Table of Contents:
Bret Stephens: What The Times Got Wrong: Bret Stephens, NYTimes, June 12, 2020
WSJ, June 10, 2020In 1789, America’s Founding Fathers, acutely aware of the political bloodbaths that had consumed Europe for centuries, created a system in which disagreements would be arbitrated by periodically allowing the public to turn their opinions into votes. The majority would win the election. Then, because political disagreement never ends, you hold more elections. Aware of the natural tendency of factions and majorities to want to suppress opposition opinion, the Founders created a Bill of Rights for all citizens, including what they called, with unmistakable clarity, “the freedom of speech.”Nothing lasts forever, and so it is today in the U.S., where the pre-liberal idea of settling disagreements with coercion has made a comeback.In the past week, the editorial page editor of the New York Times, the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the editors of Bon Appétit magazine and the young women’s website Refinery 29 have been forced out by the staff and owners of their publications for offenses regarded as at odds with the beliefs of the current protests.It is impossible not to recognize the irony of these events. The silencers aren’t campus protesters but professional journalists, a class of American workers who for nearly 250 years have had a constitutionally protected and court-enforced ability to say just about anything they want. Historically, people have been attracted to American journalism because it was the freest imaginable place to work for determined, often quirky individualists. Suddenly, it looks like the opposite of that.
The idea that you could actually lose your job, as the Inquirer’s editor did, because of a headline on an opinion piece that said “Buildings Matter, Too” is something to ponder. It sounds like a made-up incident that one might expect in a work of political satire, such as George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.”
The issue here is not about the assertion that racism is endemic in the U.S. The issue is the willingness by many to displace the American system of free argument with a system of enforced, coerced opinion and censorship, which forces comparison to the opinion-control mechanisms that existed in Eastern Europe during the Cold War.
In 2006, the movie “The Lives of Others” dramatized how the Stasi, the omnipresent East German surveillance apparatus, pursued a nonconforming writer, whose friends were intimidated into abandoning him. To survive this kind of enforced thought-concurrence in the Soviet Union or Communist Eastern Europe, writers resorted to circulating their uncensored ideas as underground literature called samizdat. Others conveyed their ideas as political satire. In Vaclav Havel’s 1965 play, “The Memorandum,” a Czech office worker is demoted to “staff watcher,” whose job is to monitor his colleagues. You won’t see Havel’s anticensorship plays staged in the U.S. anytime soon. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Last week’s decision by this newspaper to disavow an Op-Ed by Senator Tom Cotton is a gift to the enemies of a free press — free in the sense of one that doesn’t quiver and cave in the face of an outrage mob. It is 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. And, as the paper dismisses distinguished journalists along with controversial opinions, it’s an invitation to intellectual cowardice.
Start with the Op-Ed itself, in which Senator Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, called on the federal government to deploy active-duty troops to American cities in the wake of looting and rioting that accompanied overwhelmingly peaceful protests.
I don’t agree with Cotton’s view. I know of nobody at The Times who agrees with it. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page doesn’t agree with it. Ditto for much of the mainstream media, at least its more liberal precincts.
Then again, isn’t this the biggest problem these outlets have faced in recent years — being of a single mind on subjects that sharply divide the nation? Isn’t that how we got into trouble in 2016, with our rock-solid belief that Donald Trump couldn’t possibly win?
In the week of the Op-Ed’s publication, an ABC News/Ipsos poll found that 52 percent of Americans favored deploying troops to help quell violent unrest in American cities. That’s not a political fringe unworthy of consideration. And Tom Cotton isn’t some nobody you’ll never hear from again. He has the pulse of his party, the ear of the president and an eye on higher office. Readers deserve an unvarnished look at who this man is and what he stands for.
Many critics of the piece’s publication think otherwise. The paper’s editors’ note said the senator’s Op-Ed didn’t meet The Times’s editorial standards. To which one might ask: Would the paper have stood by the article if Cotton had made a better case for sending in troops, with stronger legal arguments and a nicer tone? Or were the piece’s supposed flaws a pretext for achieving the politically desired result by a paper that lost its nerve in the face of a staff revolt?
A second criticism is that the paper could have examined Cotton’s views without giving him an unmediated platform; that his proposal should have been evaluated by the news department, not published uncritically in the Opinion pages; and that his arguments went beyond the moral pale.
But the value of Cotton’s Op-Ed doesn’t lie in its goodness or rightness. It lies in the fact 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 — say, his Twitter feed — is to betray our responsibility as a newspaper of record. And to claim that his argument is too repugnant for publication is to write off half of America — a remarkable about-face for a paper that, after 2016, fretted that it was out of touch with the country we live in. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
NBC News reported today that two sites, ZeroHedge and the Federalist, had been banned from generating revenue through widely used Google Ads. A Google spokesperson initially told NBC News that it “took action after determining the websites violated its policies on content related to race.”
I don’t know much about ZeroHedge, but the contention that the Federalist(where I worked as a senior editor from 2013 to 2019) is “far-right,” as reporter Adele-Momoko Fraser claims twice in her piece, is utter nonsense. The Federalist publishes a wide variety of opinions. Some pieces are more provocative than others. Some are very provocative. So what? NBC News is trying to make the site sound like the Daily Stormer, when in fact it has contributions from well-known mainstream libertarians, social conservatives, and moderate Republicans. All of the content falls well within normal parameters of contemporary political discourse — which is exactly what outlets such as NBC News are trying to shut down.
Once upon a time, news outlets fought to protect the ideals of free expression. Now, they assign activists masquerading as journalists, and boost Orwellian-sounding outfits (what is the “NBC News Verification Unit”?), to try to smear and censor those who criticize them.
Neither NBC News nor Google offered a single example backing up their contention that the Federalist has peddled racist sentiments about Black Lives Matter. As far as I can ascertain, their problem is with one piece:
The Federalist published an article claiming the media had been lying about looting and violence during the protests, which were both included in the report sent to Google. There is plenty of justification for the offending argument. Major networks have consistently downplayed the rioting and looting that have taken place over the past few weeks because such activity undermines the notion that Black Lives Matter is wholly peaceful. You may disagree with the characterization, but it’s certainly not bigoted. Black Lives Matter shouldn’t be shielded from criticism. No one should be.
Here, it would appear, is the piece in question, written by John Daniel Davidson. Not one word of it is racist. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
The most effective kind of propaganda is by omission. Walter Duranty didn’t cook up accounts from smiling Ukrainian farmers, he simply said there was no evidence for a famine, much like the media tells us today that there is no evidence Antifa has a role in the current protest-adjacent violence. It is much harder to do this today than it was back then—there are photographs and video that show they have been—which is the proximate cause for greater media concern about conspiracy theories and disinformation.
For all the hyperventilating over the admittedly creepy 2008 article about “cognitive infiltration,” by Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule, it was a serious attempt to deal with the problem of an informational center being lost in American public life, at a time when the problem was not nearly as bad as it is today. It proposed a number of strategies to reduce the credibility of conspiracy theorists, including seeding them with false information. Whether such strategies have been employed, perhaps with QAnon, which has a remarkable ability to absorb all other conspiracy theories that came before it, is up to the reader’s speculation.
Books will one day be written about the many failures of the media during the Trump presidency, but much of the Russiagate narrative-shaping was related to the broader problem of decentralization and declining authority of establishment media. One of the more egregious examples is the Washington Post’s report that relied upon a blacklist created by an anonymous group, PropOrNot authority of establishment media. One of the more egregious examples is the, that found more than 200 sites carried water for the Russians in some way, and not all on the right either. In fact, if the Bush administration had commissioned a list of news sources that were carrying water for Saddam Hussein in 2006, it would have looked almost the same as the PropOrNot list, except here it was, recast as an effort to defend democratic integrity. On the list was Naked Capitalism, Antiwar.com, and Truthdig.
This should have been a bigger scandal, very good evidence that the war on disinformation was not that but a campaign against officially unapproved information. But virtually nobody except Glenn Greenwald objected. There is some evidence that this style of blacklisting went even further, into the architecture of search engines. My reporting on Google search last year found that one of the “fringe domain” blacklists included Robert Parry’s Consortium News. In other words, if Google had been around in the 1980s, Parry’s exposes on Iran-Contra would have been excluded from Google News results.
The criteria for inclusion on any of these lists are much more amorphous than a more traditional one: taking money from a foreign power. As of this week, we now have a figure for how much the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal have taken from China Daily, a state-run newspaper, since 2016. Its $4.6 million, and $6 million, respectively. This is more than an order of magnitude greater than the amount Russia is thought to have spent on Facebook advertising prior to the 2016 election. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
FOR FURTHER REFERENCE:
The José Faur Tora Studies Center –– Professor of Talmud, rabbi, and dayyan, the hakham José Faur has worked hard to educate Jews and non-Jews alike about rabbinic Judaism and the Talmudic tradition. Promoting Judaism as the essence of religious humanism, Faur has initiated a vast project of “re-articulating” Judaism in terms that are directly accessible to contemporary minds.
Roger Cohen: The Outcry Over ‘Both Sides’ Journalism: Roger Cohen, NYTimes, June 12, 2020 — I have never believed much in the notion of journalistic “objectivity.” We all bring our individual sensibilities to bear on what we write. Great journalism involves the head and the heart, the lucidity to think and the passion to feel, the two in balance.
Federalist Co-Founder Sean Davis: “Unholy Union Of Corrupt Media And Monopolistic Tech Oligarchs” Are Threat To Free Speech: Tucker Carlson, RealClearPolitics, June 17, 2020 — The Federalist co-founder Sean Davis told FNC’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight” Tuesday that his site had been a victim of “the unholy union of corrupt media and monopolistic tech oligarchs” after NBC News attempted to push Google to demonetize them over coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Censorship Spiral: Judith Miller, City Journal, June 17, 2020 — In a flash, Gone with the Wind, the 1939 American film classic, was gone. So, too, was Cops, the pro-cop reality show about to start its 33rd season until Paramount Network banished it. Days later, A&E pulled from its schedule Live P.D., which follows cops on the job.
This week’s French-language briefing is titled Communiqué: Pourquoi les Juifs qui ont massivement soutenu le mouvement pour les droits civils, sont-ils perplexes face à Black Lives Matter?