Blair Follows the 'Rules'

Portrait of the Careerist as a Young Man

The news is that Blair "gets it." Completely. Thus, a few hours after the town hall meeting at which Times execs were razzed by employees, Blair wrote a friendly e-mail to his former colleagues. He was around, and things weren't so bad, after all. In fact, Blair would soon be telling the Observer, "It's got to be better. It's going to work out for me."

Scheduling interviews. Being optimistic. There was only one thing left to do: make a confession, any confession. "It doesn't matter whether you do so in public or in private," Lapham writes, "as long as you remember to limit the admission to a general tendency—drunkenness, dishonesty, self-loathing, homophobia—and avoid mentioning particular incidents, specific names, exact dates." As for blame, "Assign it to acronyms, random accident, historical forces, or people too weak to do you any harm. Don't mention the names of specific individuals."

In Blair's book, as it has been advertised so far, he will cop to one thing, substance abuse. It seems he will forgo any analysis of how the Times allowed his lies to get into print, and instead show the institution through the prism of race. Instead of offering sharp insights on Raines, who Blair sees as a "good man, well-intentioned," he will ream out the "hundreds of white junior managers" at the Times and deliver "anecdotes upon anecdotes" about racism. (That's good, in Lapham's judgment, because opinions "must be welcome and safe.") And one more thing: Blair will reach out to other "young, ambitious, well-educated and accomplished African Americans and other 'minorities,' " in an attempt to "help others to heal."

A final word from Lapham: The limelight is "not a safe place. Approach it slowly over a long and gradual curve of time. Too steep an ascent into the atmosphere of fame invites a correspondingly steep descent to the base camp of anonymity." Jayson, take heed.

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