Discover more from Dispatches from the No Fly Zone
All the News that’s Fit to Fake & Hide
Part One: The Slander, Calumny, & Lies of an Old Gray Lady
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‘Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.’ — Exodus 23.1 (KJ Vsn.)
‘Were there no publishers of slander and calumny, there would be no receivers; and were there none to receive them, there would be none to raise them; and were there no raisers, receivers, nor propagators of calumny, lies, etc., society would be in peace.’ — Adam Clarke, Commentary on Above.
Preamble: Since its establishment in 1851, the iconic New York Times (“The Times” or “Times”) has enjoyed one of the most enduring reputations of all the world’s leading newspapers. It is often said to have a reach and influence that far transcends its circulation and its notional readership. Of this few folks would be in doubt, including those who might be less than enamoured of the so named ‘Old Gray Lady’s’ eminence and unique charms.
What’s less certain though is whether such ‘notoriety’ is still deserved after all these years; as heretical as it might be for the ‘faithful’ to consider, perhaps ‘her’ best days are well behind her. Along with examining the extent to which that influence has played out over the decades across the media firmament—and from there how it has shaped the ‘political soundtrack’ of our lives in addition to informing our reflective view of history—we explore whether in fact such ‘heresy’ might hold some substance: That the Times may have finally succumbed to the inexorable vicissitudes of the product life cycle.
That being the case, if the ‘Old Girl’s’ recent unedifying edicts from the editorial bully pulpit regarding the First Amendment are anything to go by, she’s not going quietly into that good night. In this first instalment of an expansive two part series, Greg Maybury rushes in, foolishly perhaps, to occupy terrain wherein angels—along with other creatures of a less divine kind—might fear to tread.
— A Few Too Many Shades of Gray
Generally considered one of the world’s most iconic, revered, name-checked, syndicated, and widely read of newspapers, the New York Times (aka the Times) has long claimed bragging rights as “the newspaper of record”. The paper is seen by many as the bastion of old school journalistic standards such as truthfulness, accuracy, impartiality, fairness, and accountability, one which practices journalism as its meant to be practiced: That is, in the public interest with the ‘full disclosure of all known facts, possibilities and sources’. To use the current vernacular, we’re talking “gold standard” news reportage here. By some accounts (including a few outside the newspaper’s salubrious 8th Avenue digs), the ever scrupulous Times regularly accomplishes all this “without fear or favour”.
By anyone’s measure, this is no mean feat! It gets even better. Along with holding the heavyweight title of "world's greatest newspaper", with its “careful, deliberative approach to journalism…”, the Times is “catholic in its interests and worldly in its tastes”, all the while seamlessly positioning its brand as synonymous with ‘integrity’ and ‘credibility’.
‘Were the standards of the [New York] Times more broadly emulated’, the patrician, arch-conservative/right-wing National Review founder (and CIA chum) William F. Buckley Jr. was once moved to sombrely intone of the famously liberal, “left-leaning” broadsheet, ‘the nation would be far better informed and more broadly served.’
Certainly the Old Gray Lady (as ‘she’ is fondly esteemed by the faithful), has long been the flagship marque of the U.S. newsprint establishment, its pole position within the legacy media pantheon only rivalled perhaps by the Washington Post. For its former executive news editor Howell Raines—whose stint came to an abrupt, inglorious end in the wake of a much ballyhooed plagiarism and “fake news” scandal involving one of his young reporters Jayson Blair—it is “an irreplaceable American institution”, a “great engine for truth”, and “America’s indispensable newsletter”. Seemingly unable to rein in his laudatory rumination on the venerable masthead, Raines waxed even more lyrical: The Times was “the ethical keystone of American journalism” he said, [and] it “occupies a central place in our national civic life.”
In anyone’s lingo them’s all ‘fightin’ words’ to be sure!
Given the circumstances of his fall from grace, it’s instructive to note that the veteran newsman voiced such sentiments unattended by any hint of irony or evident humility. Or for that matter, much semblance of contrition derived from genuine self-reflection on his own faults, failings and shortcomings in, or even aside from, the manner of his departure.
It all appeared then as if Raines was attempting to recast himself via the prism of the Times’s past glories and its professed pretensions to journalistic beneficence and public-spiritedness. Perhaps through that portal he somehow sought to rehabilitate—even if only in his own mind—his tarnished street-cred by declaring himself still simpatico with its corporate mission, vision and purported values. Unless he was angling to get his old job back, it’s difficult to imagine what else he might’ve had in mind. Once a Times’ man, always a Times’ man then, on or off the payroll?
We’ll return to Raines’s musings throughout, who in a lengthy post-mortem of his tenure offered up for our purposes herein some useful angles on the newspaper’s place in the pantheon, its corporate culture and brand image, the strengths and weaknesses he perceived therein, and its overall reputation. But for now a few deep-dives into the Memory Hole are necessary to establish the mise en scène for our overarching ‘dramatic’ narrative. It promises to be an ‘all grist to the mill’ affair, with in this case, said “mill” being a very hungry beast.
Raines’s preceding panegyrics aside then, as not quite befitting the putative status of someone so described, the grande dame of newsprint’s ‘prim and proper’ persona is now somewhat shop-soiled. For her not-so-small cult following, this will be viewed as rank heresy; but for an increasing number of people this might represent at once a statement of the obvious as much as it’s an understatement.
At the outset it needs be said that such journalistic values, ethics, ideals and the like as defined—and which the Times views itself at once as embracing and by example, leading its lesser peers—are now far more hollowed than hallowed. Truth be told, to all intents these attributes have long since gone ‘MIA’ right across the establishment media; in this respect the NYT has hardly ‘cornered the market’. In saying “MIA” here though, perhaps ‘AWOL’ is a more apt analogue: the former suggests something unforeseen or untoward befell these attributes along the warlike path to a truth we can all rely on, whereas the latter intimates something premeditated, irresponsible, and maybe less forgivable.
Which is to say, the reality of her own shortcomings was present before September 11, 2001; for those amongst us with an eye to such things, in giving us consistent, high quality journalism—even by her own exalted standards and pretensions to higher truth aside—such flaws etc., have been especially evident since that date. And although replete with a rich history of tales of journalistic woe at odds with its brand image going back over one hundred and seventy years, for the most part it’ll be to this latter period we shall look to expose her soft underbelly.
If our appointed task is chipping away at the pedestal of this premier media icon, there’s no better place to begin than by recalling one of its more recent detours from the righteous path it sees itself on. This one recollection alone opens up a wide vista within which we might examine the “newspaper of record’s” record vis a vis its professed and presumed bona fides. We’re talking here the hatchet job meted out by the NYT to Robert F Kennedy Jr.’s book The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health and to the author himself. This regrettable episode was highlighted no less by Skyhorse Publishing CEO and President Tony Lyons, the publisher of Kennedy’s book, the man proving ever so keen to draw our attention to any number of the NYT’s assorted shortcomings.
Before we get though to the specifics of Lyons’s complaint, we should consider what else got the man’s dander up. In doing so, we can derive a number of initial conclusions about “America’s indispensable newsletter” that should also serve our broader narrative and its key themes. This was the statement herein issued by those self-anointed guardians of truth and journalistic rigour, in this case represented by the Times’ editorial board. In much the same spirit one imagines the Pharisees and scribes of Biblical fame might have invoked at their most righteous, this hand-wringing edict on all things “free speech” was at once a breathless and breathtaking display of unbridled hypocrisy, sanctimony, hubris, chutzpah, and pearl-clutching umbrage in more or less equal measure.
Served directly from a somewhat rickety ‘bully pulpit’ and doubtless backed up by a few “amens” from the newsroom ‘choir’, for the apostates amongst us, it came with what can best be defined as a side-order of self-delusion and unabashed self-mythologising. Not unlike then that which appeared evident in Raines’s memoir cited earlier. For the faithful one suspects, both inside and outside this citadel of truth and certitude, they hung off every word, as if each utterance might’ve been worthy of similarly exalted status as ‘Honest Abe’s’ Gettysburg Address. In this respect the Times may or may not be entitled from time to time to savour the high of its own supply. But either way, whilst hardly out of character, this mix of selective umbrage, hubris and self-absorption was still something to behold. Here’s a taster:
‘For all the tolerance and enlightenment that modern society claims’, the Times’s chief priests remonstrated to no-one in particular and everyone in general, ‘Americans are losing hold of a fundamental right as citizens of a free country: the right to speak their minds and voice their opinions in public without fear of being shamed or shunned.’
In pondering this, the first response might go like this: Pity then about Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange rotting away all “shamed and shunned” in solitary confinement in one of Her Majesty’s ‘max-sec’ slammers when the world’s most influential newspaper—having dined out in no small measure from the revelations he made public—has since refused to lift an ink-stained finger in support of his release and unconditional freedom in all the time he’s been illegally incarcerated. In what would’ve amounted to an ‘action speaks louder than editorials’ fashion statement, going in to bat for Assange presented the ideal opportunity for this champion of free speech and press freedom, staunch upholder of true liberal values, and exemplary custodian of the U.S. Constitution’s First ‘Commandment’ to unreservedly demonstrate therein those bona fides. You know, like put their money where their mouth is!
But no, there’s not been so much as a whimper of protest about Assange’s fate. (As we will discover later, they went one step further, though not in the direction we might have expected.)
— The Times they Ain’t a-Changing (Anytime Soon)
Truth be told (a phrase chiming with discordant resonance here), his capital crime insofar as the establishment media is concerned is that the Wikileaker revealed just how much of a toothless tiger the Fourth Estate was and has always been. That is the more generous interpretation. The less generous one might read like this: he showed them up for the sycophantic, mendacious, complicit toadies they truly are. “They” in this case being the rabid Praetorian guard-dogs of the grab-it-all globalistas and the over-privileged, over-protected political power elites and useless idiots doing their bidding.
Such was the seismic impact and import of the Wikileaks revelations insofar as the establishment media was concerned, the leading marques were left with really only two options: acknowledge their duplicity, treachery, and their abject betrayal of the public trust and thereafter embrace their true remit as per at least some if not all of the journalistic standards thus far mentioned, or stick to the script, deny everything, and then double down on their preexisting double standards.
For the Times this was all a ‘no-brainer’ apparently. To the surprise of few, sadly they chose the latter, which in the case of Assange personally meant the best form of defence was to attack and vilify the messenger. In daring to expose the dirty secrets, lies and subterfuge of our secretive, lying governing powers, Assange also aired their own dirty linen in the town square. This alone was the man’s unpardonable sin. If assumption is the mother of all cock-ups, then perhaps this was also his biggest mistake: thinking these cretins would have his back.
At any rate, their response can be defined at best as damnation by faint praise! In Assange’s case though, “damnation” of the literal kind. Other than when they saw fit to publish some of the revelations which he released for the world to see and for which he is being persecuted mercilessly, his name has been conspicuous by its absence on the Times’ ‘let’s all band together to defend our First Amendment’ to-do list. By this one act of omission alone, the paper has delivered the gift that keeps on giving for the ‘apostates’ amongst us who aren’t as enamoured of the Old Broad as she is of herself and are usually quite happy to chisel off another chunk of granite from the pedestal upon which she so regally stands! What more evidence do we need?...which is not the same as suggesting that there isn’t more of it to go round. Which we shall see in what remains of this instalment, and in the next one.
Of greater import, the Times’s roaring silence on the vengeful injustice and malevolent iniquity—a slow torturing to death any way one might look at it—being visited upon the Australian publisher by the Deep Staters with their motley lickspittle counterparts in the West (including for the most part here in his home country), all playing their part as Greek chorus in the background, all serving much the same purpose by fuelling each other’s remorseless sense of payback and faux indignation at being caught with as it were, their ‘thumbs on the scale’ of transparency and accountability in the public interest.
And if the Times won’t leverage its own considerable prestige and influence—its media muscle—to go into bat for Assange, their lesser peers in the U.S. media or elsewhere sure as hell weren’t going to. What would the Times do some might ask here? Well, not much in this case! It’s that ‘leading by example’ thing again, or in this case, its palpable absence. Well might we say, “without fear or favour” indeed.
As for the Time’s righteous remonstrances earlier cited, right off the bat the editors were on a roll; like the coda to an Aesop fable, they clearly felt the need to labor the ‘moral of their story’. All the while they were oblivious to, or dismissive of, their readers’ right not be propagandised, misinformed, patronised, deprived of information, deceived, misled, ‘snake-oiled’, or otherwise ‘played’ like carny suckers at the country fair or hapless Vegas marks.
This, as much as they appeared throughout untroubled by their own peculiar twist on a ‘splendide mendax’ of sorts (which we might surmise is their true remit anyway), along with their spectacular failure to faithfully hold individuals, politicians, governments, agencies, departments, corporations, and institutions to account when necessary.
– Publishers of Slander & Calumny (Leading by Example)
After again intoning that people should be able to ‘put forward viewpoints, ask questions and make mistakes, and take unpopular but good-faith positions on issues that society is still working through’, the paper pushed the envelope of credibility even further: all this should be undertaken, they gushed, “without fearing cancellation”. For the NYT’s gallant defenders of truth, justice and the American way,
‘Freedom of speech requires not just a commitment to openness and tolerance in the abstract. It demands conscientiousness…We believe it isn’t enough for Americans to just believe in the rights of others to speak freely; they should also find ways to actively support and protect those rights.’
More’s the pity then the Times application of the above precepts appear far more honoured in the breach than in the observance. For our purposes herein there’s no need to unpack this any further (and doing so at all events might well invite a separate, follow-up piece). But astute students of media cant and sophistry with only a partly functioning sense of irony can apply the DIY approach and come to their own conclusions without any extra help from your ‘humble’.
At all events, for those of us with a more nuanced view of how our political discourse plays out in reality, how that shapes the perceptions of most people and which then rules their behaviours and attitudes—not to mention the always malleable rules by which this process is undertaken—it was to be sure symptomatic of the state of play within the establishment media milieu generally. In this case so much more so for those of us with a less romanticised view of the “Lady’s” place in that pantheon.
With the preceding in mind, and harking back to the Times’s response to the RFK Jr. book, all this editorial sermonising was a bit too much for Tony Lyons; he was having none of it. And as it turned out, this apparently is not the only time the Old Broad has attracted the man’s ire. For the publisher, with a nod to the irony being as deep as it is wide, it’s all pretty simple: The NYT he said, “has done everything” within its considerable power to stifle both the actual and the perceived success of one of the most commercially and critically successful, and to be sure most important, books in recent memory.
Now I distinguish “actual” and “perceived” here for a reason, and implore readers to bear with me whilst I briefly explain some basics of trade book marketing. In addition to our earlier ruminations, this will help frame the next segment of our tale in its proper context and underscore the legitimacy of Lyons’s critique. In book publishing it is taken for granted that commercial success of any new title is tied to its perception of success in the eyes of potential readers, and in the case of the NYT, such is its clout, this is especially so.
Though most major print media mastheads have their own version, getting one’s book onto the iconic New York Times’s bestseller list (BSL) is the promotional Holy Grail. No serious book marketing plan for a priority title would be complete without that as one of its key objectives. The BSL’s capacity to drive both U.S. and global sales can never be underestimated, a reality recognised by authors, publishers, booksellers, distributors, and book buyers alike. Viewed through this prism, Lyons’s comments are perfectly understandable.
Also important is positive publicity via book reviews from opinion leaders in standard bearer newspapers, along with same in magazines, trade journals and the like. Again, getting on the NYT BSL (in ‘the trade’ still the benchmark list to be on), at or near the top and for as long as possible, in addition to getting a positive review from the paper itself enhances a particular title’s grip on the ‘Grail’ as it were. This delivers the title in question a feedback loop momentum which then translates into even more ‘units shifted’ (i.e. sales) across the broad marketplace. In essence this is how the system works.
As we’re about to see, even for a book penned by one of the most famous, highly regarded people on the planet, a scion no less of one of America’s most high profile political dynasties—a title which had already enjoyed exceptional pre-sales momentum via word of mouth—further to which authoritatively addressed a topic which was of considerable interest to tens of millions of Americans alone (and existentially so we might say), none of this was as easy or as straightforward as it might otherwise have been.
And as near as anyone might judge these things, its a fair bet that most people who bought Kennedy’s book did actually read it, it being something of a truism that not all popular trade books which do reach the BSL can lay claim to. The ‘word-of-mouth’ on the book alone was clear evidence of this. For Lyons the situation is as clear cut as it was frustrating: In a direct nod to its aforementioned editorial, the New York Times he said, should be “leading by example”. Alas, doing so for the paper is a somewhat selective, even random, affair. In fact, the NYT has ‘not supported free speech, protected the First Amendment, or allowed honest debate’ the outspoken publisher lamented. ‘It has not allowed competing perspectives about the most important issues of the day’.
To underscore this scathing judgment, though he doubtless had a big menu to choose from, all Lyons had to do was cite the NYT’s refusal to accept an advertisement for Kennedy’s tome. Whilst one initial ad ran for the book, the process of getting it approved for eventual publication ran into all manner of hurdles the veteran publisher had by his own account not encountered in his 27 year career. Now space precludes a ‘blow-by-blow’ of the too-ing and fro-ing that went with it, and readers can go to the previous link for the skinny on it all.
Suffice to say, a second advertisement was submitted by Skyhorse some weeks later, at which point the Times’s gatekeepers were having none of it. With RFK himself having declared that the legacy media derives as much as 70% of its advertising revenue from Big Pharma, we can safely deduce from this that like its competitors, the Times is as grateful a beneficiary of this bounty as any of them. It apparently felt no qualms then in knocking back a full-page display ad, in so doing demonstrating in one fell swoop it knew what side upon which its bagel might best be buttered. Nor moreover do we need the test results back from forensics to work out what went down behind closed doors between the time the first ad was placed and when the second one was rejected for publication.
Under different circumstances, to borrow a phrase much favoured by the music business, such a book might’ve been guaranteed to reach ‘Number One with a bullet!’, and ‘hugged the charts’ for weeks on end. That it did so well in spite of the massive effort that was expended in either delegitimising it or simply ignoring it, is further testament to just how desperately folks were in need of honest explanations for—and real answers to—the gravest crisis most of us have faced in living memory. They most certainly weren’t getting anything like such from the ‘Old Broad’.
All up then, as someone who’s worked in media, publishing, marketing, promotions and advertising, all this I can attest to being unprecedented. As it turned out, “The Real Anthony Fauci” was ranked No. 7 on its non-fiction bestseller list even though in the actual week their editorial ran (the third week in March), the book outsold any other title in America by “thousands of copies”. (As of mid-March, RFK Jr.’s book had sold over 1,000,000 copies, making it by any measure a publishing phenomenon.)
— When the Legend becomes Truth, Let’s Invent our Own
If all this wasn’t enough, the NYT added insult to injury by delivering a scathing hit piece targeting Kennedy as ‘a leading voice in the campaign to discredit coronavirus vaccines and other measures being advanced by the Biden White House to battle a pandemic that was…killing close to 1,900 people a day.’ In what amounted to a contorted variant on the indelible John Ford trope, ‘when the legend becomes fact, print the legend’, the Times felt hidebound to take and apply it literally. The paper accused Kennedy of circulating “false information”—without specifying what that information was or explaining why it was false—as well as suggesting the author compared the government pandemic response to the Holocaust, even though according to Lyons, ‘he didn’t say anything of the kind.’
For Lyons—its disingenuous invocations of the dangers America faces in forsaking precepts of free speech aside, and to which it had made no small contribution through the ages—the NYT’s has been a ‘mouthpiece for greedy corporations and corrupt government officials.’ Its treatment of the Kennedy book cemented its role he averred, as ‘an engine of censorship, corruption and misinformation.’ Not quite the “engine for truth” movingly extolled by Howell Raines earlier then?
To cap off his unsparing indictment of America’s le Grande Dame de Journalisme, Lyons coup de grace went like this: In support of the newspaper’s own self-serving interests he said, and at the expense of the interests of American citizens, ‘The New York Times censored Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s book...in every conceivable way.’ All in all, the preceding recollection of the travails Lyons experienced with the NYT seemed as near as perfect a case study of the Times’s bogus claim to fame on all the metrics as a stand-up defender of free speech.
But wait, there’s more. As we’re about to see. And the optics don’t get much better!…
It’s at this point we might return to the scene of an earlier ‘crime’, that being Howell Raine’s reflections which opened up our narrative. As indicated, these musings have done much to inspire this analysis from the off as well as fuel the various perspectives, though doubtless not in the way he might have expected anyone to be so ‘moved’. Perhaps not unlike the paper’s recent editorialising, Raines comments on the momentous day of 9/11™ are especially illuminating for our purposes herein:
‘As it happened’ he crowed, [the events of] September 11, 2001, raised the [NYT] staff's competitive metabolism (sic) to a level beyond anything I could have expected. The newsroom's response was more than magnificent. It was inspirational.’
Now it’s difficult to glean what Raines meant by this statement, as even at the point of his penning it some 2½ years later, countless troubling questions still hung in the air over the official narrative of 9/11™, the answers to which the Times showed little more enthusiasm for pursuing than any of its peers. Given that 9/11™ represented for the “newspaper of record” one of the most significant news stories in the nation’s history—by definition one whose many angles they just had to get right—his musings about that day seemed starkly symptomatic of the self-serving navel gazing, hubris, and smug self-satisfaction we’ve long come to expect from the establishment media in general.
That it came from an avowed Times-man himself—one oblivious to the ironies, contradictions and unalloyed delusions embedded in his recall of events—served to drive the point home further. Seems to this writer as if there’s little about the mainstream reportage on 9/11™ and the ensuing events and developments that was “magnificent” or “inspirational” anywhere on the morally and ethically desertified establishment media landscape, and again the Times was AWOL in leading the pack of ‘deserters’. Here it is important to realise that Raines’s tenure—short-lived though it was—was concurrent with the period from just prior to 9/11™ and then onwards up to just over eighteen months thereafter. That is, it all went down on his watch.
And whilst Raines was busy patting himself on the back and belatedly handing out gold stars to his minions for a job well done, the big reveals of the day, and of the crucial weeks and months that followed, went MIA. One can only wonder here what KPIs he had in mind in describing the results so or surmise that what he found “magnificent” and/or “inspirational” was the manner in which he and his troops swallowed the official line on the events of that day and dutifully went about plying their trade as per the script and refrained from asking too many awkward questions. You know dear readers, practicing some real ‘shoe-leather’ n’ ‘sharp-elbow’ journalism. The cowardice around 9/11™ reportage alone put a wholly new spin on the old phrase “yellow journalism”.
Moreover, given that Raines’s generalship of the newsroom squared with that critical period in the wake of that day when all the evidence related to the attack would’ve been, all things equal, at their most accessible and there for the taking for any ‘gumshoe journo’ worth their salt ‘packing’ his/her “competitive metabolism”—in this case a whole battalion of the ‘best in the business’ fully locked n’ loaded—one is left wondering what indeed any of us have to show for all the energy expended.
— Cracks in the Liberty Bell (We Hear You Loud & Clear)
The real story of 9/11™ then (that is, locating and engaging with all the “known facts, possibilities and sources” earlier cited), was ultimately left to a bunch of dedicated ‘amateurs’, patriotic truth-seeking sleuths one and all (though it has to be said, not all Americans by any means), who for their personal courage and dedication to the cause copped nothing but grief from the very people who failed to do their jobs and mos’ def’ weren’t up for having this version of the truth rubbed in their faces.
The brutal reality is that the heroic efforts of the so-called 9/11 Truth Movement aside, for posterity’s sake we’re all still saddled with a preposterous fantasy cum fable—one of the erstwhile republic’s more grotesque, absurd amorality ‘tales’—about the events of that fateful day, one that the Times with its formidable reputational prestige and organisational firepower did so much to fabricate then fraudulently present to its readers. By further omission and commission, it was a narrative which by obfuscating rather than illuminating it, they did so much more to perpetuate and cement this bogus tale in the minds of not just Americans in general, but those of us elsewhere who also were similarly blighted and slighted.
That it also did much to paper over (literally in this case) the more visible and ever widening cracks in the ‘Liberty Bell’ and contributed further to the mythological construct of the Union as the one and only true Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free which when the chips are down its proud citizens stand united in adversity against all the forces aligned against it is perhaps an even deeper, far more important consideration. But for now with space limiting further exploration in this first part, the preceding musings may have to suffice.
Pick though any of the earlier accolades attributed the paper including those of Raines’ himself, and its difficult to marry any of them to the man’s reflections on how the “newspaper of record” chronicled this monumental story, one of modern history’s most defining and pivotal. All this is without mentioning the not insignificant matter that 9/11™ went down in part on the Times’s own turf.
It further goes without saying that the “newspaper of record” has done little or nothing in the two decades since to correct that record. The legacy media through and through then has serious blood on its ink-stained mitts, with reportage on 9/11™ being only the opening act—the warmup as it were—to countless more egregious sins of commission and omission that have cost America and the rest of the Western world much in blood and treasure and credibility in that time. For America in particular, and the West in general (including my own country Australia, arguably America’s most servile minion), the cost in political capital and prestige has been immense.
Perhaps in this the greatest “cost” of all is one of opportunity: We’re talking here the ‘opportunity costs’ forsaken that a measure of truth and genuine reflection upon its place and position in the world and its role in bringing said “world” to the point where it’s at as we speak—had it been brought to the attention of thinking Americans in a more honest, timely, brutally candid manner—would have truly mitigated against the obvious decline and the decay of the fabled Republic we see unfolding before us. It is the media after all whose notional responsibility it is to hold the mirror up to ourselves.
And again with the Times’ purporting to be the standard bearer amidst all the players therein for extolling and preserving all that is good about the American experiment, we can all but wonder what went wrong. In paraphrasing the earlier remarks of William Buckley, it’s difficult to escape the conclusion the nation (and indeed the rest of the world), would’ve been ‘far better informed and more broadly served’ if in fact they’d actually done so. With 170 odd years of ‘practice’, we might’ve reasonably expected the Times to have gotten a few things right by now.
No better evidence for its manifest failure to do so exists herein than with its reportage on the Covid “pandemic”, a topic already touched on earlier. This is the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’, representing the many shortcomings, failings, and perfect imperfections of the OGL, the pachyderm in question having only grown in size and stature as the four walls containing it have contracted.
Again the establishment media by and large is far from having distinguished itself here; how on this matter alone it might ever hope to recover the public’s trust and confidence is anyone’s guess. In the context of our overarching objective herein it is one to which we shall return in more depth in the next instalment, even if only because it’s one from which we seemingly cannot escape!
Suffice to say, with these more recent events and development, as defining as any might be to be sure, the Times is complicit in perpetrating and perpetuating an even bigger crime and concocting an even more grotesque, absurd reverie to justify it, explain it, and prolong it, this time visiting their deluded, diabolical, disastrous fantasy upon the whole of humanity. A “fantasy” to which even as I write, they’re still clinging like Titanic survivors might’ve done to any random piece of debris within groping distance whilst the ship is still settling into its final resting place.
Sidebar: Though space prohibits a deeper dive into the connections between 9/11™ and Covid™—including in this instance how the establishment media have responded to both these seminal crises with once again our brethren at the Times’ “leading by example”—readers are encouraged to explore Piers Robinson’s excellent podcast analysis here. It’s an ‘ear-opener’! See also here.
And with both 9/11™ and Covid™ still figuring into the calculus, the body count on both counts keeps mounting, whilst everyone from the newsroom itself to the rarefied domain of its editorial bully pulpit keep whistling past the graveyard, oblivious to, or unconcerned about, the role their precious marque has played in this funereal narrative. Perhaps now’s the time for the Times to consider reframing it’s “All the News that’s Fit to Print” slogan with something more akin to a reality we can all hang our hats on: I’m thinking here, “And you Will know us by the Trail of Dead!”
All up then, whether it’s 9/11™, Covid™ or any of the big yarns they’ve either cocked up or cooked up, doubtless the ‘high priests’ at the Times see themselves in this respect as standing ‘above the fray’ by way of comparison for example to their lesser peers in the print media, lamentably their track record of accurate, ethical and objective reportage is no better than the rest. This along with their general adherence to a code of practice that has the public interest first and foremost front of mind. As heretical as this might sound, once again the journalistic KPIs speak for themselves.
All this then begs some important questions. Because of ‘her’ lofty position in the pantheon, are we not entitled, and should we not in fact expect to, hold the Old Girl to a consistently higher standard of probity? Once again, drawing attention to its central place, status, and expansive influence in the so called marketplace of ideas (said “marketplace” perhaps now more of a battlefield or a war-zone), does not the NYT have as Tony Lyons has suggested, a unique responsibility to lead by example in the way it practices journalism?
And when she doesn’t meet those standards, are we to be more or less forgiving than with other marques? In such cases, does she not forfeit her signature “bragging rights”? Still by virtue of her singular high-brow, holier-than-thou repute alone, well might we opine again the OGL’s hands are drenched in this most precious of life’s liquids far more than most if not all of her notional peers and competitors. (In any event, it’s the NYT we’re focusing on here; the rest of the ‘rabble’ can wait their turn.)
And the Jayson Blair affair is illuminating, though perhaps not in the manner most might expect. His sins were many and grievous of course, and for his part Raines described Blair as “troubled”, though he declined to be more specific on this. But were Blair’s sins of both commission and omission that egregious after all? How do they compare for example with the sins and lies of someone like Judith Miller, another infamous Times’s reporter whose sad and sorry tale we’ll explore in Part Two?
The rule rather than the exception for the establishment media—and again we stress the Times does not by virtue of its exalted status get to play the role of ‘banker’ in the game of news ‘Monopoly™’ and doing so hold all the “Get Out of Jail Free” cards—is to finesse, distort, mislead, censor, ignore, inflate, inflame and otherwise misrepresent (i.e. fake, becloud or hide) the news, thereby denying or limiting their readers right to an accurate and as reliable an account of matters at hand as is humanly and practically possible.
Yes, Blair betrayed the trust of his readers to be sure, and that of his employer, his sources, and his fellow employees. However, one imagines his crime pales in comparison to the far larger betrayal of trust the Times as a respected institution routinely and knowingly exercises when it ‘gets it wrong’ on many of the biggest issues and concerns of our era or previous era that any news story might present. These are the truly big yarns, the ones that impact far more seriously far more people over a far longer period of time than anything I expect Blair may have plagiarised, fabricated, faked, hidden, sexed-up, or simply gotten wrong.
Blair’s big mistake perhaps was not covering his tracks better, or being too blatant. And as it turned out, Raines was alerted to his transgressions. But up until someone else besides Raines later on outed the latter, he (Raines) chose for reasons best known to himself to ignore these warnings, which has to be a clear pointer to his own culpability in the affair. Which might partly explain his reluctance to talk about it that much.
Beyond the Blair scandal, as expansive as it was his article appeared to be a somewhat selective exploration of his tenure overall. Raines hardly mentioned any of the major stories the Times did get wrong, missed completely, or failed even to treat with the importance they deserved, so it wasn’t just the Blair affair that he was reluctant to talk about. (Which for those who’ve not read his article it might beg the question as to what matters he did address.)
Space now limits a deeper analysis of his ruminations, and for our purposes they’re not needed. As we have already seen they were though not without merit, especially as these reflections point to the corporate culture—and the not insignificant malaise which itself is a by-product of that culture—that prevails at the Times. To be sure, in providing your humble with plenty of ‘targets’ to aim at, there was gold to be found in them thar hills, as Part Two should demonstrate further! Again, it’s safe to say Raines did not intend such an outcome.
As something of a segue to the end, the following may be apposite: If as it’s sometimes said, “possession is nine-tenths of the law”, then perception is nine-tenths of most people’s material reality. Put another way, if as in real estate it’s all about “location, location, and location”, then we might say that in the contemporary news business, it is all about “perception, perception, and perception!”
All this I believe to be something that the estimable investigative journalist Robert Parry, the former (now sadly deceased) keyboard warrior-in-chief at Consortium News might’ve subscribed to. I single out Parry here because as a contributor to, and regular reader of, the pioneering online news and op-ed site for many years, it was he who had a formative influence on my understanding of how our establishment media truly works. It was he especially who alerted me to the role the NYT plays therein.
Although originally a ‘refugee’ from the mainstream himself—becoming over time a sharp critic of the establishment media in general—Parry often used the phrase “perception management” to describe their core business of the ‘hand that used to feed him’. What they did was “not journalism” he averred on so many occasions, though not always using these exact words.
In making this call, it was the New York Times he frequently held up as an exemplar. Meaning? As we’ll see in the next instalment, he was not shy about (ahem) lifting up the Old Broad’s skirt as it were, and after carefully ‘surveying the terrain’ thus revealed, exposing what undergarments ‘she’ was wearing (or not) underneath…
As far as the Times own “slander, calumny and lies” go, we’ve only ‘lifted the skirt’ about halfway. That though, is something we shall ‘correct’ in Part Two. I can only trust readers will forgive me leaving them in suspense. Better that though than leading you astray. That, we leave to the establishment media. Stay tuned…
May 4, 2022.
Greg Maybury is a freelance writer based in Australia. His main areas of interest are American history and politics in general, with a special focus on economic, financial, national security, military, and geopolitical affairs. For 8 years he has regularly contributed to a diverse range of alternative, independent media (AIM), news and opinion sites, including OpEd News, The Greanville Post, Consortium News, Information Clearing House (ICH), Dandelion Salad, Global Research, Dissident Voice, OffGuardian, Contra Corner, International Policy Digest, Principia Scientific, The Hampton Institute, and others.
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