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Why Did It Take Hours For Outrage Over Tom Perkins' "Kristallnacht" Letter?

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We’re still talking about Tom Perkins, three days after the venture capitalist’s letter warning of a progressive “Kristallnacht” against America’s wealthy appeared on the opinion page of the Wall Street Journal. The letter provoked a harsh disclaimer from the firm that Perkins co-founded, an op-ed in the New York Times and a follow-up non-apology apology interview by Perkins in Bloomberg View.

But one thing has left me disquieted about the whole episode: why did it take so long for the reaction to the letter to kick in?

The letter appeared, with the eye-catching headline “Progressive Kristallnacht Coming?”, in the highest-circulation newspaper in the country – there are 2,261,772 subscribers to the Journal’s weekend edition, and even if a sizable proportion of those are paid online subscribers, there are still hundreds of thousands of people getting the paper on Saturday morning. Yet it was not until one reader (okay, me) wrote a tweet calling attention to the letter at 11:12 ET that that the letter went viral. That is, for several hours that morning, readers were leafing through their Journal without any one of them being moved to exclaim on Twitter about the fact that one of the country’s wealthiest and most allegedly far-sighted businessmen was predicting an anti-rich “Kristallnacht” on American soil.

I am genuinely perplexed by this, and have settled on a few possible theories:

1. Print is truly dead. People may still be getting the Journal but no one is actually reading it, except maybe to check out the shelter porn pieces in the real estate pages.

2. The Big Sort is complete – we are now all officially ensconced in our ideologically and culturally atomized bubbles. All readers of the Journal are either too conservative to think that what Perkins wrote was objectionable or too old or technologically unhip to link to the letter on Twitter. That is, except for one freakish Journal reader in Baltimore.

3. America was just sleeping in really late on Saturday.

I hope it’s number three. I suspect it’s some combination of one and two, and that’s depressing. I'm genuinely curious what people think about this. If a plutocrat predicts an American Kristallnacht in a major newspaper and no one notices, did it even happen?

Image via shutterstock.