OFF THE GRID

When the End Is Not the End

Mar 6, 09 | 9:10 AM   byMichael Wolff
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It’s the end of everything—or should be.

General Motors is going to go bankrupt. And Citigroup is probably going to go bankrupt. And the New York Times is maybe going to go, too.

Life as I’ve known it is about to disappear. Big cars, big banks, important newspapers. That’s the American way. I can barely imagine what life looks like without those over-sized cars, a bank branch (or two or three) on every street corner, and that large, dull, worthy paper at my door.

But then I’m a middle-aged guy. Likewise, GM and Citibank and the Times are, each in their way, of another age. Mid-century modern. Decrepit, actually.

GM, it seems, has been going bankrupt, or marching into obsolescence, since 1973. It’s painful to have to even think about GM and its inability to adapt to…well, anything. Even saying GM is tedious and desultory. Dead. GM is not going to be saved, because nobody has any reason to save it.

Citibank or group or corp—or whatever—was almost immediately a bad idea after the exceedingly short moment when it seemed like a good idea.



(AP Image)

 
Likewise, the Times has been more a burden than a necessity for a good long time. True, there is a dedicated group who believe the bankruptcy of the New York Times will be a significant tragedy. But that group may be no more relevant than the union officials who’ll be among the few to mourn GM, and the bondholders who will fight it out at Citi-whatever. Beyond the most insular groups no one cares, which is why these institutions are going south so rapidly.

On the other hand—and this may be its own sort of tragedy—rather than the world ending, sudden, wrenching change comes and so very often…nothing changes.

If GM hasn’t collapsed under the weight of its own stubborn ineptness during the last 35 years, why now? Sure, its shareholders and employees lose everything, but somehow it will still be standing and no one will know how to run it, or want to run it, except the same old guys who’ve always been running it—only difference is now the taxpayers will be paying them.

And Citibank. Its myriad pieces will go in so many different directions, and, in a few years, you just know they’ll find their way back together again.

The Times will change—it has changed. It will become lesser in size and importance—lesser still. And yet there is a group of people who need to believe that there will and must always be a Times. They’ll carry the illusion of it, ever insisting on the Times' virtue and necessity.

We will have endured this dreadful time for nothing.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com
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OFF THE GRID is about why the news is the news. Here are the real motivations of both media and newsmakers. Here's the backstory. This is a look at the inner workings of desperate media, the inner life of the publicity crazed, and the true meaning of the news of the day.

 

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