by Peter Franklin
Tuesday, 29
November 2022
Reaction
09:43

Even British liberals are exasperated with the New York Times

An article about the Modern Slavery Act has angered both Left and Right
by Peter Franklin
Screengrab from Oliver Kamm’s article in the Times

The New York Times’s coverage of the UK has been bugging British conservatives for some while now. For instance, see this 2020 piece by Douglas Murray for UnHerd. You can find more recent examples in the Spectator and the Telegraph. 

This could be dismissed as exactly what one would expect. What else are Right-wing pundits going to say about an increasingly Left-wing publication? Add in a dash of wounded national pride and the British backlash almost writes itself. 


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Except that it’s not just Tories and Brexiteers losing patience with the NYT. For instance, here’s the impeccably liberal Oliver Kamm expressing his frustration in the Times (of London). In particular, he objects to a comparison between Liz Truss and Enoch Powell (which, when one considers their respective attitudes to immigration, bears little scrutiny). 

Over the weekend, there’s been yet another British explosion of outrage — this one in reaction to a New York Times article on the UK’s anti-slavery legislation. It’s an odd piece about the supposed plight of a former ‘county lines’ drug dealer who, in 2019, was among the first people to be convicted under the provisions of the Modern Slavery Act.

His story is meant to illustrate a wider allegation that the Act is resulting in racial inequalities. The substantiation, though, is unconvincing. For instance, the piece states that “experts say that, like other criminal justice tools, the modern slavery law is being wielded disproportionately against Black people.” But who are these “experts”?  What are their sources? It’s all rather unclear. 

Furthermore, instead of focusing on the victims of exploitation — who are, by definition, members of marginalised groups including ethnic minorities — the article places the victimisers front and centre. As a result, the piece loses sight of the fact that the real racism here would be tolerating modern slavery — whatever its form and whoever its perpetrators.  

Again, one has to ask what the Gray Lady is playing at — and this time it’s not just conservatives raising concerns. Chaminda Jayanetti, who writes for the Guardian, Observer and Mirror, is not impressed: “I regret to inform you the New York Times is writing about Britain again”. James Ball, a columnist for the New European, says that the NYT piece “misses the mark because of the well-documented misery and exploitation of County Lines.”

These are not angry Little Englanders. Indeed, Ball is genuinely puzzled as to why the newspaper’s “talented UK team” seems to be getting it so wrong. 

Is it just ignorance? Or Anglophobia? Or are the editors chasing a UK audience by pandering to the peculiar British appetite for self-loathing? I’d suggest a very different possibility — which is far from ‘othering’ us, the American Left views Britain in much the same way as their own country. And thus we find ourselves subject to the same woke analysis. 

For instance, if it is presumed that black people are “disproportionately affected” by the Modern Slavery Act then, in the woke worldview, what other explanation could there be than racism? A more innocent explanation — such as the happenstance of a particular British geography of a particular criminal operation at a particular point in time — doesn’t fit the narrative and thus goes unexamined.

It is not wrong for journalists to seek overarching explanations, but these need to fit the facts, not the other way round. 

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polidori redux
polidori redux
2 months ago

We should not be drawn into American race politics. It is as posionous as it is dumb. And we should not allow ourselves to take their media seriously. You will usually find that the writer of an article for The New York Times couldn’t find the British Isles on a map of the world. They probably think that it is off the coast of Atlantis and close to Narnia.
Oh, and why wasn’t Princess Malarkey crowned Queen of England? We demand answers!

Last edited 2 months ago by polidori redux
Mary Bruels
Mary Bruels
2 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

As an American, I don’t take The NY Times seriously either.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 months ago
Reply to  Mary Bruels

I stopped reading it back in 1998, when they spiked the story on the Clinton/Lewinsky affair. The NYT is just a propaganda sheet, and a ludicrous one at that.

Pamela Booker
Pamela Booker
2 months ago

Has a great Spelling Bee though. I get ‘genius’ level every time – even though I have account for American spellings

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
2 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

A bit of perspective from across the pond here. Media here is highly partisan and politicized. Almost every paper/magazine/website owes allegiance at some level to political backers from the left, right, or center, and/or depends on pandering to a political base for readership and profit. The NYT, for example, is basically a mouthpiece for woke echo-chamber liberals to hear themselves talk. It’s the American equivalent of the Guardian. Most Americans who aren’t zealots of one side or the other distrust ALL media and plenty of polls confirm this. It’s why this American follows an obscure British website.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

As an occasional Guardian reader, in the spirit of seeing opposition thinking and laughing at the woke articles and reader comments, I think you’ve been rather unfair on the Guardian here. The NYT has become so ignorant in its reporting on the U.K. that it has lost all credibility with intelligent people – the Guardian at least bases it’s woke world view on some facts.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
2 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Oh, you’re certainly right. I’d pick up the Guardian before the NYT myself. Then again, I’d pick up most any British newspaper before any American one for the reasons mentioned. That was just the closest comparison I could think of that might resonate with British readers. The only American news sources I regularly read are TheHill.com and the non-editorial news releases from Reuters and the AP.

John 0
John 0
2 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Indeed. Do take NYT seriously, not as news nor journalism.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Worth mentioning that the ex-BBC chief Mark Thompson was at the helm of the NYT for many years. No need to look for any other source for its U.K. hatred.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
2 months ago

I’ll point out that, unsurprisingly, no reader comments are allowed for the anti-slavery article. A move the NYT makes only when it’s sure critiques will be universally negative.

Last edited 2 months ago by [email protected]
Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

True. And it also true for most other liberal-leaning media. You are not allowed to question their ‘wisdom’. It’s all about goose-stepping. They can’t take criticism and comment. It just triggers them. Gets them upset, then they blather or start calling people names.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
2 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

How could any liberal argue with that piece of fact based wisdom?

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
2 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

More than a few papers and magazines *cough* The Atlantic *cough* start with turning off comments, then not long after put almost everything behind a paywall.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
2 months ago

I have a much more simple explanation for all of this nonsense. It’s a simple failure of intellect. Those who write such trash shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a student magazine let alone a purportedly serious newspaper.
They’re quite simply – in good old-fashioned British terminology – thick.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I think you’ll find every writer from the NYT comes from the very most prestigious universities in the US. It’s a reflection of higher learning.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I’m not at all surprised!

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

“the very most prestigious universities in the US” are, with the possible exception of MIT, about on a par with a ‘bog standard comp’ in the UK.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
2 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Where did you go to university?

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
2 months ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

It depends which degree you’re asking me about.

Smalltime J
Smalltime J
2 months ago

It is bizarre and infuriating. There was a similar piece criticising joint enterprise criminal liability recently. There is certainly a debate to be had about joint enterprise, but the hot take ‘it’s racist’ is just so shallow.

polidori redux
polidori redux
2 months ago
Reply to  Smalltime J

The US will implode. Never interfere with an enemy making a mistake.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
2 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Yes, although I would very much prefer the woke to implode without the US doing so as well.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

“Enemy”? Gee, I don’t feel that way about you.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 months ago

Well you are not on the receiving end

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
2 months ago

Don’t worry Alison. These guys are mostly Russian trolls.

polidori redux
polidori redux
2 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

It is worse than you think Hugh. I am not a Russian troll. I merely put the interest of the UK before the interest of other countries.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

I regard the USA as ally, and an increasingly important one, given our steady decrease in ability to defend ourselves. For that reason, I’m dismayed that articles which may damage goodwill to us appear in the NYT, but then, that may be the purpose.

Last edited 2 months ago by Colin Elliott
polidori redux
polidori redux
2 months ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

The US will not defend you. To be fair, it isn’t its job to do so.
You need defending? Defend yourself.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
2 months ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

The NYT hardly reflects the views of most Americans, nor do they have any regard whatsoever for the geopolitical interests of the US or any other country. They are an ideological mouthpiece, period, and should not be taken seriously by anyone.

Pamela Booker
Pamela Booker
2 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

The US is hardly our enemy. The NYT is ot the US.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
2 months ago
Reply to  Smalltime J

It is only bizarre if you make the common misconception of thinking of the NYT as a newspaper, in the old, UK sense.
It isn’t. All the journalists have been driven out by activists, and it is now a publication of lurid fiction.

Thomas Wagner
Thomas Wagner
2 months ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

Opinion is much cheaper to produce than facts. Sells better, too. Unfortunately, the result is pulp fiction, not journalism. Our Paper of Record is sounding like a broken record.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
2 months ago
Reply to  Thomas Wagner

Well stated. The game today has nothing to do with informing people of what is going on. It is merely a game to get the most eyeballs. Unfortunately, Peter Franklin and all of us commenting are guilty of perpetuating the insanity.

Last edited 2 months ago by Warren T
Emre S
Emre S
2 months ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

It’s a propaganda machine, probably has always been one.

Martin Layfield
Martin Layfield
2 months ago

‘In particular, he objects to a comparison between Liz Truss and Enoch Powell (which, when one considers their respective attitudes to immigration, bears little scrutiny). ‘

Too right! Enoch Powell was a much more substantial politician than Liz Truss! His scepticism of America from a British right -wing view (as opposed to infantile leftist Anti-americanism) also seems increasingly prescient.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 months ago

Reading Powell’s views on the US he could be described as prophetic, save that what is true now was also true back then, we just choose no to see it

Ann Ceely
Ann Ceely
2 months ago

Both Enoch and Liz were wanting more low-wage immigration to get job vacancies filled!

The difference is, that Enoch was running the NHS and joined forces with Birmingham manufacturers to hire the ships from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago!

R Wright
R Wright
2 months ago

“Edward Norman (then Dean of Peterhouse) had attempted to mount a Christian argument for nuclear weapons. The discussion moved on to “Western values”. Mrs Thatcher said (in effect) that Norman had shown that the Bomb was necessary for the defence of our values. Powell: “No, we do not fight for values. I would fight for this country even if it had a communist government.” Thatcher (it was just before the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands): “Nonsense, Enoch. If I send British troops abroad, it will be to defend our values.” “No, Prime Minister, values exist in a transcendental realm, beyond space and time. They can neither be fought for, nor destroyed.” Mrs Thatcher looked utterly baffled. She had just been presented with the difference between Toryism and American Republicanism.”
John Casey, ‘The revival of Tory philosophy‘, The Spectator (17 March 2007)

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 months ago

After 40 years of being NYTIMES subscribers- we unsubscribed 3 years ago and haven’t missed it at all. The paper is a fount of wokeism, intolerance & oft times insanity as pointed out by this author. There are just too many other really interesting and informative outlets today.

Last edited 2 months ago by Cathy Carron
Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 months ago

Much like law and education, journalism in the US has become activist-driven. The purpose is not to report the truth, but to skew events to a preconceived ideological goal. The end-game is to scientifically and socially engineer the public into credulous serfs who are bullied and brainwashed into conforming to the dictates of pious experts and politicians – a technocratic form of Neo-feudalism, if you will.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
2 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Not just in the US. The entire UK education system and most media have been captured by woke activism, and serve up little more than trite ideology and propaganda. Our erstwhile jewel in the crown, the once universally lauded BBC, is among the worst proponents of this technocratic groupthink.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
2 months ago

The NYT sucks. Shocking revelation. That’s why everyone here has bought a subscription to Unherd. I’m from Canada. We have exactly one mainstream centre-right publication and no TV with a right wing viewpoint.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
2 months ago

For some years now, Andrew Klavan has referred to it as, “The New York Times, a former newspaper”.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
2 months ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

I refer to Andrew Klavan as “A current has been and right wing extremist”.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
2 months ago

The paradox is that, whilst American universities often excel in STEM education, in every other respect they are execrable. In general, Americans are disastrously badly educated. Consequently you have a governing elite in the US that is just plain dumb. You only have to watch any debate in either house of Congress the standard of which, particularly on the Democrat side, is extraordinarily poor – many of these people would struggle as primary school teachers anywhere else in the world. The galloping idiocies of the New York Times are just a reflection of this.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
2 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Which American university did you attend to give you this remarkable insight?
Or did you just hear it from Tucker Carlson?

Ben Shipley
Ben Shipley
2 months ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

I went to and worked at an American university, and what he says is absolutely true. You have STEM, and most of the rest is a finishing school, only without their one worthwhile course, home economics.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
2 months ago
Reply to  Ben Shipley

I guess that depends on the quality of the university you attended, old chap. Although I would never question your home economics aptitude…

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
2 months ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

It really doesn’t, you know. They’re all terrible.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
2 months ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

MIT – which is probably the sole exception to the rule I’ve described above. The statistics, according to which the richest nation in the world is barely in the top thirty when it comes to education, bear me out.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
2 months ago

Better get the Daily Mail or the Sun if you want rational, unbiased, fact-based journalism!

Wesley Rawlings
Wesley Rawlings
2 months ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

I take it from this non sequitur and your infantile tantrums above that you’re an NYT fan? How embarrassing for you.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 months ago

I know actual people like this. Whenever their world view gets challenged, they resort to insults and personal attacks.
An educated mind is one which can entertain an idea they fundamentally disagree with. Unfortunately, it’s a sign of our sad times that much education these days teaches young people what to think rather than how to think.