A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.
While the media is stumbling all over itself to bring us the latest news about protests in the name of racial justice – and related issues of rioting, looting, and defacing private property and historic landmarks – everchanging theories about how the coronavirus’ levels of danger and contagiousness, and whether Joe Biden’s double-digit over Donald Trump in national polls really means that we’ll have a new president in January, dare I say: there’s something more important than all three issues, and I’m going to keep writing about it. I refer to the eroding standards of journalism and, quite sadly, I use as a prime example the New York Times, which for years was the newspaper on which I modeled the journalism courses I taught.
The protests are going to end. Hopefully, with some sensible results – like reasonable policing reforms – and not some loony notions of dismantling law enforcement. But they will end. What you see on your television screens today is not what you’ll see in, say, mid-August. The coronavirus too, God willing, will go away, either with a bang – like an effective vaccine or a surefire remedy – or with a whimper, slowly fading away, becoming just another flu. And even Joe Biden and Donald Trump will go away. Much to the shock of the extremists on both sides, neither man is going to “destroy America.” Folks can debate on whether the United States is better off in the Trump era than it was during the Obama-Biden years, but no rational thinker would describe either situation as a state of “destruction.” So, yes, the erosion of our Fourth Estate – an independent and competent American press – is a problem even bigger than all of those.
It is a problem about which I’ve written for years, and is the theme of my latest book, Trumped-Up Charges!. As I’ve explained in this column before, it is not a “vote for Trump” book; rather, it provides 10 examples of journalistic malpractice, albeit all of them connected to Trump.
The specific example I present today is an op-ed piece by Tom Cotton, a U.S. Senator from Arkansas, published in the Times on June 3. Sen. Cotton’s essay condemns much of the violent aftermath of George Floyd’s death at the hands of four police officers. He writes: “Bands of looters roved the streets, smashing and emptying hundreds of businesses…the riots were carnivals for the thrill-seeking rich as well as other criminal elements. Outnumbered police officers, encumbered by feckless politicians, bore the brunt of the violence. In New York State, rioters ran over officers with cars on at least three occasions. In Las Vegas, an officer is in ‘grave’ condition after being shot in the head by a rioter. In St. Louis, four police officers were shot as they attempted to disperse a mob throwing bricks and dumping gasoline; in a separate incident, a 77-year-old retired police captain was shot to death as he tried to stop looters from ransacking a pawnshop.
“Some elites have excused this orgy of violence in the spirit of radical chic, calling it an understandable response to the wrongful death of George Floyd. Those excuses are built on a revolting moral equivalence of rioters and looters to peaceful, law-abiding protesters. A majority who seek to protest peacefully shouldn’t be confused with bands of miscreants…”
Cotton calls for using the military to quell such rampant lawlessness, describing it as a consistent practice throughout American history, citing U.S. presidents such as Eisenhower, Kennedy, (Lyndon) Johnson, and most recently George H.W. Bush, as examples. He cites polls reflecting that majority of Americans support the use of military force to subdue this type of danger, including half of Democrats and half of African-Americans. He concludes: “the American people aren’t blind to injustices in our society, but they know that the most basic responsibility of government is to maintain public order and safety. In normal times, local law enforcement can uphold public order. But in rare moments, like ours today, more is needed, even if many politicians prefer to wring their hands while the country burns.”
A number of Times staff writers angrily revolted, demanding that the piece be removed. Responding to their demands, publisher A.J. Sulzberger spinelessly acquiesced, embarrassing himself, his newspaper, and the canons of journalism by opining that the piece “never should have been published.”
The feckless excuses offered were that the piece wasn’t vetted thoroughly. What makes that an utter joke is that for decades, the Times has employed sleight-of-hand deception to mischaracterize a number of issues. Take President Reagan’s “tax cuts for the rich,” for example. That phrase was repeatedly tossed around throughout the Times’ op-ed pages in the 1980s. A reader unfamiliar with the details of Reagan’s tax policies might have concluded that Reagan specifically supported tax cuts only for wealthy individuals. In reality, Reagan’s tax cuts were across the board, and the Times argued that the rich benefitted overwhelmingly, which is a matter of opinion and perspective. Yet they way they phrased it, one might conclude: “I guess I’m not rich, so I’m not getting any tax cut at all.”
To his credit, Times op-ed columnist Bret Stephens in a June 12 essay described the censorship as “a violation of the principles that are supposed to sustain the profession, particularly our obligation to give readers a picture of the world as it really is.” Stephens explains that he personally disagrees with Cotton’s point of view, which renders his stance all the more impressive. He added that “Cotton is a leading spokesman for a major current of public opinion. To suggest our readers should not have the chance to examine his opinions for themselves is to patronize them. To say they should look up his opinions elsewhere…is to betray our responsibility as a newspaper of record.”
This excerpt fantastically summarizes his thesis: “as the paper dismisses distinguished journalists along with controversial opinions, it’s an invitation to intellectual cowardice.”
Seems to me that the wrong guy is the publisher over there.
A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.
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