I can’t imagine that the New York Times editorial staff and news department ever talk to each other. They might not even read each other’s work. If they did, the Times might have to split into two publications or engage in a civil war as fiercely fought as the one between the rapidly-industrializing northern states and the traitorous slave-owning south 150 some odd years ago.
The Times editorial staff is reliably left-leaning, taking the Democrat’s side on environmental, immigration, healthcare, foreign policy, taxation, infrastructure, consumer protection, global warming and other key issues. It typically endorses Democratic candidates. The people writing the Times editorials tend to recognize and put a good deal of credence into legitimate research, which drives them further into the arms of left-leaners, since on virtually all issues, the facts speak loudly against rightwing positions.
The news department, however, displays a Republican bias that goes back at least to the 2010 midyear election, if not years earlier. In 2010, remember, the Times covered many Republican primaries but very few Democratic ones; printed exaggerated totals for the Tea Party March on Washington and underplayed the two left-leaning marches that drew about as many people each as the Tea Party did; and totally botched the job of explaining how those currently with health insurance would benefit from the Affordable Care Act.
The Times news staff usually doesn’t lie—that would be against journalistic ethics. Well maybe Judith Miller did stretch the truth in 2003 beyond recognition when she published as facts Bush II propaganda about Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction.
But, really, outside of wartime, the Times reporters don’t lie. They don’t have to. There are so many insidiously hidden ways to support Republicans and their untenable rightwing positions. Some examples:
- Give much more coverage to Republican candidates and primaries than to Democratic ones. It’s happened every election cycle since I started counting in 2010.
- View all issues through the prism of the right’s ideology, like focusing on deficits instead of job creation or the amelioration of suffering during the recent Great Recession. Until quite recently the Times accepted the GOP argument that tax cuts would create jobs; only when it became obvious to everyone that the purpose of the current cuts is to reward wealthy donors has the Times switch gears and focused news coverage on the great inequities that the Trump GOP plan would create or exacerbate.
- Doing positive and sympathetic features on people representing miniscule populations but with rightwing views, like the recent feature on mothers who believe their boys were incorrectly accused of sexual harassment on college campuses or the feature on people who believe that the Affordable Care Act hurt them.
- Focus heavily on rightwing protests, whiles ignoring leftwing protests or trying to normalize or perverting them through isolation. For example, the Times normalized the fact that so many women participated in protests after a serial harasser/molester was awarded a majority of the votes in the Electoral College in 2016 by focusing not on the issues, but on the large number of women mobilized. We can see perversion in the Times joining the rest of the mainstream news media in focusing on the very small number of weird, homeless and incendiary individuals participating in the Occupy occupations, trying to isolate the Occupy movement from the mainstream.
- Keeping in the news controversies that have been decided in favor of the left-center view years, and sometimes decades earlier, as the Times news department did with climate change and the vaccine controversy, and still does with the economic benefit of lowering taxes on the wealthy.
- Cherry-picking the research it publicizes to over-represent studies supporting positions on the right, which often entails misinterpretation of results or publication of bogus research. For example, the Times put a Koch-sponsored George Mason survey of the attitudes of weather personalities regarding global warming on the front page, while completely ignoring a Stanford University study that demonstrated that we could use wind power to supply all the world’s electrical needs with minimal impact on the environment. The Times report on a study of women’s lives a few years ago buried the fact that 62% of all American women now cohabitate without the benefit of marriage sometime in their lives and instead led and featured the meaningless trivia that women who cohabitate may be slightly more likely to get divorced if they later marry. One Times business writer recently explicated Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart’s elaborate theory that a nation’s economic growth stalls when it has too much debt but forgot to mention that Professors R & R made some basic math mistakes which, when corrected, produce numbers disproving their theory.
- Presenting an equal number of experts for both sides of an issue, e.g., quoting two scientists on each side of the global warming issue, when in fact, 95+% of all scientists concur that global warming is occurring and is caused primarily by human activity; or presenting the opinion of a woman who hasn’t vaccinated her children against that of an public health expert.
This weekend, the Times used one its favorite techniques: floating trial balloons for right wing nonsense. These article are always heavy on conjecture and light on facts. They quote unknown sources, accept speculation as the basis for further speculation and make hypothetical conclusions. These articles are often mystery-shrouded incantation of experts, elected officials and organizations considering, debating, analyzing, researching or developing, in other words, a chopped liver of supposition and conjecture.
Over the past few years, the Times has run front-page stories floating the following rightwing ideas: states filing for bankruptcy so they can renegotiate retiree pensions; spending billions updating and expanding our nuclear arsenal; cutting Social Security benefits as part of a plan to reduce the deficit; both Bush II and Obama proposals to increase troops in Iraq on a temporary basis. In some but not all of these examples, the Times is performing its function as “newspaper of record” by floating controversial Administration proposals so that, if met with opposition, the Administration can deny considering them. But in every case, the ideas about which the Times are decidedly rightwing.
This week’s trial balloon is not so much in favor of a rightwing idea and more in support of a discredited rightwing foreign policy apparatus, to wit, Donald Trump’s. The article claims that a team led by soon-to-be-indicted Jared Kushner is putting together a proposal to bring peace to Israel and then Palestinians, one that the Administration thinks has a high degree of success because, as one expert puts it, “the stars are in alignment.” The article details what may or may not be in the proposal, what concessions the Israelis, Palestinians and others may or may not be asked to make, while discussing reasons why all sides may or may not want to or be in a position to accept this as yet undefined “ultimate deal.”
Yes, the Times really uses—and in fact builds the article—the expression “Ultimate deal,” which sounds like standard Donald Trump puffery. It’s the largest, the oldest, the most expensive. The most luxurious, the most powerful, the most intelligent. The best. The ultimate deal.
Oh, and where are we in the process of forming and then getting all parties to accept this ultimate deal? “Mr. Trump’s team has collected “non-papers” exploring various issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and officials said they expected to address…”
In other words, a great big nothing burger.
The purpose of the article, thus is not to propose an obnoxious rightwing policy but to shore up an obnoxious rightwing regime. Even as the Times editorial excoriated Trump for trampling on the Constitution, the front page of the Times news section is puffing up a peace proposal before one even exists to make it look as if the Trump Administration is miraculously solving a problem that has plagued U.S. foreign policy for about 50 years.
Talk about a split personality. That’s Jekyll and Hyde.