The Old Gray Lady is a prude.
In a story about Samuel L. Jackson and the motherfucking snakes on his motherfucking plane, the New York Times mentions that he “unleashes a 13-letter epithet” without even giving the reader a first letter to go on. (Times readers, it is assumed, are prepared to solve crossword clues anywhere in the paper, even in a guide to what’s on TV.) In a story about someone being fired for swearing, the paper does not name or even hint at the swear, though it does accompany the story with a charming F-bomb illustration that I kind of want to hang in my dining room. Until last year, if Yankees or Mets fans chanted “bullshit” after a blown call, the Times would refer to this only as “a barnyard epithet.”
But this week, the New York Times published “fuck,” “bitch,” “tits,” and “pussy” without so much as a hyphen or asterisk to conceal their naughtiness.
So what the fuck is happening to the Times?
In a word: Trump.
On August 8, “bullshit” made its first appearance in the New York Times.
Two caveats are in order. First, I’m talking about the Times’ domestic print edition. The word has been used many times in Reuters articles posted to the paper’s website, several times in its own online blogs and articles, and at least once in the international print edition, in a quotation from Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father:
I blew a few smoke rings, remembering those years. Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it … And if the high didn’t solve whatever it was that was getting you down, it could at least help you laugh at the world’s ongoing folly and see through all the hypocrisy and bullshit and cheap moralism.
Second, on two previous occasions, in 1977 and 2007, the Times had printed “‘bullshit'”–that is, had included the word in a quotation. The first instance is notable for the early date and also because it came in a column by John B. Oakes, who was not only the editorial page editor but also the nephew of Adolph Ochs, who bought the newspaper in 1896 and transformed it from an undistinguished daily to a major international news organization.