One of the main benefits of democracies is that more voices are heard and more ideas are discussed, so they make fewer mistakes. When decisions need to be made, democracies can seem painfully slow, but as long as participants act in the national interest, democracies generally fare better than systems where decision-making is concentrated in a few hands. It is therefore troubling, especially at a time when we stand on the knife edge of a war on a scale the world has not seen in generations, that the New York Times is showing signs of further failure as a journalistic institution.
Do not mistake yourself. There are some great ones journalists at the Times. But bad editors can turn good journalism into misleading mush. Dan Froomkin (Ex WaPo) did an article analyzing the failures of an article by Blake Hounshell and Leah Askarinam on Biden’s response to Ukraine. The stakes are so misplaced that it inspired an anonymous satire titled “Nazis Sharpen Message After Stock Market Crash,” which Froomkin reprints. It is worth reading.
Especially given the NYT story that failed to report Joseph Stalin’s murder of approximately 10% of Ukraine’s population due to an artificially created famine, Hounshell and Askarinam’s article on modern Ukraine is shocking. In describing Walter Duranty’s failure to account for the Ukrainian famine of the 1930s, Anne Applebaum wrote:
British by birth, Duranty had no connection with the ideological left, adopting instead the position of a stubborn and skeptical “realist”, trying to listen to both sides of the story. “It may be objected that the vivisection of living animals is a sad and dreadful thing, and it is true that the fate of the kulaks and others who opposed the Soviet experiment is not happy,” he wrote in 1935 – the kulaks being the so-called wealthy peasants whom Stalin accused of causing the famine. But “in both cases, the suffering inflicted is done for a noble purpose.”
This position made Duranty extremely useful to the regime, which went out of its way to ensure that Duranty lived well in Moscow. He had a large apartment, kept a car and a mistress, had the best access of all correspondents, and twice received coveted interviews with Stalin. [emphasis added]
Froomkin describes the article on the current conflict in Ukraine thus:
The premise of the story was that after a “free-for-all” response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Republicans coalesce around a new narrative: that the invasion was bad, but the real bad guy is Joe Biden.
Then came this amazing paragraph:
“Although some aspects of Republican criticism crumble on closer scrutiny, the newly coordinated message unifies the right after the heated intramural debate over Putin. And with inflation soaring, linking Biden’s handling of the war in Ukraine to his domestic woes could prove to be a powerful argument with voters come fall.
The idea of ”further inspection” is dismissed as irrelevant, and the writers never come back to explain which parts of the message are, in fact, baseless and gratuitous. »
They casually adopt the Republican framing of Biden’s “domestic woes” – just a day after a jobs report that indicated a roaring recovery was underway.
The United States under Joe Biden has done an extraordinary job of preventing the Ukraine conflict from escalating into a larger war while providing unprecedented support for Ukraine. He made it impossible for Putin to concoct a plausible excuse to use nuclear weapons.
Putin may still use nuclear weapons, but if he does, the world will clearly understand that it is because he is a mentally unstable dictator. Most important, the Russian military is much less likely to follow orders to bring Armageddon. It was the realization that Vladimir Putin is lying and violating all the laws of war that brought all but five nations together to condemn or, at least, refuse to support Putin’s invasion.
By contrast, the Republican Party has systematically blocked aid to Ukraine, attempted to discredit the legitimacy of its government, attacked Joe Biden over specious allegations that he is somehow involved in corruption in Ukraine, and even has at least one member (not to mention Donald Trump) openly applauding Putin and Russia.
We are at a time when America must make good decisions. The fate of the world may depend on it. We must truly be united, not just for a state of the union moment, but in word and deed. It means putting aside the political horse race and the calculations of who stands to benefit. If we Democrats have to lose an election, but do so while preventing a nuclear war and preserving Ukrainian sovereignty, it will be unfair…but it will be a price to pay.
But letting the New York Times continue to play its little games isn’t just unfair. This is reminiscent of Walter Duranty’s failure to point out Stalin’s starvation. It is unforgivable, unethical and disloyal to this nation.