As one contemplates the sheer madness of our modern day human condition, it is quite appropriate to temper the tragedy with comedy, and humor does ease the foreboding nature of the ultimate tragedy which looms large just ahead. The central question that Roberts poses with subdued incredulity is one which many readers have commented upon over the years. "Who believes this ridiculous nonsense and why?"
As this is an important question, and one which has garnered much contemplation in recent years, I will attempt to answer it, conditionally, and in deference to, the level of consciousness which consumers of mass media are currently attempting to manage.
It is Roacheforque's conclusion that a sense of strong "belief" is no longer required by the indoctrinated, in order to rationalize their actions. They have been conditioned to accept "obedience" as a higher order of authority than their own cognitive rationale. Of course you will never read this elsewhere, as anyone credentialed enough to lend credibility to the finding is as compromised as any of the obedient. As we attempt to dissect the nature of the liberal left "follower", we find that nearly all sufferers of the condition either lie, cheat, steal or administer "educational" indoctrination, taxation, regulation, restriction or opportunity status upon the remaining. Their "money" depends upon this type of "easy work" where nothing of value is truly created, but rather value is extracted from those who cure, invent, solve, build, create and maintain our physical reality ... the fruits of "hard" (a.k.a. real, a.k.a. socially positive) work which is quantified and redistributed among these various obedient (easy work, busy work) "administrators".
As our debt-based paychecks are often higher for those who do the "easy" work than those who do the "hard", try not to see the obvious connection to the nature of the "money" used to denominate said debt payments. A fitting Labor Day tribute to fiat money indeed.
And now you know why NY (Wall St) California (Hollywood, Silicon Valley) Washington DC and every state capital (or cities with a dominant higher education presence) lean to the progressive left, while the Heartland (Industry) leans to the conservative right. The little people populate nations of increasingly blended out, nihilistic "obey the narrative" followers ... of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, morally neutral, homogenized, liberalized socio-political identity.
To be a leader in these times is to be subject to the many and growing forces of reversion-to-the-mean which the ruling classes manage quite actively. Does a lab rat "believe in" the actions it takes when it is shocked or given endorphins? Or does it merely respond to the reward system offered by its handlers?
As such, to answer the central question posed by PCR, "belief" is not relevant to the intended audience, nor obviously the messenger. Both parties fully realize that truth is an unimportant detail. What is important is the obedience which your survival depends upon. The NY Times writers are no different than the obedient readership. Their paycheck is conditional upon obedience, not independent thought seeking an objective truth.
Those of us who think or act otherwise do so at our own risk.