June 9, 2021

"New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay's comments on MSNBC have been irresponsibly taken out of context."

"Her argument was that Trump and many of his supporters have politicized the American flag. The attacks on her today are ill-informed and grounded in bad-faith."

Tweets NYTimes Communications/@NYTimesPR.

That's about the controversy we were talking about yesterday, here. I said: "I think this is an honest revelation: American flags really do disturb Mara Gay." And: "This is a pretty standard aversion to the flag. It made me think of Katha Pollitt's famous reaction to flag displays after the 9/11 attacks...." 

The NYT tweet came out yesterday, so I guess what I wrote is within the category "attacks on her today" and my circumspect and considered remarks have been denounced as "ill-informed and grounded in bad-faith."

So I'm going to say that tweet is ill-informed and grounded in bad-faith! What a ridiculous blanket statement with no regard for the individuals who listened to Gay and made our own interpretations and expressed our opinions.

It's so hypocritical to obsessively protect her while attacking all her critics with broad-brush insults!

IN THE COMMENTS: You can see email, along with responses from me, on the subject of whether the American left has an aversion to displays of the American flag. I am reminded of this photograph of mine that I posted on the 4th of July in 2005:

Washington Monument

At the time, I wrote: "In my family, this is known as my 'most right wing photo' and jokes have been made along the lines of: 'What if you put that on your office door? What would people think? What would they say?'"

There were a lot of comments at the time, including one from a colleague who said: "I quite like the photo and resist the idea that the right owns the flag. " I was motivated to post what I called "my most left-wing flag photo, from the Kerry rally here in Madison last fall":


There are some interesting comments at that 2005 post, including one from Meade (whom I met and married 4 years later). I'm always fascinated to see what Meade was saying in the comments in the days before we met. 

There, in response to my notion of putting the "right wing" photo on my office door, he said: "Do it, Ann! It would be very Dylanesque" (and quotes a long story about Bob Dylan). 

Even though I was actively responding to other commenters in that thread, I didn't say one word to him!

And I responded in less than 10 minutes to the commenter who wrote: " It's red, white, and blue enough for right wingers and yet it is so incredibly phallic the hard left (pun actually not intended -- until after it left my keyboard) will have to accept it as an ironic statement." 

I said: "Yes, we've noticed the extreme phallic nature of this photo. In fact, I fear that if I put it on my door, I could be accused of 'hostile environment' sexual harassment."


Ann Althouse said...

Dave Boz writes: "Your comment on Gay was indeed circumspect, and well-thought out. The NYT wishes to splatter you with the same denigration it uses for all things Trump-related. But the strangest comment is Gay’s reply that “Trolling a Black journalist with the American flag is not the own some people think it is.” Gay seems to think she has some special dispensation to hate on America or the flag because she is black, or because she is a journalist. How odd. Hating the flag doesn’t make her special, it’s an attitude she shares with most Democrats, New Yorkers and journalists. A lot of people in those groups hate the flag, and Americans. But the black people I know don’t share Gay’s repugnance at their country or its flag."

I took her remark to be the sort of left-wing aversion to the flag I've seen since the 1960s. The tweet you quote seems to confirm my interpretation and justify the aversion that I took her to be expressing. The NYT seems to want to refute that. The message is not coordinated.

Ann Althouse said...

SGT Ted writes:

"As you've rightly pointed out, Mara Gay is simply saying what the left has always said about the nations flag; it's a symbol of jingoism, Imperialism, racism, etc. I find it rather ironic for these folks to smear flag flying Trump supporters as unpatriotic, when they display zero patriotism themselves."

Ann Althouse said...

Marybeth writes:

"Many of the people replying to the tweet appear to agree with the idea that the American flag is offensive. They're doing a better job of showing that the remarks about her are not ill-informed or grounded in bad faith than any from the Right might do."

I'm seeing that too.

(The link for the NYT tweet wasn't right until just now, so go ahead and click to see these tweets)

Ann Althouse said...

Chris writes:

"Last week, in my capacity as a hospice chaplain, I officiated at a graveside service for one of our patients who died. It was the day after Memorial Day, and the cemetery was blanketed with American flags. Since the deceased was a veteran, before I offered prayers, two service personnel performed the military rites. They played Taps. Then they took a folded American flag between them, slowly unfolded it, unfurled it briefly, refolded it, and gave it to the man's widow, all done with crisp, precision movements and without any words. Just silent actions. It was the most moving use of an American flag I have ever seen. I will long remember it.

"I see that many people have conflicted emotions about the American flag. This apparently includes editors at the New York Times. This number also includes many mainline Protestant clergy I have known through the years. I have never been among this company, with their deep discomfort toward the flag. The flag for me has always evoked warm feelings, as I would guess it does for many Americans. We aren't unaware of our nation's faults and sins, but we put these in the larger context of all the good in our country."

Ann Althouse said...

MadisonMan writes:

I can't quite figure out the timeline of that trip to Long Island (What Luxury!) Was she there Memorial Day weekend and even so, surprised to see flags?

The Times saying it's "taken out of context" really means she's a poor communicator, which is not a good look. So I'm not sure why the Times is saying anything here."

Ann Althouse said...

Brian asks: "Serious Question: How would all this be being handled, IF instead of an American flag, it was a Rainbow flag that she had an "aversion" to?"

Ann Althouse said...

JPS writes:

Reminding us of your July 4, 2005 post, you quote a colleague:

"I quite like the photo and resist the idea that the right owns the flag.“

I’m on the right, and I resist the idea that the right owns the flag. But in the last few decades there’s been a tonal shift on the part of the left – not the whole left, of course, but those wielding the cultural megaphones – from “Don’t you dare suggest we love this country any less than you do” toward, more and more, “As a matter of fact I don’t love this country, and for some damned good reasons.” All this hit a fever pitch last summer: Mount Rushmore became a symbol of white supremacy, and visiting Gettysburg showed Trump’s sneaking affection for the Confederacy.

Now there’s this oscillation between sentimental Americana and flag-waving being OK now that Trump’s out, to their being suspect because they appeal especially to Those People.

Ann Althouse said...

Amadeus 48 writes:

Where to begin? The only interesting thing in this whole kerfuffle is that Mara Gay, editorial board member of the NYT, thinks that DJT politicized the American flag. Hmm…what about all those flag burning cases that occupied the federal courts in the 1970s and 1980s? Let’s think about Texas vs. Johnson (1989). The majority opinion was by Brennan (joined by Marshall, Scalia, Kennedy, and Blackman) , that great liberal and defender of the First Amendment. The dissenters were White, O’Conner, Rehnquist, and Stevens.

There is a powerful dissent by Stevens, another great liberal and defender of due process. Let’s listen to Stevens in his dissent: the flag "is more than a proud symbol of the courage, the determination, and the gifts of nature that transformed 13 fledgling Colonies into a world power. It is a symbol of freedom, of equal opportunity, of religious tolerance, and of goodwill for other peoples who share our aspirations. . . The value of the flag as a symbol cannot be measured." Stevens concluded, "The case has nothing to do with 'disagreeable ideas.' It involves disagreeable conduct that, in my opinion, diminishes the value of an important national asset.”

So the flag was a symbol that meant a great deal to Stevens, while other justices thought that its abuse was nothing special but rather a prop in free expression of ideas and opinions. These cases had been going on since the 1960s (Street vs. New York, 1969). The controversy continues.

Now let’s turn to literature, specifically, e. e. cummings and I sing of Olaf glad and big (1931). The refrain? “I will not kiss your f**king flag.” The flag has been an object of political controversy since at least World War I. And then there was Barbara Frietchie—“’Shoot if you must this old gray head/But spare your country’s flag,’ she said.”

The galling thing about Mara Gay is her ignorance.

Ann Althouse said...

Leora writes:

This flag aversion has been typical of Democrats for some time now. I remember visiting some friends on Long Island on Flag Day around 2005 and having one of them complain about all the flags that had been around since 9/11. The idea that the flag aversion is new and due to Trump is simply a lie.

My mother was a WAC stationed at Goose Bay Labrador.. She was buried with military honors and my father received the flag which he had specially framed and which I still display in my home. She was active in the ACLU and in the Democratic party locally and statewide until shortly before her death from cancer but was beginning to be distressed by the anti-Americanism of her fellow Democrats and the victimology of the feminist movement.