The New York Times has found itself in a firestorm of hypocrisy in the last couple of weeks seeing two editors, Jonathan Weisman and Tom White-Piersanti, were publicly shamed and disciplined for past indiscretions on social media violating current day political norms. In today’s woke safe space world, their rantings from another time were deemed vicious examples of anti-Semitism; these days, a political accusation sure to trigger the angry birds of Twitter to brand one guilty even if proven innocent.
That wasn’t the hypocrisy part.
No, that honor goes to New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger for penning a memo to his staff lashing out against the outrageous campaign against his publication by right wing activists exposing the past indiscretions of his employees. It seems Mr. Sulzberger did not take kindly to the exposé efforts of activist Arthur Schwarz, a declared pro-Trump sympathizer. Conveniently, the mainstream press wasted no time allegedly linking Schwarz to Donald Trump Jr. conveniently amplifying the blast radius of the explosion.
It seems that Mr. Schwarz took the time and effort to rummage through old social media postings by left-wing personalities to find, predictably enough, less than careful politically incorrect tweets in their pasts. Such discoveries under the curtain climate of political warfare and safe space prickliness in the United States are tantamount to atom bombs in people’s careers.
Now fair is fair. In fairness to Mr. Schwarz, his right of aisle activity closely replicates the longtime smear activities of organizations like Media Matters that have embarked on similar shaming attacks against right wing personalities for many years.
Schwarz didn’t exclusively target the New York Times. He also exposed employees at Cable News Network. Unlike NYT, CNN laid low and took the hide the sausage approach to crisis management. Their employees deleted the offending tweets. CNN went no comment⏤content to let the Gray Lady take the brunt of the blast.
It seems Mr. Sulzberger does not agree that left wing journalists should be subject to same scrutiny as their right-wing journalist counterparts. Apparently, a double standard is an entitlement. You know, because right-wing people are evil racists/ Nazis/ whatever and left-wing people are merely colorful potty mouths that have no control over their emotions, or something like that.
Sorry A.G., I call bullshit. Apparently, so do others.
The avalanche of criticism leveled at the New York Times for putting its foot in its mouth this way has been interesting indeed. First outed by Breitbart and amplified by internet echo chamber sites like LifeZette that specialize in internet click storms, the criticism quickly spread to comments by other media outlets including Politico which fired its opening salvo at the Gray Lady by quoting an old Edward R. Murrow observation that reporters aren’t thin skinned, they have no skin.
Predictably, NYT arch-rival the New York Post put out its own scathing dissection of Mr. Sullzberger’s whining. Those cantankerous New Yorkers eh? Never miss a chance to talk smack.
The salt in the wound was the Washington Post also taking a whack at Sulzberger’s whiny entitled victim stance. That must have stung to have their supposed “resistance” ally at the other end of the Accela train going all journalistic principled at such a vulnerable intersectional moment.
Interestingly, on the political scene, a rare meeting of minds. Both President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden reacted critically to the news of the New York Times’ hypocrisy. Who says bipartisanship is dead?
What Could Cause such a Firestorm?
When I was asked to write this article and started to research how this Internet storm came about, it made me smile. One of the basic axioms of prolonged conflict is that overtime warring parties will equalize. While in the early stages, it is possible to engage in asymmetric advantage against your adversary; ultimately, it becomes trench warfare. I believe we are seeing trench warfare arrive on the scene of the American cultural divide. And I believe this is a good thing. Let me explain.
First, let’s be frank. Coming into the 2020 election, there’s really no innovation going on here. You have an incumbent administration attempting to execute an eight-year plan. Agree with it or not, everybody generally knows what that agenda is. Everyone gets it that work lies ahead it in order to make it happen. The job of the White House under Donald Trump is to continue to bulldoze its way through this list of agenda items. Truthfully, it’s no different than what every other presidential tenure cycle looks like.
On the other side, it is the Democratic Party seeking to find traction with an alternative message to the American people. It’s having a lot of trouble doing so. The party is financially decimated and leadership weak from its 2016 debacle. It’s struggling with too many activists plaguing the system. As former president Barack Obama noted, the Democratic Party is a circular firing squad, unable to create real cohesion within its ranks. The Democrats are conventionally disadvantaged. They know it. But they believed they had a “trump” card. They put their faith in media elites who took sides weaponizing their businesses in support of the resistance.
The media of course was never that altruistic. They took sides for the worst of all possible reasons, economic greed. They divided the country into audience segments in order to own them. Think concentration camps of the mind. Each media outlet fed people stories to get them addicted to their spin like drug dealers pushing hypnotic versions of the news.
Something happened along the way. They turned their staffs from journalists into rumor mongers. In other words, they became tabloids. And within these organizations, the people who work inside them would become addicted to the spin as well. Keep the audience happy; it’s good for business.
But karma always boomerangs. The political weaponization of what is supposed to be an impartial press has in turn generated consequence effects. One of those is that media organizations have become legitimate combatant targets in the rules of engagement. Fair game.
Think of what it takes for an employee to fit into the culture of a propaganda machine like that. What belief sets do you need to embrace to get ahead, or even to just get along at the water cooler. The reality is that the press consists of people like any other business. People are frail. Individually, Americans are biased and boisterous about it. We become politically incorrect at the drop of a hat. In fact, we revel in it chasing endorphins in our heads as we enjoy the freedom to be inane. People say stupid things because they adopt stupid values.
The thing is that the executives of these companies encourage it because it fits the narrative of their gross revenue agendas. Retain the audience. Do whatever you have to do. Journalistic standards are fungible. Aggregate – that’s code for steal other organizations stories – and spin. Employees are expendable.
Aligning themselves with 1% elitist activist agendas, mainstream news companies have found their organizations Increasingly disconnected from the value systems of ordinary Americans. And therein lies an Orwellian flaw. News employees work in companies where the thought police are already in charge.
The fact of the matter is that press elitism exists throughout the political spectrum of the media; not just in the hearts of staffers who become careless with their emotional outburst, but elitism at the organizational level itself begetting the arrogance to believe they can play God and play a role to drive the future of social engineering.
No, you idiots, your job is to report the news, not manufacture “thought porn”.
Reining in a Media That Has Lost Its Way
I’m a big fan of symmetry when it comes to long term conflicts. It creates parity and is an enabler to fermenting the conditions for restoring negotiated peace and compromise. This is something the United States of America needs acutely.
I think that what Arthur Schwarz is doing is restoring balance, so to speak. When both sides of the political spectrum employ the same weapons against each other, in practical terms, they begin the process of negating tactical innovation advantages to arrive at a stalemate.
Stalemates are actually very useful milestones in the political process. They create constructive futility. They flush the poisons, like systemic flaws baked into the media, hidden in the shadows, out into the open. They highlight hypocrisy and oxymorons. They enable ordinary Americans to begin to ask how did it come to this nonsense?
In this instance, infected mainstream news organizations that have wrongly taken sides need to fail. They need to fail so that journalism can inform instead of entertaining again. They need to fail so that other forces of political debate and consensus can come to the forefront again. That’s the actual national interest priority to restore. Better the news stick to reporting it. They media has no business shaping it.
The bottom line is it doesn’t matter if it is FOX or CNN. If you have placed too many people from one side of the US cultural divide into positions of power in a news bureau, by definition, it can no longer be a fair and balanced operation. Human frailty cannot be purged from an organization by writing memos about adhering to the AP style guide. No. It must be hammered into the fabric of the news bureau. Right now, in too many corners of the media, that’s not happening.
If it takes a thousand cuts by activist organization using the power of internet to crawl through the biases of every news organization employee in America, I think that’s just peachy. It’s one of the healthiest developments in restoring balance to the American cultural debate we could see happen. Bring it on.