Tilting at Windmills

November/ December 2013 Fair, balanced, and untrue … A Barry bad legacy … Glamorizing the glamour industry

By Charles Peters

I often discuss the faults of the Times, if only because its importance makes them loom larger than the shortcomings of other publications. What upsets me now—and this is a reflection of my concern about all the influences in American life that push us to accumulate wealth—is the tendency of the Times’ fashion sections to make designer clothes and accessories seem essential. Featured recently in a typical spread in T: The New York Times Style Magazine were a Dolce & Gabbana coat for $3,145 and dress for $1,345, Giuseppe Zanotti Design shoes for $1,197, and, on the facing page, a Chanel dress for $10,365. Looking at these alluring photographs, works of art in themselves, of beautiful models clad in the latest designer apparel inevitably makes the reader want to have those clothes, meaning that they or their spouse has to make enough money to buy them.

The Times is far from alone in its guilt; Vogue and Vanity Fair, among many others, are also culprits. But the Times speaks with unique authority, especially in New York. I know that the fashion industry is important to the economy of the city, but so is Wall Street. Indeed, the finance industry constitutes 40 percent of New York’s wages, according to James Surowiecki of the New Yorker. Yet, the business section of the Times reports on Wall Street without glamorizing it. You do not end up thinking that you just had to have that credit default swap.

Charles Peters is the founding editor of the Washington Monthly and the author of a new book on Lyndon B. Johnson published by Times Books.


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