Sunday, February 28, 2010

Nick Kristof Is Very Serious. Really.

Someone must have sent a World Vision brochure to New York Times columnist Nick Kristof because in today’s column he makes the startling discovery that there are Christian groups operating charities in Third World countries! Oh my God, stop the presses.

Kristof is one of the most annoying of the media elite, not just because he has defended Third World sweatshops in a dozen or more columns (“Hey! People are lining up for those jobs!”). No, he annoys me primarily because he has such a myopic view of the world. His opinions are clearly shaped by his position of privilege and his rounds of the cocktail party circuit. Kristof sits atop an ivory tower and as a result, his Very Serious New York Times columns are riddled with stereotypes. Worse, they carry that unmistakeable stench of superiority.

Today’s is no different. Indeed, he lost me at hello:
For most of the last century, save-the-worlders were primarily Democrats and liberals. In contrast, many Republicans and religious conservatives denounced government aid programs, with Senator Jesse Helms calling them “money down a rat hole.”

Over the last decade, however, that divide has dissolved, in ways that many Americans haven’t noticed or appreciated. Evangelicals have become the new internationalists, pushing successfully for new American programs against AIDS and malaria, and doing superb work on issues from human trafficking in India to mass rape in Congo.

”Many Americans,” Nick? You mean you, right? Right away he pisses me off by lumping everyone into two categories. There are no liberal or Democratic evangelicals in Kristof’s world, nor are there any Republicans who care about foreign aid. It’s all one big unhappy stereotype.

Please don’t tell Kristof that World Vision, the evangelical Christian organization he devotes much of his column to, was founded in 1950. Please also don’t tell him about groups like Sojourners, the evangelical liberal group founded by Jim Wallis in 1971.

Here’s another one:

Some liberals are pushing to end the longtime practice (it’s a myth that this started with President George W. Bush) of channeling American aid through faith-based organizations.

”Some liberals,” Nick? Who? Someone you talked to at a cocktail party, perhaps? Or an anonymous blog commenter?

Is there a bill? A movement? An organization backing this? Anything? Not that I’ve heard. You know, there will always be debate on blogs about this but the reality is, every policy maker from the local level on up to the State Department knows that charitable groups do the heavy lifting when it comes to aid. They have to. Tea Baggers' lamentations notwithstanding, our government is not that big. Be it homeless shelters in your local town or schools and orphanages in Africa, NGOs do the work. And the reality is, most of those groups are religious. This is not new, it's been this way for decades. I guess Kristof was the last to get the memo.

No one is seriously talking about doing away with government funds for these groups, it would be impossible to do so. But Kristof probably talked to someone at a cocktail party and therein lies the basis of his column.

And then we get to that telltale Kristofian air of superiority. Folks, I bring you last night's Tweet:

Snooty and sanctimonious? Kristof must have been looking in a mirror.