They are not getting better after the election, either
Goodwin is the chief political columnist for the New York Post and led the editorial board of the NY Daily News to a Pulitzer. Before this, he taught at Columbia Journalism School and worked as a reporter for the NY Times.
So, he speaks about journalistic standards with deep experience–and considerable passion for what he sees as their collapse.
There was a time not so long ago when journalists were trusted and admired. We were generally seen as trying to report the news in a fair and straightforward manner. Today, all that has changed. For that, we can blame the 2016 election or, more accurately, how some news organizations chose to cover it. Among the many firsts, last year’s election gave us the gobsmacking revelation that most of the mainstream media puts both thumbs on the scale—that most of what you read, watch, and listen to is distorted by intentional bias and hostility. I have never seen anything like it. Not even close. –Michael Goodwin in Imprimis
His main point is not that journalists are generally progressives and leftists. That’s been true for a long time, he says. What shocked him was the reporters’ and editors’ “whole new approach to politics” and to reporting about it. “No one in modern times,” he says, “had seen anything like it.”
Trump was savaged like no other candidate in memory. We were watching the total collapse of standards, with fairness and balance tossed overboard. Every story was an opinion masquerading as news, and every opinion ran in the same direction—toward Clinton and away from Trump.
For the most part, I blame The New York Times and The Washington Post for causing this breakdown. The two leading liberal newspapers were trying to top each other in their demonization of Trump and his supporters. They set the tone, and most of the rest of the media followed like lemmings.
The issue, he says, is not tough scrutiny of the candidate but papers and broadcasters that “dropped the pretense of fairness and jumped headlong into the tank for one candidate over the other.”
Now, he adds, even the “letters to the editor” they print uniformly agree with their editorial view.
These once-respected papers have reached a new low.
In the process, they have damaged journalism and civic discourse. He cites chapter and verse to prove his point. That, alas, is all too easy.
Comment: Sadly, Goodwin is completely correct, and all news readers are worse off for it, even those who agree with the slanted coverage.
Watching the NYT morph into MSNBC is a grim spectacle.
ZipDialog has focused repeatedly on the egregious bias in news reporting at the NYT, Washington Post, and the MSM.
There’s no sign yet of any turn for the better.
Hat tip to Clarice Feldman for Goodwin’s important article
Today’s op-ed by Michael Oren in the New York Times is the perfect complement to Lieber’s piece.
Oren is a rare combination: a serious historian, whose book on the 1967 War was widely praised by all sides, and a serious policymaker, who served as Israel’s Ambassador to the United States during Pres. Obama’s first term, a difficult time for bilateral relations. He is currently Deputy Minister for Diplomacy in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office.
He understands America as well as he understands Israel, have been born, raised, and educated here.
What makes it valuable, besides Oren’s deep background in the subject?
Two things: First, you won’t find a more helpful or succinct summary of the background to Israeli-Arab disputes before the 1967 war. That background is valuable; those who don’t know it assume that the region’s problems with the Jews and Israel began in 1967, or perhaps 1948 (when modern Israel was founded). That foreshortening also foreshortens understanding.
Second, although Oren is unabashedly an Israeli patriot, he has a clear-eyed view of how each side sees the conflict. He understand that, as the Israelis celebrate, the Palestinians mourn, as they mourn the founding of the Jewish State itself.
While the war certainly shaped the modern Middle East, it alone cannot account for the contradictory ways Israelis and Palestinians commemorate it. The chasm can only be explained by events that preceded it. Far beyond 1967, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is in fact about 1917, 1937 and 1947. Those anniversaries can teach us much about the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and why peace has proved so elusive. –Michael Oren in the New York Times
Oren follows with a succinct history of the dispute, a remarkably clear summary in such a short space. He concludes:
We’ll hear a lot this week about occupation and lack of Palestinian independence. Israel has a clear policy on this score: It does not want to rule over another people and is ready to begin immediate negotiations. Yet while Palestinian leaders claim they support a two-state solution, until they state that they favor “two states for two peoples,” affirming both Jewish and Palestinian peoplehood and rights, the conflict will tragically persist. It is only through mutual recognition that Israelis and Palestinians will both be able to celebrate, rather than mourn, future anniversaries. –Oren
It has long been conventional wisdom to view the June 1967 war as an accidental conflagration that neither Arabs nor Israelis desired, yet none were able to prevent. This could not be further from the truth. Its specific timing resulted of course from the convergence of a number of particular causes at a particular juncture. But its general cause—the total Arab rejection of Jewish statehood—made another all-out Arab-Israeli war a foregone conclusion. –Karsh, Glickman, and Inbar
Ben Austen is one of the best non-fiction writers around. He’s published some great pieces, including major stories in the NY Times Magazine and Harper’s, often about race or life in modern American cities, sometimes both.
He’s currently finishing a book on what happened after Chicago tore down one of its infamous public housing projects, Cabrini Green.
I’m proud to say Ben is a distant cousin. He grew up in Chicago, not far from us, and I’ve known him and his family since he was a high schooler.
Actually, I knew Ben’s Mom and Dad before I learned we were related. We all go to the same synagogue, and I teach at the University of Chicago, where Ben’s father, Ralph, also teaches.
Ralph Austen is a distinguished historian of Africa. We had even taught a seminar or two together before we discovered the connection.
Ben’s mother, Ernestine, is also a long-time friend and works alongside my wife, Susan, on social justice projects, including volunteering at an elementary school for impoverished kids.
One touching connection in our family is that my mother’s side, long settled in America, helped their cousins escape from Germany as the Nazis closed in.
I learned that first-hand from Ralph’s late father, Hans, some years ago, when we met at his home in Switzerland. After escaping the Nazis, he lived on Long Island, where Ralph was raised. Late in life, Hans wanted to return to Europe to live. He couldn’t bring himself to return to Germany, so he and his wife moved to Zug, in the German-speaking area of Switzerland.
It was in Zug that I first met him. He went over to a closet and took out a box, opened it, and began showing me the pieces of paper documenting our family history over hundreds of year.
Stunning and touching.
Some documents, such as marriage certificates, dated back to the early 1700s in Bohemia. At the time, our family, the Steiners, did not have a last name. That came later, as the European regions developed state bureaucracies and began giving names to people so they count and tax them.
Hans also told me he remembered my grandmother (my mother’s mother from Alabama; I visited her often in Mobile as a child). Her father was German, and he sometimes took the family there for summer visits.
Yes, said Hans, with a German accent, “She vas my first cousin. We met in Leipzig in 1911.”
He didn’t have to state the unspoken truth.
Not long after they met and my grandmother returned to the safety of America came the chilling decades of European catastrophe.
“Ambivalence” is less clear. But they quickly add she is ” a cipher cloistered in a gilded New York penthouse.”
And, of course, she is armored, as opposed to open and authentic.
The Times continues, plunging in the knife and twisting it:
And her embrace of the high-end, and refusal to go through the motions of adopting the occasional accessible item, was fully in line with her husband’s gold-toned dollar-sign spiel. –Vanessa Friedman in the New York Times
The phrase “gold-toned dollar-sign spiel” is particularly revealing. First, they use “gold-toned” instead of “gold” to indicate it is fake class, not the real thing you find in old-money living rooms on Central Park and Park Avenue.
This line of criticism highlights one of the things that most irritates the NYT and intellectuals.
The Trumps, they sneer, are so brash, so brassy, so . . . nouveau riche. They are not sophisticates like us.
They are, of course, right that Donald Trump himself is a poster child for brash, brassy, and nouveau riche. He made his name hyping that lifestyle to people who wanted to buy in.
And, as everyone knowns, Pres. Trump can be blunt, rude and crude.
But Melania is none of those.. Neither are Jared and Ivanka. (I don’t know enough about the others to say.)
So why smear Melania except to throw mud on her husband?
For that noble purpose, they overlook no opportunity.
The media, intellectuals, and the left basically think Trump and his ilk are Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack.
If Melania is his spouse, she must be Mrs. Dangerfield.
Trump’s supporters have their own cartoon image of the left, the media, and their ilk. They are Ted Knight’s pretentious Judge Elihu Smails. (The “Elihu” is a nice touch, says this Yalie.)
Only the NYT would look at Caddyshack and root for the Judge.
As Carl Spackler would say, “So Trump’s got that going for him.”
And Trump would reply, “The Times. Oh, they must have been something before electricity.”
◆ A key factor is missing in the hand-wringing analysis over the inevitable purchase of the Sun-Times by Tronc’s Chicago Tribune, and it’s this:
⇒The sales and marketing departments of the Tribune and Sun-Times will be combined.
⇒ And that foreshadows the death of the Sun-Times.
A Little History
The same death dance played out in the 1970s, when the Sun-Times and the Chicago Daily News comprised Field Enterprises’ two-newspaper portfolio, with ad sales staffers selling space in both newspapers to advertisers such as Sears, Carson’s, Z Frank and First National Bank.
But those sales pitches lasted microseconds when advertisers balked at buying space in two newspapers when the Sun-Times had more than twice the circulation of the Daily News.
It mattered not a whit that the demographics of the evening Daily News were superior to the Sun-Times or that the quality of the content in the Daily News was more distinguished.
Advertisers weren’t interested in advertising in its pages, and ad sales staffers weren’t about to waste their sales call trying to convince advertisers otherwise.
By 1975, the Tribune had killed its afternoon paper, Chicago Today, and absorbed its 400,000 daily circulation into its million-plus base. That meant Tribune ad sales people could offer far more circulation and at a cheaper cost-per-thousand in a single newspaper and with a single sales pitch than the Sun-Times could by offering two newspapers and two sales pitches.
Why buy space in two newspapers when you could do better in one?
Sales efforts focused on the Sun-Times’ circulation, and the Daily News was ignored to death.
What’s Past Is Prologue
The same logic will apply in 2017.
When it comes time for a Tribune sales staffer to pitch an ad schedule to an advertiser, he’ll focus on the Tribune’s superior circulation.
Maybe on the way out the door, he’ll say, “Oh, wait. I have a Sun-Times media kit here. Want me to leave it?”
The answer already is all too clear.
Dan Miller is one of Chicago’s most respected and experienced economic journalists.
He served as Chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission in the 1990s, then business editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, and, in recent years, as policy adviser to the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank. He also co-founded the Chicago Innovation Awards, which as recognized best-practices in products and services for over 15 years.
The Other Poison Gas Killing Syrians: Carbon Dioxide Emissions
If Trump and his cronies really cared about children killed by noxious gases, they wouldn’t be trying to spew ever more CO2 into the atmosphere –Juan Cole
You see, it’s about drought. Yeah, that’s the ticket. It’s the drought that caused everything to go wrong in Syria.
Oh, yes, and Trump is to blame. Plus, he’s a hypocrite for bombing a Syrian base to stop more chemical weapon attacks because Trump doesn’t also agree with Al Gore on climate change. If you can follow that logic, check with your doctor. If you agree with it, apply to graduate studies with Prof. Cole at Michigan.
Again, to quote the professor:
The Syrian civil war has left more than 400,000 people dead, among them graveyards full of children and innocent noncombatants. About half the country’s 23 million people have been left homeless, and of those, 4 million have been driven abroad (some of them contributing to Europe’s refugee crisis and its consequent rightward political shift). The war occurred for many complex reasons, including social and political ones. The severest drought in recorded modern Syrian history in 2007–10, however, made its contribution. –Juan Cole
Comment: Notice that, in the fine print, Cole relegates the drought to a much more ambiguous status. It “made a contribution” to the humanitarian disaster, he now says. How much contribution? He refuses to say.
Yet the whole point of the article is that carbon dioxide in Syria is more deadly than poison gas attacks, which are war crimes (for good reasons). In short, the article is bait-and-switch, seasoned with hyperbole, political correctness, and a steadfast refusal to look true evil in the eye.
The most appropriate comment comes from the movie, Billy Madison. It is pitch perfect for Prof. Cole’s analysis:
In other words, a drought may have contributed, indirectly, to the carnage in Syria. But to emphasize it as a major cause is misleading, tendentious, and wrong.
To put it differently, California had multiple years of drought and, according to recent statistics, the civil war there has claimed far fewer than 400,000 lives. Perhaps under 300,000.
Hey, let’s at least give Jerry Brown some credit for avoiding barrel bombs in the Central Valley. So far.
Hat Tip: Daniel Pipes and Campus Watch. They found the Cole article and publicized it. Kudos.
Tom Blumer at NewsBusters, who initially publicized the article.
Jean Yarbrough, a distinguished political philosopher at Bowdoin College, describes her personal and intellectual journey in a brief, engaging campus talk, published here.
She entered college in the mid-1960s a liberal Democrat, from a “blue collar/middle class” neighborhood on Long Island, the first generation in her family to attend university.
In those heady days on campus, she moved left and eventually joined the Students for a Democratic Society, the most prominent leftist group of the era.
In graduate school, though, she began to rethink her views as she grappled with truly great books.
“Having wasted my undergraduate years protesting,” she said the first peg of her conservatism developed when she began studying the “great texts” in her graduate program at the New School for Social Research in New York City. “I read great books, and these books changed my life. They made me think more seriously about the world around me.” . . .
The books she read during this period pushed her to carefully consider the importance of natural rights, constitutional government, statesmanship, and virtue — its role in society and how it can be cultivated.
She goes on to discuss her changing views about foreign policy, marriage-motherhood-and-feminism, religion, and economics. It’s thoughtful, candid, and accessible.
At a time when students at so many schools refuse to hear alternative views, it’s wonderful to see Prof. Yarbrough given a respectful hearing on her campus and a chance to engage students with serious, often-difficult and controversial ideas. That’s what higher education should be about.
As an addendum, Prof. Yarbrough includes some of her favorite books on politics. A specialist in American political thought, she knows the field well and has written highly-regarded books on Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt. Her list is worth pondering–and pursuing.
Parini and Callanan, the distinguished scholars who have headed up this effort, deserve high praise for it.
At the bottom of this blog post, I quote the exemplary principles they lay out.
◆ Let’s go beyond praising the free-speech petition and use the signatures to show where support free speech comes from and where the opposition lies.
◆ So far, 63 faculty members have signed on. More might join in the next few days.
◆ They come from a broad variety of departments–but not all.
In fact, it is worthwhile to examine the departmental affiliations of who signed up for free speech and, on the other side, those who signed the counter-petition (prior to the speech), demanding Murray stay away and then sliming him with false allegations about his views and scholarly findings.
Most (but not all) of Allison Stanger’s colleagues in political science signed the pro-free speech petition, as did she. That’s not surprising. She was, of course, injured in the riots, and some of her friends and colleagues undoubtedly wanted to show solidarity with her.
Parini’s colleagues in English and American Literature signed in larger numbers than most departments. Support from literature departments would not happen at most universities. That it did at Middlebury may reflect the kind of department Parini helped build or simply his colleagues’ friendship.
Who signed the petition beyond faculty in Political Science and Literature? The bulk were in the “hard social sciences” (Economics, Psychology), History, Russian, Math, Chemistry, Geology, and, surprisingly, Religion.
(By “hard social sciences,” I mean those, like economics and psychology, that aspire to be sciences, emphasize large data bases, mathematical models, and empirical testing of causal models. Fields like anthropology and history certainly use data, but they are generally more interested in the actors’ mentalities, intentions, and meanings. Thus, “hard” does not mean difficult, and “soft” does not mean squishy.)
Who refused to sign? There were zero signatures from the following departments and minors:
African American Studies, African Studies, American Studies, Arabic, Comparative Literature, Dance, Education Studies, French, Gender, Sexuality, & Feminist Studies, Global Health , Greek, Hebrew-Classical, Hebrew-Modern, International and Global Studies, International Politics and Economics, Latin, Linguistics , Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Physical Education, Physics, South Asian Studies , Spanish and Portuguese, Studio Art, and Theatre
That is based on the stated affiliations of the signatories, compared to Middlebury’s official list of its departments and majors. It is possible, of course, that some signatories have “affiliate appointments” in these departments or that the departments have no exclusive faculty of their own.
The data show
Supporters of free speech come disproportionately from the physical sciences, “hard” social sciences, and, to a lesser extent, the biosciences.
Opposition comes from the Humanities, Arts, and softer social sciences. Because social justice.
That distribution reflects my own experience across multiple universities (but is not based on systematic data).
On nearly every campus, the staunchest opponents are professors of gender, sexuality, women’s studies, race, Native American studies, education, and social work, all highly-politicized bastions of the left. American Studies is now essentially the same and so are most literature departments. (Middlebury is an outlier.)
They always lead the opposition to free speech. Because social justice.
If students don’t agree with the dominant political ideology of these departments, they leave or never enter in the first place. (It is snarky but true to add that students don’t enter them if they are thinking about building skills for future employers. My point is that they are not building skills for open-minded, critical thinking, either.)
These departments never hire professors who vary from the party line. Never.
Here, for example, are the three full-time faculty in Middlebury’s gender studies program. All three signed the “Keep Murray Away” petition. NONE signed the free speech petition. That is anecdotal, of course, but it is repeated on campus after campus. You would be hard fixed to find professors of Gender Studies, Sexuality, Race Studies, Education, or Social Work who take a strong position in favor of free speech. And they are pretty thin on the ground in theater or comparative literature. All think it would permit “oppressive” speech that hurts the weak, poor, and vulnerable.
The dominant ideology of departments like these is:
America is an exploitative country and a malevolent force in the world;
Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on the right track but too willing to compromise, too willing to work within “the system”
America and our college campuses are composed of two main groups: the oppressed and the privileged. Our departments stand with the oppressed. They are simultaneously powerful and vulnerable, needing “safe spaces” to express their views unchallenged. A space is unsafe not because of any physical threat but because certain views (or even the presence of certain people) can produce psychic injury.
As professors are activists, inside the classroom and outside. Our teaching is explicitly designed to improve the situation of the oppressed and to assign blame to the oppressors.
Designated oppressors should feel guilty and can partially absolve themselves by following our movement, not by leading or questioning it.
Put differently: February is “Black History Month” only because it is the shortest month.
Their viewpoint is summarized in Bernie Sanders’ angry rejection of the idea that America is a compassionate country. His fury is brief and telling.
Turning to the brighter side:
⇒ The Middlebury Principles are excellent.
It is hard to see why all faculty and students don’t endorse them enthusiastically.
That they do not is the tragedy of our time on campus.