Skip to main content

The New York Times Is Doing Us No Favors

I am a life-long customer of The New York Times, and generally a satisfied one.

For sheer news-gathering firepower, they continue to stand out in a tarnished but still important field. They’ve covered — or uncovered — virtually every major story of the last century and a half. Their investigative prowess is unquestioned.

Plus, they have Paul Krugman on their op-ed page, an invaluable source of level-headed insights on a wide range of subjects. He combines a Nobel-level knowledge of economics with an astute political eye that is almost always dead on. He alone is worth the paywall, at least to me.

But with all that said, the Times has lately been pissing me off. They’ve become unreasonably invested in what Krugman himself has decried as “false equivalency” — better known as “both-siderism.” They continue to pretend that our two major parties are equally engaged in reasonable discourse, and are equally responsible for the fractious and violent state of the nation.

The Times scrupulously maintains this bizarre fiction even as it becomes clear to anyone paying attention that things are already far darker, and that one of those parties has gone dangerously rogue.

Shouldn’t they be explaining the threat to us? Or at least calling it a threat? Shouldn’t they be helping us understand both the dimensions and consequences of an armed insurrection being organized in plain sight? I understand the need for objectivity, but what’s the other side of armed insurrection?

Even as alarms blast in our ears, the Times insists on bringing us a rich variety of false equivalencies, seamlessly blended into “Democrats in disarray” stories. Part of the frustration in seeing these narratives, especially in the Times, is that they tend to be subtle — they imply more than they state outright — and pointing them out can seem almost petty.

So call me petty, but last week there was one article that fried my circuits. It was a discussion of the Jan 6 committee, and the tactics being used to build its case. These tactics, the authors note, are prosecutorial in nature, and are generally used for the takedown of organized crime figures.

Is this a bad thing? Are these tactics questionable? Are they undignified behavior for a Congressional committee? The authors don’t say.

What they do say, with a whiff of disapproval, is that “The committee has interviewed more than 475 witnesses and issued more than 100 subpoenas.” This comes in the fourth paragraph, with the implication that these numbers are somehow significant. But significant compared to what? Hold that thought.

Articles like this invariably gravitate toward the folly of Democrats, and sure enough, a Democratic operative duly warns us that Democrats may come to regret these tactics: “They think they’re fighting for the survival of the democracy and the ends justify the means. Just wait if the Republicans take over.”

This quote is as obvious as it is disingenuous, since Republicans will behave atrociously no matter what the committee does or doesn’t do, or whether they do or do not “take over.” Republican anti-democratic subversion is now a given in our lives, and everyone knows it. But the article never goes near it.

Still, with all that said, the real razor in the apple doesn't arrive until paragraph sixteen — a transition so awkward, a digression so clunky, I’m guessing it was inserted by an editor working under some both-siderist mandate from above.

It begins with the words “By comparison,” but the comparison is not evident. Indeed, one has to go all the way back to paragraph four — to the thought we’ve been holding about the 475 witnesses and 100 subpoenas — to discover that the Jan 6 committee is about to be compared, believe it or not, to the Benghazi hearings:

By comparison, the House select committee that spent two and a half years investigating the 2012 Benghazi attack issued just a dozen or so subpoenas — a small fraction of the number issued by the Jan. 6 committee so far — and made no criminal referrals. 

Wow. So on one side, we have the Jan 6 committee, patiently investigating overwhelming evidence of a violent conspiracy, organized and perpetrated by armed quasi-military groups, aided and abetted by members of Congress, planned and executed at the highest levels of the executive branch, and specifically implicating the former president of the United States. 

But OMG, look at all those witnesses! All those subpoenas!

On the other side, we have the notorious Benghazi hearings, which the Times knows full well were a partisan farce from day one. Set up as a Republican tribunal, the special committee worked tirelessly to dig up what they knew they would find all along — nothing. Not a shred of evidence of wrongdoing, anywhere in the U.S. government. Not a single witness to malfeasance of any kind. No basis for assuming the attack on the U.S. embassy was anything but what it was: a vile act carried out by a terrorist cell, exactly as the Times reported the day it happened. 

Still, the committee did take two and a half years — and tens of millions of taxpayer dollars — to perform this feat. And they did it with “just a dozen or so subpoenas.” How efficient!

The article neglects to mention that there was virtually nobody to subpoena. You can’t have witnesses to something that didn’t happen. Nor can you make criminal referrals when there’s no crime to refer to.

The Times knows all this. They covered the Benghazi committee from gavel to gavel. They know exactly how bogus the hearings were. There was no earthly reason to bring them up here. Yet beyond the absurd apples-and-orangutans comparison, the article slyly implies, outrageously so, that the Benghazi committee might have taken some sort of smarter approach. Or in other words, Democrats are screwing up again.

The Times is not alone in this. Most of the mainstream media is just as bad or worse. The Washington Post can’t write an article about inflation or gas prices without putting either Biden or Democrats in the headline, implicitly blaming them. Conflict and controversy are what they all sell, at the expense of important information and perspective that might just come in handy when one’s democracy is under assault.

I single out the Times because it should be leading the way. It has the resources and, I submit, the responsibility to tell us what we need to know as citizens, and spare us the inane false equivalencies. If there’s danger, we need them to warn us. Who else should we trust? Facebook?

Reliable information is harder and harder to come by. Those with a reputation for providing it need to live up to that reputation. Soon.

 

Comments

  1. My dear Lefty, I am about as bipartisan as you can get. I have continued to hold out hope that more like Liz Cheney will emerge - Republicans who decide they want their party back. Yet, the coalition does not seem to be manifesting at the moment. Maybe if legit news organizations like the NYT were a little more hard-hitting about the Republican party take-down that is happening right now, more Republicans would step up and, at the very least, decide that maybe power for its own sake is not a good strategy. It certainly won't serve the citizens of this country -- and, WOW, do we need servicing right now!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Elise Stefanik Wants to be Your President

It isn’t often that The New York Times and The Washington Post do lengthy features on the same politician in the same week. So when Elise Stefanik was given several thousand words in two major papers, my curiosity was duly piqued. The two pieces ( here and here ) are similar profiles of Stefanik, age 38, and her remarkable transformation from Harvard-educated “moderate” Republican, to ultra-MAGA ideologue. The subhead of the Times article states the theme of both: To rise through the Trump-era G.O.P., a young congresswoman gave up her friends, her mentors and her ideals. So how does a double feature like this happen, especially when there’s no immediate news driving it? Stefanik was not in the spotlight, though it was clear she would soon be taking a leading role in the new GOP House majority. So it could just be the coincidence of two reporters intuitively seizing on the same story. It happens. But it could also be that Stefanik herself, working with a clever publicist, set o

The Trump-Putin Bromance is Getting Another Look

The arrest last week of Charles McGonigal, former head of counterintelligence for the FBI, may or may not prove to be a watershed moment in our understanding of the Trump-Putin conspiracy. It’s still early, and the depths of the story have yet to be plumbed. So I’m not going to weigh in on that (you can read about it here ), except to note that people who’ve been watching the Trump-Russia show for over a decade are now going back to their notes and timelines, looking at old events in light of new information. And the more we all look, the more the miasma of Russian subterfuge stinks up every narrative. If a murderous oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, could actually recruit the FBI agent who’d investigated him — which the McGonigal affair will apparently show — who knows what else was going on? There is, I think, the need for some sort of “unified field theory” of the Trump-Putin relationship. There is much that we’re missing on at least three separate tracks of that bizarre bromance: Tru

Another Rousing Comeback for Antisemitism

I was in my late twenties in the late seventies, a single man sitting in a piano bar on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It was St. Patrick’s Day, and I was in friendly conversation with an older Irish couple, there to celebrate their history. He wore a green tie, she a green blouse. Alcohol was involved. The conversation was free flowing, as random encounters with amiable strangers can be. When the talk turned to history, which can happen on St. Patrick’s Day, I put forth the notion — stolen, I think, from a Leon Uris novel I’d recently read — that the Irish and the Jews had much in common, that their shared history of oppression bonded them, that their experience of suffering and privation was deeply imbued in both their cultures. Not an especially profound insight, but the husband — to the surprise not just of me, but of his wife as well — was having none of it. In his sloshed but strident state, he insisted that the suffering of Jews couldn’t possibly be compared to what the I