I never expected to come to the defense of the New York Times, but here I am ready and willing to defend what I have hitherto called the Bad Times as opposed to the Good Times, that being the Washington Times.
The New York Times has always been biased, but with the rise of Donald Trump it has become unbearably biased. Even the obituaries are biased. Does a truly distinguished American ever die in the great republic nowadays? It seems to me that the Times’ obituaries are obsessed with the deaths of obscure artists, dress designers, paladins of identity politics and people you will only meet in Georgetown or the Upper East Side, with a few criminals thrown in for excitement. Charles Manson was the latest.
The editors heave small armies of reporters at every significant news story when one or two good reporters would suffice. The newspaper seems to have retired all of its English-speaking editors for the sake of economizing. Thus the intelligent reader can get through the first half of almost every important story and discover that he has quite lost track of what the story is about. Was this story about Russian collusion or Ivanka Trump’s new clothesline, or global warming? I suspect the cause of this problem is editing or rather no editing. The small army of reporters at work on a story send in their individual contributions and the sorely pressed editor cobbles together the resultant gobs of verbiage, which simply do not cohere. In sum, the story is incoherent.
So, when am I going to begin my defense of the Times, as opposed to adding to my longstanding criticism? I am coming to that. Be patient!
The other day the paper ran an in-depth story about a pinhead and his lovely wife who reside in an Ohio backwater and who, owing to the Charlottesville demonstrations, became supporters of this nation’s neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and something called the alt-right. So far as I could discern from the story there are “a few hundred” neo-Nazis strewn about the country and maybe a few thousand of the other galoots. Their presence in our country is no more alarming than the people afflicted with head lice or, perhaps, chiggers. In fact, the Ohio couple themselves probably have head lice.
Yet this story alarmed some in the Times’ audience — obviously the kind of readers who demands trigger warnings to protect them from hurtful statements or even more shocking reports. For instance, reports of war in Afghanistan or a fire in a London high-rise or still more disturbing events. Yet a newspaper is going to be reporting on disturbing events. That is, in part, why people buy newspapers. They want to know what is going on in the world. The Times was absolutely correct in reporting on this pinhead. I read of his development with interest. According to the story, his wife had been a Roman Catholic, but had fallen away from the church’s teachings because she found them “just really boring.” As for the young storm trooper’s evolution, he moved “from vaguely leftist rock music to ardent libertarianism, to fascist activism,” in the words of the Times.
It is at this point that my impatience with the Times reawakened. The newspaper insisted that the lout’s “frustrations” were of the kind that “would not seem exotic to most American conservatives.” And it mentioned his reading the deceased libertarian economist Murray Rothbard. Also the Times reported that the Ohio rube allegedly had read Charles Murray and Pat Buchanan. Finally, there was something about a Conservative Political Action Conference he once attended. All are examples of what in Joe McCarthy’s days were called guilt by association.
Interestingly the Times also produced a picture of the young storm trooper’s puny library, amounting to just one shelf. It included, the Times tells us, “books about Mussolini and Hitler.” What I noticed, and apparently no Times editor or reporter or janitor noticed, was that the most prominent book on the supposedly incriminating shelf was — if I am not mistaken — the swastika draped edition of The Rise and Fall of The Third Reich by William L. Shirer. Shirer was a prominent liberal from the post-World Was II era. That sort of throws a monkey wrench into the newspaper’s project, whatever it was.
Which brings us back to my defense of the Times. After running this biased yet informative piece the newspaper was moved to subsequently run an “apology” for offending “so many” readers. There was no reason to apologize. The Times did this in a “Reader Center” that is a “newsroom initiative that is helping the Times build deeper ties with our audience.” Actually the duty of a newspaper is to inform. Building “ties with our audience”? Fellows and fellowesses, you are producing a newspaper not a therapy session. And if you are building a therapy session, obviously you lost me.