We were all called to a meeting in the main newsroom yesterday afternoon to hear the publisher announce that our paper had entered into an agreement with a larger rival in which the rival would take responsibility for home distribution of our paper. It was explained that rival papers in other cities, notably Pittsburgh, had entered into similar arrangements, and I was already aware that papers elsewhere had undertaken joint operating agreements which made weaker papers perhaps even more dependent on stronger rivals than we might become.
When the publisher asked if anyone had questions, the harshest response came from the sports department, and particularly from Mr. Right. They had reason to distrust the rival paper. When an independent weekly named ours the area's best sports section, the rival did a talent raid on us. The sportswriters argue that the rival paper does everything possible to undercut them, and they see no reason why the paper wouldn't do everything in its power to ruin our circulation more completely than we've managed ourselves.
These are not unreasonable concerns, but for some reason it surprised me to hear them coming from Mr. Right. As a conservative, shouldn't he trust business people to deal with one another fairly? Shouldn't he find it somewhat socialistic, or downright un-American not to trust corporations and capitalists to do the right thing by everybody? But I remembered that just about no one in the office is as often and as vocally critical of the corporation that owns our paper than Mr. Right. You'd suppose that, with this particular company as your best evidence of corporate practices, and with his cutthroat perceptions of our rival corporation, you might take a less rosy view of corporate America than Mr. Right does generally. Yet, if anything, he goes out of his way to be a die-hard defender of the oil companies, and to curse politicians who dare accuse those worthies of price gouging or outright greed. Maybe he'd say that there are good and bad corporations, and that no one should judge capitalism in general by one awful employer or one ruthless competitor. But as far as the oil companies are concerned it strikes me that he's striking a pose of moral superiority, proud of his refusal to indulge in the rabble's "envy" of the rich. Perhaps he can judge his immediate situation more clearly because he thinks that no one could envy our corporate overlords and the shambles they've made of our business. To be honest, his attitude is unfathomable to me. I don't think it's as simple as how stupid he might be, as some might suspect. I think that there are psychological factors at work as well, and that Mr. Right's style of conservatism is almost pathological in some ways, but I'm not really qualified to develop that idea any further. Those of you who know conservatives must feel the same way sometimes, especially if you see them behave "out of character" as he seemed to.