All the News that’s Fit to Fake & Hide
Part Two: Inside the Citadel of Truth and Certitude
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‘In the three years since 9/11, we've begun to understand that it's possible to know what happened without knowing what happened.’ — New York Times, "The Public Knowledge of 9/11", September 11, 2004
‘Now therefore, behold, the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and [He] has proclaimed disaster against you.’ — 1 Kings 22:23
Preamble: Since its establishment in 1851, the august New York 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 readership. Of this few folk would be in doubt, even amongst those who might be less enamoured of the Old Gray Lady’s 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 contemplate, perhaps ‘her’ best days are well behind her. After all, even the most deified of divas come with a ‘use-by-date’. Along with looking at the extent to which that influence has played out 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 such ‘heresy’ might hold some substance: That the Times has finally succumbed to the vagaries of the product life cycle.
This being the case, if the ‘Old Girl’s’ most recent edicts from the editorial bully pulpit regarding the hitherto inviolable First Amendment are anything to go by, she’s not going quietly into that good night. In this second instalment of an expansive two parter, Greg Maybury rushes in—foolishly perhaps—to occupy terrain where angels and perhaps even some creatures of a less divine kind, might otherwise fear to tread.
— The Old Gray Lady (Down and Out)
As noted in our first instalment, the Old Gray Lady (aka the New York Times) has long held the title as the most esteemed marque in the establishment media firmament. But as we also observed, any ‘trophies’ that come with the crown haven’t always been earned by investigating thoroughly, reporting honestly, and publishing bravely “all the news that’s fit to print”. Oh that were the case. If the Times’ is the “newspaper of record”, the “record” is a warped and broken ‘platter’!
Or, if as another of its catchphrases goes, “these times demand the Times”, one wonders just where “these times” (or the Times) will lead us. In fact if we cast an eye into the rear-view, we might also ponder to what extent the Times in previous times has been responsible for leading us to where we are right now. On the latter, her ‘bill of particulars’ is a long read, and with benefit of such hindsight, is one we can determine with more assuredness. It is with this in mind we proceed.
In that first outing we took a few deep dives into the ‘Forgettery’ (oka the Memory Hole), therein to discover that the ‘object of our affection’ has her own exclusive ‘patch of dirt’. And as expansive as that initial foray was, we’ve hardly skimmed the surface. Though its reputation suggests otherwise, it turns out that in the Times’ repository of assorted sleights of hand in the performance art that is modern journalistic enterprise, there’s standing room only. This dearth of space however has more to do with the ‘bodies’ buried there than with the number of folk looking to exhume them!
One such individual not so enamoured of the Lady’s charms is independent writer and investigative journalist Christopher Bollyn, who’s even on record calling out the “newspaper of record” as “un-American”. Describing the venerable masthead in this way for some would’ve been akin to torching “Old Glory” in a Bible Belt town square on Independence Day, a symbolic gesture so made which would be about as “un-American” as we might imagine.
Yet given the trigger for his reaction, the irony here is as thick as it’s palpable. Best known for his valiant efforts in exposing the real backstory behind 9/11™, in order to underscore his point Bollyn, in an early 2013 article he singled out an editorial (not an op-ed mind you) which the Times had run late in the previous year. Space precludes an in-depth analysis of this missive which sparked Bollyn’s umbrage as—not unlike another Times’s editorial we referenced in our first instalment, albeit one of a very different kind—it came ‘packing’ a subtext which would require a separate article in order to unpack the full import. Suffice to say, the editorial unequivocally called for (wait for this), the abolishment of the fabled U.S. Constitution!
With this, a striking anomaly confronts us, the disconnect adding a spare layer to the irony. Penned by Louis Michael Seidman, then a professor of constitutional law no less at Georgetown University (and card-carrying Zionist in thrall to the Promised Land no doubt), in this editorial Seidman declared “obedience to the Constitution” as obsolete, claiming its “downright evil provisions” are to blame for the “broken” system of government in the US.
Now let’s leave to one side just for now the conclusion more objective observers might make that it is blatant and repeated infringements of the Constitution over time immemorial that have done far more to render the system “broken”. Perhaps the good professor in his rather provocative analysis is confusing cause and effect here, and we might cut the old geezer some slack. We might even go so far as to leave out any mention of how Seidman’s Jewish/Zionist brethren in the neo-conservative movement in particular have been more instrumental than most in undermining the precepts of the Constitution, this by giving greater precedence to the national interests of the Middle East’s “only democracy” and not to those of the country in which they nominally reside and to which most of whom appear at best to exhibit divided loyalties.
Let’s also leave out any discussion about the failure—indeed refusal—of the New York Times and its ilk in the establishment media to hold the powers that be to account for these “blatant and repeated infringements”. Suffice to say that if the Fourth Estate had been more inclined to do so, said “infringements” might be said to have been far less “glaring and repeated”. But of course, we have to ask: which group has the establishment media narrative by the short n’ curlies? And yet, still hardly anyone noticed the supreme irony that the paper was in effect critiquing its very own shortcomings and failures.
All this leaves one wondering what the the Times’s editorial board was thinking, if indeed it was, by signing off on such an unthinkable (and however being so defined might be determined given the zeitgeist), patently “un-American” fashion statement. Readers herein are in turn invited to contrast this with the editorial we cited at length in our first instalment. This is the one in which the Times’s editorial board bemoaned America’s increasing estrangement from the tenets of the First Amendment. Which is to say, the First Amendment is the bedrock pillar of the Constitution and the one which, in an earlier time, the same board mused about having sadly passed its UBD. I trust I don’t have to belabour the disconnect here.
For his part then Bollyn was having none of this, a feeling one suspects was enhanced by the fact that this was a Times’ editorial no less! Yet as already alluded to, the problem as identified by Seidman was not, Bollyn assured us, “obedience” as such, but disobedience to the hallowed Constitution, of the type not unlike like that promoted by Seidman, ‘that is behind the “broken” state of our system of government.’
In identifying the main culprit responsible for the state of affairs so described, Bollyn fingered Congress: The Capitol crowd as far as he was concerned had long ago abrogated its responsibility and in doing so, abdicated its power to forces not at all beholden to the principles of the Republic’s much revered ‘instruction manual’. In fact, in Bollyn’s view, these forces were alien to everything America stood for. To say he has a point is to state the obvious.
One of the three official guardians of the Constitution—the others being the US Supreme Court and the Executive Branch—by way of example this one man 9/11™ truth movement noted that Congress had, via enactment of the 1913 Federal Reserve Act, facilitated the takeover of the U.S. money supply and banking system by vested, private interests. It had moreover, long since relinquished its sole right to be the final arbiter of any decision to take the country to war. Said Bollyn: ‘These two blatant violations of the Constitution are responsible for most of the financial problems currently faced by the U.S. government.’ It is once again difficult to find argument with the man’s conclusions here.
Putting aside again the reality that sundry violations of the rights and rightful presumptions of “We the people” being a recurring ‘tradition’ in the American political experience, there are any number of takeaways to be had from Bollyn’s response to this ‘sermon’ from the Times’s bully pulpit. In seeking to put some meat on the bone of his contention the Times was “Un-American”, and possibly in the process, ‘run interference’ on behalf of his fellow Americans regarding the substance of its declaration, Bollyn drew our attention to the following:
1. The century plus old relationship between the Sulzberger family (long-time owners of the Times) and that of the ubiquitous Rothschilds tribe, both of which have a long-standing commitment to the ideology of Zionism and the overarching Zionist project, at first in the establishment, and thereafter the protection and maintenance, of the Jewish state of Israel;
2. The major role the Times played in the cover-up of the real backstory of 9/11™, the public knowledge of which as the epigraph makes plain that the then editorial overlords three years after the event (and as noted in Part One, still do to this day) deemed “news” that for its readers was on a ‘need to know’ basis and therefore presumably not “fit to print”; …and further to all that
3. The “newspaper of record” published the Seiden editorial “for the same reason” it published the propaganda pieces by Judith Miller (of whom more later), which falsely claimed that Iraq under Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, all of which itself whilst being entirely “fit to print” was to advance the “rapacious agenda of the Rothschild family and their Zionist state of Israel”.
As noted, now’s not the time to expand on Bollyn’s scathing indictment of the Times, much of it delivered in the context of a subject that is clearly dear to his heart; what we’ve noted above is sufficient for our purposes at this point. I’d add simply that readers unfamiliar with Bollyn’s fine body of work, should rectify this oversight as soon as possible. It goes without saying it is one of the biggest, though unheralded, stories ‘in the business’, said enterprise exposing more of the lies, sins and crimes of the main object of our affections herein and those on whose behalf and in whose interests she so often acts.
To reiterate, as the foremost representative of the Fourth Estate—the latter itself, as the designation implies, is as much a de facto guardian of the Constitution as is the more recognisable troika—the Old Gray Lady is as responsible for the sad, sorry state of the Republic as any of them. It should also be mentioned that for future truth seekers (at least to the extent they’ll be permitted to do so), Bollyn’s “record” will prove to be the more accurate and illuminating rendition of the day’s events than that of the “newspaper of record”.
That aside, the sharp contrast between the sentiments of the two editorials as mentioned above is most notable here: It points to the Times’ board being either prone to collective amnesia or schizophrenia, or an unrecognised, as yet to be identified combination of both. (Perhaps future editions of the DSM might enlighten us on this matter.) Or, by way of the pen of F Scott Fitzgerald we might cut them a bit of slack, and assume it’s a sign of a first rate intelligence at work, that being: ‘the ability to hold two opposing views in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function!’ But I digress…😉
– A Miller’s Tale of Woe
As Bollyn alluded to, one of the more egregious illustrations of the Times defying the gravity of truth and therein betraying the public trust and the tenets of the Constitution in one fell swoop, was the Judith Miller affair. In Part One we name-checked Jayson Blair, a Times’ journo who was fired in the early ‘noughties’ for fabricating and/or plagiarising, in part or in whole, many of his stories. This debacle cost then senior editorial executives Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd their gigs, both of whom were forced to fall (as it were) on their respective ‘pens’.
But the award for the Times’s reporter most accomplished at getting in touch with their inner JK Rowling by revealing an impressive capacity for fantasy fiction and eliciting the most disastrous outcome in doing so goes to (drumroll anyone?) the ethically flexible, boundlessly ‘ambitioned’, and by accounts, famously sharp-elbowed Judith Miller. Tragically, such reveals in this instance arrived far too late. The real damage had been done. Though much ink has been spilled about this affair, in this writer’s humble it was propaganda specialist Oliver Boyd-Barrett who provided an insightful forensic analysis of its singular importance to our own brief here which will more than adequately serve our purposes.
To begin, in harking back to themes explored in our opening and in the first instalment, Boyd-Barrett delivers us a cautionary tale of the perils of according too much faith and trust in our media. In so doing, he reminds us of the power propaganda has in influencing public opinion, how this is achieved without us being aware of it, and from there in conjuring up our all too willing consent for enterprises in which we might otherwise have deep reservations. All this is especially so in matters concerning taking our countries to war; or more broadly, in us too eagerly embracing the dodgy dogmas of our ruling elites, an outcome said propaganda is tailor-made to elicit.
In almost all cases, as Boyd-Barrett underscores for us in his analysis, the establishment media knows precisely what side upon which to ‘butter its bagel’. What follows is a short-list of the more striking elements of the Miller saga.
1. Although not evident to most at the time, and surely not amongst those in the general public who had serious misgivings about the Iraq War plans, Judith Miller became the poster-child for blurring the lines between that of reporting on the rationale for war “without fear or favour” and to all intents acting as a shill for the agendas of the very actors pushing for the war under entirely false pretexts;
2. She had tight connections to right-wing and pro-Zionist think-tanks and forums (chiefly the Project for the New American Century), whose principals and chief apparatchiks were themselves in so many cases her key sources and in turn boosters, who from the get go were all gung-ho for the war, and whose agendas have proven time and time again to be markedly at odds with the U.S. national interest;
3. the whole bogus “weapons of mass destruction” narrative fabricated and fomented by the Washington war-mongrels to propel the US and the West into the Iraq quagmire was to a very large extent an outcome deriving in a feedback-loop like manner from Miller’s reportage, one wherein as Boyd-Barrett has chronicled so lucidly, she played fast, loose and furious with the facts.
This being the Times no less, it’s notable also that the “theology of gravitas and objectivity” it prides itself on played out in the way other “me-too” media marques Stateside and beyond reported on the issue, as well as its impact on policy makers and military planners in the West. If the Times is reporting on this, it must be important. And if what the Times is in fact reporting, it must all be true.
A clear example of the latter occurred here Down Under, where as with others Australians were likewise dragged into the Iraq war. Miller’s reportage swayed considerably our own leaders’ thinking (such as it was) in formulating policy on the war and which served—in the manner of Chinese whispers bouncing off the walls of an echo chamber—to ‘groupthink’ our own media coverage. This in turn came to mould public opinion in support of a war we had no business being involved in either.
As for the estimable Miller, her fan-club at the time may not have quite rivalled that of the celebrated “Harry Potter” creator in size. But whatever its membership lacked in ‘the math’ was more than made up for in their devotion to every word she uttered. This fanbase included as card-carrying signatories some of the then most powerful people either making policy, or influencing it, in Washington (and to a slightly lesser degree in London), almost all of whom as history tells us were mighty hot to trot for war in Iraq even well before the events of 9/11™. The latter simply opened up for them the portal for doing so with ever greater moral zeal and political justification, albeit of a highly confected, nay counterfeit, kind.
That Miller also showed Blair a clean pair of high heels in the art of creative journalism and proved to be a greater embarrassment to the Old Gray Lady is one that at least the less enamoured amongst us accept as a given. But it didn’t matter as by this time, “we” were in the minority and the Blair affair was an all but forgotten sideshow to the bigger drama unfolding in the Times’ newsroom during this fraught period in the lead up to the Iraq invasion. Space as usual limits a full ‘blow-by-blow’ of this epic saga here. But an exercise such as this would be incomplete without some additional observations that pertain to our brief. In so many respects, it brings all the ‘chooks’ home to roost in the preeminent ‘citadel of truth and certitude’ of US media.
(Author’s note: For a deeper insight readers are encouraged to read Boyd-Barrett’s work for this and much more on the critical subject of media, institutional and corporate propaganda and how we are all affected by it. See “further reading” below.* Also see this link here for a ‘refresher’ on the journalistic code of ethics. Tick the boxes. It’s an eye-opener!)
To begin, the reality that the New York Times’s executive at the highest levels knew all too well this particular Miller’s ‘tale’ was a decidedly dodgy bill of goods but overlooked it, makes it all the more remarkable, and not in a good way; in fact truth be told, it is a large, ugly stain on the Old Gray Lady’s honour we should never allow her to forget. These folks included no less than Arthur Sulzberger Jr himself, with whom Miller reportedly enjoyed a ‘close personal relationship’ going back some ways. (Whilst I’m not completely immune to speculation of the prurient kind as fas as such matters go, for the sake of brevity alone I’ll not go there at this point. Though I recognise that in not doing so, it may disappoint some readers). And in the wash-up, there seemed on the Times’ part to be far less soul-searching and hand-wringing discomfiture over the Miller revelations than there was with the Blair affair.
Miller at crucial points became then the centre of gravity in both the public and political discourse that fuelled the propaganda onslaught. Her ‘never let the facts get in the way of a good story’ MO—doubtless with a keen eye on a Pulitzer throughout—proved a singular catalyst for this monumentally disastrous military gambit. Under the auspices of the most respected masthead in the country, Miller was the one-woman siren call enticing all her brethren within the media to support an illegal, unjustified war of aggression, one which should never have been contemplated from the off. And all done at the behest of her New American Centurion mates and their assorted confreres in and around Washington. Again, one can only ponder what quid pro quo was in play here and what form it took, between all parties and vested interests concerned! All of which we can only begin to imagine there was no shortage in this sad, sorry affair.
In the tried and true Beltway tradition moreover, none of these characters was ever held accountable for the sinister, seditious sleight-of-hand that was the Iraq/WMD gambit, and so many of whom and/or their spiritual heirs still to this very day are ‘riding shot-gun’ on the stagecoach of US foreign policy.
As for the Miller affair, one is also left to ponder whether this was simply an isolated case of a Times’s journo straying off the reservation, and that her conduct wasn’t a true representation of what the venerable “newspaper of record” stands for. Or was it simply business as usual? Ultimately, that Miller’s cardinal rule-breaking was indeed a singular reflection of the masthead’s corporate culture—one defined by hubris, arrogance and a disdain for the truth—as much as it was her own unbridled ambition, is a difficult proposition to refute. That the Times’s denizens then up to the highest levels of the executive allowed it to play out like it did is as incomprehensible and inexplicable as it is reprehensible. That it is a further example of the media’s hypocrisy and double standards, all the while underscoring its unfailing predisposition for cheerleading warlike enterprise in the interests of our corporate, political, and financial elite classes is another perspective which should not go begging in any such reflection.
Yet, as we see with the Ukraine situation now ‘the beat goes on’, two decades ‘down the mountain’. Much the same as we’ve seen with the Syrian debacle in the interim. Or with Libya. Or in any other theatre of war in which the empire du jour sees fit to throw its hat. To the best of this writer’s knowledge, as one of said Empire’s foremost cheerleaders, in its illustrious history the Times has, to employ the popular vernacular, never promoted a war it didn’t like!
It’s worth mentioning that my old friend Dr David Blackall, former senior lecturer in investigative journalism at the University of Wollongong (NSW) noted in a recent private email to me (Blackall being a man I’m sure could write a book off the top of his head on establishment media mendacity and venality), the Miller scandal showcased the Times's propensity for war propagandising, indeed for both faking the news and hiding the truth. ‘The Times’s’ he mused, ‘led the charge…and it has done so on many occasions, in support of war’.
Moreover, in abandoning Julian Assange Blackall said, [with the Wikileaks’ founder] now facing life in prison for something that they have not yet been able to convict him for’, the Times’s compounded all this by committing a ‘grave moral breach’. Assange being of course the man who, as we observed in Part One, had the temerity to expose the very war crimes of the very criminals who led us into this quagmire, a monumental disaster which the Times via the bylines of Miller and her ilk did so much to aid and abet, all with the blessings from those in the editorial pulpit.
— One Tagline is Never Enough (Another Miller’s Tale)
This being the New York Times, upon reflection one tagline (or slogan) was never going to be enough: “All the News that’s fit to Print” was from the get go a memorable fashion statement meant to be mimetically synonymous with this iconic masthead, one that has a history harking back to the days of Adolph Ochs’ 1896 purchase of the then flailing newspaper. Herein your ‘humble’ proved unable to resist his cheekier impulses by subverting said tagline to serve a higher purpose (hence the lead title of our discourse): Which is: to continue airing some of the Old Broad’s unwashed ‘bloomers’ in the public square, therein to remove some of the burnish from her much espoused reputation.
Whether it relates to the legacy media in general or the Times in particular, one individual we suspect who’d have no quibble with any of the preceding is Mark Crispin Miller; he gets downright ‘Bolshie’ on the topic at hand. As he declared recently, for those of us who ‘want to know what’s really happening today, and what isn’t really happening’, you can do no better than to read the New York Times. Not though as, Miller firmly cautioned us, “America’s newspaper of record”, [not] for “all the news that’s fit to print”, [and not] for seeking “without fear or favor” reportage, but ‘as a negative oracle, whose loudest claims are always false, and which either misreports or totally blacks out the news that matters most to all the rest of us.’
Referring to the Covid “pandemic”, a development about which Miller and this writer have been on the same page in our respective critiques of the mainstream reportage of this bespoke crisis, the outspoken academic reserved particular disdain for la grande dame of American Media.
‘After all we’ve been through’ he despaired, ‘I still can’t believe how consistently, and brazenly, the Times “reports” as truth that’s not true, and with such smug conviction, as if it were always correcting what it calls “fake news,” instead of spreading it like poison gas.’
In this piece excoriating the Time’s coverage of the Covid “pandemic” in general, the central theme was the mysterious disappearance then sudden death of Tanzanian president John Magufuli early last year. Magafuli had famously (and perhaps fatally) pushed back on the globe-encompassing Covid gospel, and by doing so, in Celia Farber’s words he “crossed the line”, the latter herself being someone who also weighed in on this story.
At this point a fuller rendering of the Magafuli backstory (he is but one of five sitting presidents who opposed the WHO’s Covid dictates and who died under “suspicious circumstances”), whilst nonetheless illuminating for those of us who’ve ourselves refused to treat Covid with the fearful reverence it has elicited from so many others, is not needed here.
However, from the following standpoints both Miller’s and Farber’s articles are highly recommended. Along with revealing much about an even far more alarming ‘virus’ sweeping our world—that of all things “woke”, in this case gender and race specifically, ones in which the Times has been a leading ‘vector’—they provide a telling insight into what happens to leaders who stand against, or simply question, the globalist narrative on any issue regardless of what the issue du jour might be. This includes how they are treated subsequently by the media in response to their stance.
Put another way, like the spread of fear, uncertainty, paranoia, confusion, animus, and propaganda we’ve witnessed so much of late, the ‘woke’ contagion is a ‘commodity’ whose ready availability remains untroubled by the supply chain issues affecting most other traded goods in the global economy. Herein the main culprits in both cases are easy to finger! For his part Miller was mightily unimpressed then by how breezily the Times dismissed Magafuli’s stance on Covid™ and his still unexplained demise. By contrast, the paper gushed over the appointment of his replacement Samia Hassan—a black woman, reportedly Africa’s first female president—and one who was unlike her predecessor, simpatico with the global “pandemic” narrative and the Great Global Gulag Gambit™ which attends it all.
Whether pointing to the Times’s faux liberal obsession with “woke” issues or its editorial response to Covid™, in characteristic style Miller (no relation insofar as this author is aware of the Times’s finest as mentioned above), pulled no punches:
‘For all its pious “woke” tributes to figureheads of color’ he averred, ‘the New York Times is...not just a toxic fount of lethal lies, but...a virulent, albeit inexplicit, racist rag, devoted to the maintenance of a “vaccination” program that’s exterminating black Americans, and Africans, in record numbers (as well as countless other people of all colors, all around the world). For this, its owners, and its personnel, will be held accountable one day, along with all the others driving this catastrophe.
Them’s “fightin’ words” as they say in the classics, though perhaps this time round on the other side of the ledger. Meaning: A far more legitimate and a more accurate reflection of what the “newspaper of record” represents, its familiar catchphrases, pious posturing, and warm, fuzzy, feel-good positioning statements notwithstanding!
One journalist who was not ‘pen shy’ about holding the blowtorch to the belly of the establishment media was Robert Parry, the now sadly deceased founder of pioneering online news and opinion website Consortium News. Fuelled by an accumulative exasperation at what he saw as its abandonment of journalistic standards, Parry was in varying degrees harshly critical of all the establishment marques, often taking them to task just as much for their serial pretensions to holding these values dear.
Like this writer, Parry understood that offering up independent analyses of the big events and developments from outside of the mainstream channels of public discourse cannot be undertaken without significant reference to how these matters are dealt with by those big brands within the mainstream, in particular the deficiencies and shortcomings of the latter’s efforts. It is after all what defines the alternative-independent media’s role.
It was for Consortium’s keyboard warrior-in-chief a constant battle not simply of countering, but so often refuting, their narratives of ‘conventional wisdom’. Despite their appalling predisposition toward peddling groupthink and eschewing accurate, ethical reportage, such were their reputations for veracity entrenched in the minds of even the more savvy, street-wise of news consumers and truth seekers, he recognised the latter still so often forgot and/or forgave their past transgressions. Parry was not so forgiving, and perhaps being so aware, nor was he prepared to let us forget these serial sins of omission and commission.
In this endeavour, more often than not it seemed, the man would single out again everyone’s favourite “newspaper of record” as a repeat offender in ignoring these gold standards; rather than leading by example, [it was] encouraging groupthink, all whilst righteously purporting to defend and uphold the “standards” at the same time. As a regular reader of, and contributor to, Consortium from around 2014-18, I can attest to this personally.
It is worth noting here, that as a relative latecomer to the fray of political analysis and commentary, Parry’s work had an important influence on my understanding of how the media really worked, not just in the U.S., but globally. He forever inspired my own ever righteous standpoint on media matters. And his ire and indignation were more than a match for that which we’ve earlier seen with Tony Lyons (see Part One); in this one suspects Parry would—not unlike Crispin Miller—have no quibble with the Skyhorse chief’s point about the NYT ‘leading by example’, or more correctly, not.
We’ll return to Parry’s views on the NYT soon, but the following is worth noting both for posterity and as a segue to the rest of our narrative. On December 31st, 2017—and at the height of the Russia-gate hysteria and political rancour that marked out so much of the news reportage and public discourse up to that point throughout the Trump administration—Parry bemoaned not just the blood sport of Beltway politics, but the establishment media’s role in aiding and abetting the blood letting that by definition inevitably attended it.
‘As the New Year dawns’, he ruefully mused that New Year’s Eve in 2017, ‘if I could change one thing about America and Western journalism, it would be that we all repudiate “information warfare” in favor of an old-fashioned respect for facts and fairness—and do whatever we can to achieve a truly informed electorate.’
Sadly, as we can now attest to, with matters at hand having deteriorated ever more so since then within and across the media firmament, such sentiments not only turned out to be wishful thinking; these were the final words he wrote and published. Less than four weeks later, to the shock of many of us and at age 68, Parry would pass away suddenly, the effects of a stroke he experienced on Christmas Eve finally exacting their tragic, though still unexpected, toll.
That Parry’s earlier words rang with additional poignancy and irony was inescapable. In describing his stroke and musing on its probable causes, he seemed to hint at a melancholy of sorts, one derived perhaps in part from the pressure and the pushback he’d endured over the years by not playing the game the way most establishment journos did (and in some cases expected him to), which was the way he described with palpable frustration and a measure of despondency in that last outing.
There can be little doubt that given the NYT’s reputation, and given the number of times he felt the need to take them to task, no small amount of that frustration and despondency surely derived from his disappointment with American Media’s Finest. For Parry, the Time’s lofty perch in the pantheon demanded from them consistent, unconditional application of the rigorous standards they purportedly held themselves, and others, to. If the NYT positioned itself as the exemplary “newspaper of record”, then in a “put up or shut up” kind way it had to hold itself to such standards at all times, all whilst being seen to be doing so. If and when it couldn’t or wouldn’t do so on either count, it left itself wide open to criticism.
In harking back to my earlier mention of the Russia-Gate brouhaha, we should highlight here Parry’s views on how the NYT itself ‘led by example’ throughout this sad, sorry, surreal saga of unbridled deception, groupthink, handwringing hypocrisy, propaganda, and pearl-clutching sanctimony by the Fourth Estate. One of the principal tenets of Russia-gate and which helped both to launch it and sustain the attendant ad nauseum narrative, embraced the fiction that all 17 intelligence agencies unanimously supported the view that Russia did interfere in the 2016 election in order to get Trump elected.
This became an article of faith for so many for so long, and as Parry pointed out the NYT was as guilty as any marque for both ‘buying’ into and ‘on-selling’ what ultimately proved to be damaged goods from the get go. Nothing new here to be sure; whether by default or design, this is the Times once again setting the pace!
But as always with the Times, it was much more than that. It was another illustration of the “newspaper of record” writing the “record” as it chose to perceive it and as it wanted its readers to perceive it in turn, as distinct from reporting the news as accurately as possible given all the information available and doing in the public interest from a more objective standpoint. In one case, in an instance when it was caught out with its ‘thumb on the scale’ (i.e. deliberately misreporting or withholding information), it printed a retraction of sorts.
Yet as Parry said, it never issued a formal apology, after which it proceeded to backslide. Even after the correction, he noted, ‘the Times quickly returned to its pattern of deceiving its readers regarding the U.S. intelligence assessment’, and did so by none too subtly suggesting in a follow-up article that the “unanimous conclusion” retained its status as an “article of faith”. For Parry, this amounted to a ‘journalistic sleight of hand that raises further doubts about the objectivity and honesty of the Times on this issue.’ The Consortium main-man might have left out those last three words, and many folks would’ve accepted that as a fair shake. Meaning?: “On this issue”, it was far from the exception to the rule. Lies, like old habits it seems, die hard at the NYT. The ‘ghost’ of Judith Miller had not left the building after all.
In an article from late 2016, tellingly titled “New York Times: Apologist for Power”, Parry unambiguously posited that if the Times is drinking the Beltway Kool-aid, then it expects everyone else, like wildebeest, to congregate at the same watering hole at the same time. For Parry, this is “not journalism”; it is he said, a mindless submission to authority,
‘...[which] indirectly pushes many people into the swamps of conspiracy theories. After all, if professional journalists simply ratify whatever dubious claims are coming from powerful institutions, inquisitive citizens will try to fill in the blanks themselves and sometimes buy into outlandishly false speculations.’
The article in question serves as something of a “Greatest Hits” compilation for the Times’s crimes, and includes such choice ‘favourites’ as:
a) the paper’s reportage on the bogus “aluminium tubes story”, one which was pivotal to the justification for the 2002 US invasion of Iraq;
b) the delayed publication of James Risen’s article in December 2005 exposing the warrantless wiretapping of Americans, (a more timely exposure of which would’ve had a substantial impact on the outcome of the presidential election of that year); and
c) the OGL’s egregious 2016 attack on Julian Assange and Wikileaks, suggesting he was in effect, an agent of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
It goes without saying that this latter assertion by the Times did much to fuel not just the whole Russia-gate brouhaha that followed, but the animus that still prevails in Washington towards Assange himself. Considering his lot since that time and the position in which he now finds himself, the implications of this are stark indeed. It was also difficult to discount with this attack an element of payback here upon the part of the Times, a bit of ‘Hell hath no fury like an Old Gray Lady scorned’.
– Creating their own Reality (In an Alternative Universe)
Insofar as one might determine the bona fides of the Times and its claims to journalistic greatness, it seems one way to assess such is less by what stories the paper covers and how well they cover them in comparison to their confreres, than by those stories it doesn’t cover or summarily disregards as not in the public interest. This is especially given its pole position in the pantheon, its ability to significantly influence the direction, duration, and focus of political discourse in general, and from there the shape of public policy.
Obviously folks who limit their readership more or less to the paper of record will not by definition be able to make these assessments; they will not even be made aware of the story so hidden, misreported or ignored, much less the issues attendant upon it. This is best summed up by the maxim “It’s not news until we say it’s news”, by all accounts a long-standing mindset which prevails within the NYT corporate culture.
Yet for the more widely read and informed amongst us, such examples are legion, as we’ve seen herein, and as noted we’ve only begun to scratch the surface. To the best of this writer’s knowledge, when it comes to leading on the Big Issues, the Times is far removed from the exemplary role model its shills would have us believe. Again, by virtue of its reputation, the more discerning of news consumers might at least expect the paper to pick up where the others leave off, but evidence for this is also scant. Even fired former executive editor Howell Raines was moved to highlight such entrenched hubris (even if he wasn’t the best qualified to do so), which perhaps results from occupying the top perch unchallenged for so long. For Raines, this mindset was “dangerously outmoded”, the corollary to which he observed is that “it's all right for the Times to get beaten on big stories, because when it gets around to doing them, it'll do them better.”
But if there were some legitimacy in such a viewpoint, there is little evidence either to support it being the case either. If as Raines averred in his 2004 post-mortem of his tenure (examined at length in Part One), his former boss Sulzberger had spent the previous decade or more up to that point ‘trying to improve the quality of its journalism’, then such efforts were either half-hearted, disingenuous, or misguided from the off. The culture proved not at all amenable to these changes, or they exposed a failure of strategic leadership on Sulzberger’s part.
The coverage of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the weapons of mass destruction shell game, and that of the event itself (9/11™) which triggered them are but a few examples. The very catalyst for Raines departure—Jayson Blair’s fabrication of facts and quotations in scores of news stories, apparently a one man fake news purveyor—is instructive here: From whom was Blair taking his cue? His direct report Raines?, the senior management, the corporate culture itself?
At all events the results of these efforts at reinvention—nebulous objectives at all events—were at best intangible, and for Raines at least any measurable improvements remained elusive. For the rest us not so in awe of the Grande Dame, they’re doubtful at best. (The literature on organisational culture is copious, but the case studies of successful change management from which all stakeholders benefitted are thin on the ground.)
Either way, for this Sulzberger alone must accept responsibility. One might also question the publisher’s definition of “quality journalism”, a slippery precept at best. Just under twenty years later, with Sulzberger still at the helm, we can fairly say the publisher curtailed further efforts at a cultural makeover or change management for the betterment of all. Either that or they remain a work in progress, albeit “progress” of a kind not immediately discernible to more genuine enthusiasts of whatever we might define as “quality journalism”.
With all this in mind, it’s important to note that the criteria by which the Times might be living up to its own standards (or at least be seen to be doing so) is subject to the dictates and expectations of its core readership. Occupying prime real estate within the political continuum that’s primarily on the liberal/left-of-centre/progressive end of things, in principle the Times can’t stray too far from the reservation. Again space prohibits a deeper look at all the issues that might be deemed worthy of mention, and in reality there’s perhaps no need to do this. Our central issues here are ones of credibility, and with that comes integrity and trust. Here we might again namecheck Raines who posed the question: ‘Is the Times as good as it could be and ought to be?’
The answer for this writer is an resounding “no”, though I might have different criteria to Raines for responding this way. For your humble it’s all pretty simple: When delivering the latest news or attempting to get inside a story for the benefit of the wider public, tell the truth, tell it like it is (and not how you’d you like it to be), do so with monotonous frequency and do so “without fear or favour”. And don’t treat your readers like idiots, by telling them only what you think they might like to hear! Put simply, “It’s the readers, stupid!”
For Raines and others inside or outside of this ‘citadel of truth and certitude’ who might judge the Times’ on matters to do with “credibility, integrity, and trust”, one wonders for example if becoming more politically correct (or “woke”) is evidence of progress or improvement? It might be for the majority of their ‘crypto-Bolshie’ journalists and the paper’s hard-core demographic who for some reason beyond this writer’s ken seem to place an inordinate emphasis on such matters.
But for many folks not so inclined, of a more practical orientation, or simply attuned to a more ‘we-have-far-bigger-fish-to-fry’ way of looking at the world, being “woke” and virtue signalling this mindset ad nauseum at every opportunity which presents itself is no measure of credibility or integrity, nor does it I’d aver, inspire trust. Nor I’d suggest is it what the majority of ordinary people want or need most. And in any event, given the ever shifting sands of the broad ideological landscape of the notional left-right political continuum—and with that seemingly an increasing convergence or alignment of perspectives previously considered disparate, even mutually exclusive, and vice versa—is the Times’ traditional remit still relevant, is it still valid? Should it indeed be exploring greener political pastures to better serve a broader polity and the ever changing reality of our world?
For this writer the utility of the left v right dichotomy for focussing our attention on the big issues of our time with a view to seeking and achieving lasting resolutions to them has always been suspect, if not indeed counterproductive. And I’d suggest, never more obviously so than now. The left v right thing does far more to confuse and divide people that it does to clarify the essence of the issues of concern and from there unite folks in a more cohesive manner with a view to finding solutions. As we’ve tried to emphasise herein, in this the NYT isn’t just an influencer for other media outlets; in theory it’s one serving both the public’s right to know and furthering their deeper insight into these important issues.
One only has to reflect on how the Times has unerringly supported, and along with such, helped shape then cement in the public’s mind Western establishment narratives, so many of which in a different time perhaps—unless of course one forgot to take their prescribed medication—would never have been deemed by anyone with a rational, reasoned political perspective regardless of whether they ‘dressed to the left’ or ‘dressed to the right’, as ‘liberal’, ‘left-of-centre’, or ‘progressive’.
To wit: Since when did it behoove a “liberal”, “left-of-centre”, or “progressive” media icon—one which tellingly has not endorsed a Republican presidential candidate since Dwight Eisenhower seventy years ago—to support or tacitly condone endless wars and aggressive war-mongering, coups, military interventions, false-flag operations, bombings, arms smuggling, revolutions, assassinations, drug trafficking, money-laundering, resource plundering, corporate and political corruption and criminality, terrorism sponsorship, drone attacks on civilian targets, illegal economic sanctions, political interference in the affairs of sovereign nations, and countless other gambits and endeavours that both accompany and mark out a nation well beyond the limits of hegemonic, full-spectrum-dominance overreach?
Few right-thinking folks would view any of this as good for a country—a republic by some accounts, one which is going broke in the process and setting its own citizens on the same path, and in the doing thereof creating a fractious class-riven divide that is the complete antithesis of anything we might deem to be “united”—that positions itself as a beacon of liberty, justice, democracy, freedom, the rule of law, sovereign self-determination, and human and civil rights.
Much as the Times’ deludes itself it stands as a beacon of freedom of speech and a champion of freedom of the press and position itself so, all the while it acts as a purveyor of interminable propaganda and practitioner of ruthless censorship which taken together acts to distort, pervert, despoil, and misrepresent the news of our time and distract us from the reality of our existential malaise for something far removed from what it really represents.
In embracing all of this then, the Times’ is an accessory to the decline of the Republic it purports so much to preserve and protect and everything else its defenders are at increasing pains to assure us that—if only we can get this “free speech” thing back on the rails again—all will be hunky-dory, and that the bright lights in the fabled ‘city on the hill’ will be back on in no time shining brighter than ever before!
Yet instead of serving the interests of ordinary people and the broader polity, instead of holding rogue power elements in our body politic to a proper level of accountability and transparency, this venerable representative of the Fourth Estate first and foremost seeks to serve the interests of its corporate owners and their political aides de camp in Washington, and in so doing sets the pace for others in the media to follow. It in effect is poisoning the very life-blood of that “body politic”, and encouraging its media confreres to do same.
All this leaves us to ask only the following: What would the Times do? What does the Times do? The Times seems hell bent on doubling down on all the above and them some! If it ain’t broke, what’s there to fix?
A story for another instalment perhaps? But for now, your humble scribe rests his quill! Or perhaps fall on it? …Hmm. There’s a thought!
Greg Maybury, 15 May, 2022
Boyd-Barrett, O. (2004) Understanding: The second casualty, In S. Allen, S. B. Zelizer, (Eds). Reporting War: Journalism in Wartime, London and New York: Routledge, pp. 25-42
Boyd-Barrett, O. (2010) Recovering Agency for the propaganda model: The implications for reporting war and peace, in Keeble, R. (Ed): Peace Journalism, War and Conflict Resolution. London: Peter Lang
Judith Miller’s Blame-Shifting Memoir, by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), April 7, 2015.
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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