If Dickens Came Back to America, He Would Note Today's WSJ

Front page of today's Wall Street Journal, similar to front page of all other papers:


Detail from the highlighted box:

Front page of WSJ's "Marketplace" section today:

Detail from the lead of the story:


Now of course: there is no connection at all, except coincidence of timing, between this moment of success for some and of further hardship for others. The success is for a virtual-economy, social networking company, whose product is advertising (which is of course also the source of much of our revenue at the Atlantic); and for the people and firms dealt into its IPO.* The belt-tightening is for a "material-world" transportation company dealing with the gritty realities of fuel prices, weather forecasts, cranky passengers, security threats, huge capital commitments for aircraft, and "legacy" union costs; and who for those who have held ordinary jobs there. I know that in even the healthiest economy, "creative destruction" means that some businesses are always failing even as others are starting up.

Still: whatever Charles Dickens or John Steinbeck is rising among us might well use this day's paper as a bit of atmosphere for what has happened to America. Or the next Dreiser or Hugo or Zola. On the day that the graffiti artist who decorated Facebook's headquarters learns that he may be worth another $200 million, tens of thousands of AA workers learn they may have no more money coming in at all. I loved Otto Friedrich's Before the Deluge for its effortless evocation of the tension and madness of Weimar Germany through the quotidian details of life and news reports. We are not Weimar, but the ultimate historian of our era will say something about this year's Groundhog Day. [Thanks to DZF for pointing these stories out.]
* Disclosure: I am biased against Facebook, because of its consistent record of shady, corner-cutting privacy practices**. I am biased in favor of American Airlines pensioners and employees, because my cousin is one of them, and I know what she has gone through as a career flight attendant.

**And on privacy practices, I'll have more to say soon about the recent changes in Google's rules.