? What’s wrong with telling the public about how great Trump is doing?
Managing editor: Look around, Craig! We’re failing! The Times is failing. We know it. Trump knows it. He probably knew it before we did. The guy’s borderline clairvoyant. What I’m saying is, this isn’t exactly the time to start taking risks. Can you understand that?
City editor: Just, work with us here, Craig. I promise, you keep making shit up about Trump, about how he’s dumb and incompetent, about how he just wanders the White House aimlessly and watches television like he’s some kind of oversized child, about how his staff is too disorganized to get anything done — if you keep making those kinds of stories up, there’s a big promotion waiting for you.
Politics reporter: A promotion?
Managing editor: [Smiling; his teeth are yellow and evil looking] A big one. Remember how you first came in here saying you wanted to be a syndicated New York Times columnist? You keep doing what you’re doing, and the job is yours. Twice a week, your picture will be right there on the front of the most popular newspaper in the world.
Politics reporter: I don’t know, guys.
Managing editor: Goddammit, Craig. Just take the bait, will you?
Politics reporter: I appreciate the offer, guys, I really do. But you’re asking me to sacrifice my ethics for a promotion. I don’t know that I can do that. Trump wouldn’t stand for it, that’s for sure.
City editor: You’re a journalist, Craig. You don’t have any ethics.
Politics reporter: [Embarrassed] Actually, guys, maybe you don’t know this about me, but I guess I should come clean: I didn’t actually take the “How to Violently Strip All the Morals and Standards from Your Ethical System” class in college.
Managing editor: Shit, we’ve hired an idealist, it looks like.
City editor: Jesus, Craig. How the hell did you graduate from journalism school without taking that class? Isn’t it a requirement anymore?
Politics reporter: [Holding his hands up and pleading] I don’t know! I can’t think — I transferred schools my sophomore year; I’d taken some college equivalency classes in high school. Maybe the wrong credits transferred?
Managing editor: [Rubbing the bridge of his nose] Well, supporting a crumbling school system lines up with official New York Times policy, so we can’t blame you there, Craig.
City editor: Dammit. That’s exactly the sort of bureaucratic failure Betsy DeVos is sure to fix. This administration is getting worse by the minute.
Politics reporter: I really want to help you guys. Really. I’ve looked up to this paper ever since I was a kid. It’s just, I always thought you guys told the real news. I didn’t know you just made it up.
City editor: That’s the point, Craig. The people aren’t supposed to know. We publish fake news to keep the American public ignorant of what’s really going on in the country. They can’t know that, behind the scenes, we’re pushing our own agenda and destroying this country in the process. It’s taken us a long, long time to get here. Thank God for Obama. He’s been right there with us from the very beginning, in terms of trying to bring this country to its knees. All we had to was convince the public he was doing a great job as president, which of course he wasn’t.
Politics reporter: You don’t mean. No. It can’t be. Obama was in on it with you?
City editor: [Nodding] While we convinced the people he was saving the auto industry and rejuvenating the economy, what he was actually doing was turning this country into a crime-infested paradise for millions of murderous immigrants and radical Islamic terrorists disguised as refugees.
Politics reporter: Gulp!
Managing editor: We never expected that someone as smart and capable as Trump would ever come along. He just sees right through our fake news. He calls us out on it during all his press conferences. It’s embarrassing. We’re hemorrhaging money because of it. I mean look at this place. It’s a dump.
Politics reporter: Have you guys ever considered the fact that maybe it’s the fake news you’re publishing that’s causing the severe decline in subscriptions and ad revenue?
Managing editor: Don’t be ridiculous. Fake news is the bedrock of the New York Times’ reporting. Has been for decades. We’re not about to abandon a proven business model after more than a hundred years of success.
Politics reporter: Trump is changing things, guys. Everything’s different now. He’s casting a bright light on the dark, shadowy corners of our culture. That includes the press and its fake news. And the people are finally waking up to your scheming. They should know the truth.
[Managing editor makes a dismissive huffing noise; City editor rolls his eyes.]
City editor: Give me a break, Craig. The American people don’t deserve to know the truth. They deserve to be left in the dark. This isn’t some free society. This isn’t Putin’s Russia.
Managing editor: This is America, dammit. The place is a shit hole. It’s basically a third-world country. It’s basically the Belgian Congo, here. It’s our job to keep it that way, and to make sure the American people keep thinking things really aren’t so bad.
City editor: We’ve spent too much time and energy to get where we are now. With the high murder rate. Inner cities being basically on fire. Unemployment somewhere around 40 percent. Everything’s just about where we want it. We can’t have Trump, who’s basically the best at everything, we can’t have him fixing this place up.
Politics reporter: Why? Why do you hate this country so much?
Managing editor: It’s not that we hate the country. It’s that, if Trump ends up fixing this country — and it looks like he’s definitely going to — there won’t be any need for a press corps.
City editor: You see, Craig, it’s the press’ job to publish fake news about how great Obama was, and about how bad Trump is, and to keep the public from realizing the truth. And in the meantime we slowly let the country fall into a sort of anarchy state. And when that happens, who’ll be there to help the poor, defenseless people?
Politics reporter: Um.
Managing editor: That’s right. The New York Fucking Times.
Politics reporter: Um.
City editor: The people won’t know until it’s too late that their precious democracy has crumbled. Then we’ll start reporting the real news. We’ll start reporting about how only the New York Times has the power and the influence to save the country, to bring it back to what it was. And then, this country will be ours.
[Managing editor and City editor are wearing very long, sinister smiles, now. Veins are throbbing on their necks and foreheads. They look very evil.]
Politics reporter: I’m sorry, guys. I love this country too much. I’m afraid I’m going to hand in my letter of resignation. Trump is just doing too good a job to deserve this kind of treatment.