by Ashley Rindsberg
Friday, 7
October 2022
Debate
07:15

The New York Times can’t keep playing the conspiracy card

A stream of corrections is undermining the newspaper's credibility
by Ashley Rindsberg
The New York Times Building

The New York Times has, yet again, issued a humiliating correction. Earlier this week, the paper ran a story about a Michigan-based elections software company becoming “a conspiracy theory target” over supposed “election falsehoods”. One example was the claim that Konnech, the company in question, was improperly sharing voter data with China. Yet just 24 hours later, the CEO of Konnech was arrested after investigators found it had stored voter data…in China.

The follow-up story by Stuart Thompson, a technology reporter, prompted a correction to the original story, also by Thompson. “After this article was published, the chief executive of Konnech was arrested in connection with an investigation into the possible theft of personal information about poll workers,” the Times correction noted, with considerable, if understandable, understatement.

Among media insiders, New York Times corrections are a source of endless hilarity, almost a byword for journalistic haplessness. The Times recently dragged the Queen into its endless Comedy of Corrections when it claimed the cost to taxpayers for Her Majesty’s funeral would come with a “hefty price tag” amid rising inflation. Observers swiftly noted that, using the Times’s own (erroneous) calculation, that “burden” would be 20 pence per household. Correction ensued. 

The Times issued a correction earlier this year after confusing $100 billion with $100 million and, just this month, for doing the same with 140 billion and 140 million cubic meters. And as Times editorial board member Mara Gay demonstrated, maths clearly is not the NYT’s strong suit either. On national TV, she claimed that Michael Bloomberg could have given each of America’s 330 million people one million dollars instead of spending $500 million dollars on his presidential campaign.

But the Konnech correction points to a much more serious problem than the Times’s inability to work with large numbers. At the heart of the paper’s first story about the company was an alarming claim that the “tiny” (read: innocent) company was being subjected to an onslaught of Right-wing conspiracy theories. 

That last term, conspiracy theory, has become a shibboleth of the coastal elite who run American media. By appending it to any claim, the lever pullers of power are able to marginalise not just the claim but those daring to make it. 

This was precisely the case with the lab leak theory, according to which Covid-19 emerged from the lab in Wuhan that studies coronaviruses. A month before a pandemic was even declared, the Times (along with the Washington Post, which published a nearly identical article the same day) came out swinging by calling the idea a conspiracy theory spread by “fringe” elements.

The reason the tactic works so well is that the Times fervently and prominently covers actual conspiracy theories. A Google search for “New York Times conspiracy theory” returns a host of wild, wacky and outright dangerous ideas, like the infamous QAnon quackery concerning ludicrous claims about cannibalistic paedophiles taking over America. 

As I wrote in The Gray Lady Winked, the publication plays a dangerous game by using this kind of epistemic weaponry, such as the tool at the heart of the 1619 Project, which is not just a “reframing of American history” but a redeployment of the common conception of truth. 

While the Times might fancy itself responsible enough to safely wield tactics like stamping unfavourable ideas with the dreaded “Conspiracy Theory” warning label, it won’t take long for other, less noble-minded institutions to do the same. Ultimately, when everything is a conspiracy theory, there is no longer any meaningful conspiracy — except those crafted by the theorists.

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Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 month ago

Outside of the coastal urban echo chambers that the Times caters to, they don’t have much credibility left to lose. Any American even halfway paying attention knows they slant their stories to push their political agenda. That they fudge the truth to do so and then half to run small print corrections later surprises nobody. They know who buys their paper and tell the readers what they want to hear. It’s bad journalism, but so is most everything else. Gotta say though, the math errors are pretty funny to read about. There’s a joke in there somewhere about journalism competing with the likes of social work and gender studies for the lowest common denominator of incoming university freshmen.

Last edited 1 month ago by Steve Jolly
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

The Washington Post, to which I subscribe for insight on the USA left (martyrdom indeed), is just as bad.
But it does amuse me to see their complete lack of self awareness when they pan the right for something and then do the same thing themselves. Like reading the Guardian comments, which at least is free – though they’re so confident about winning the next election thanks to Tory incompetence that I’ve been giving the Guardian a miss recently.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
1 month ago

It tickled me that the New York Times won awards for covering the Trump-Russian story. There never was one.

JJ Barnett
JJ Barnett
1 month ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Yes, it’s surreal that you can win awards for journalism covering a story that was never real. We are through the looking glass at this point.

I’ve made this point re the Guardian before that it was at one point (for decades even) a truly pioneering paper, set up to be independent so they could do the brave journalistic work. The Guardian is funded by an endowment, which meant they could resist outside pressure better than other media outlets; a kind of insulation from the corrupting influences of ad money etc.
However, even without the ad-money corruption, over time the paper got colonised by upper middle class liberal types who began a self-reinforcing recruitment ethos of bringing in more people like them. Fast forward to today, and the Guardian is so radical and so far from it’s potential customer base that it’s a loss-making enterprise that can only stay in print due to the very lucky fact that they exist off their private endowment.

So they went from using their financial independence to root out truth and report it bravely — speaking truth to power, if you will …to now, where they are using their financial independence to remain in print, despite alienating most of the public while they shout down to the people the messages of powerful.
Madness!

Last edited 1 month ago by Jem Barnett
Ian S
Ian S
1 month ago
Reply to  JJ Barnett

“…the Guardian … at one point … a truly pioneering paper, set up to be independent so they could do the brave journalistic work…”
Yes indeed. I await with interest the findings of the ‘independent‘ report into the Guardian’s historical roots in the slave trade. Can we expect statues to topple, perhaps? Or will John Edward Taylor, the journalist who founded the Manchester Guardian in 1821, be vilified? I doubt it.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago
Reply to  JJ Barnett
Last edited 1 month ago by Ian Stewart
Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago
Reply to  JJ Barnett

The Guardian is hilarious. You wade through page after page of pious hand-wringing ’til you get to the lifestyle sections – then it’s ‘check out this £325 Paul Smith shirt’, ‘why not buy a mansion in the Cotswolds?’, ‘what to take on your holiday in Belize’.

D Frost
D Frost
1 month ago

The NYTimes gradually transformed itself from a left-leaning news organization to a leftist political advocacy group with a heavy media presence. I’m surprised that they still bother to publish the corrections instead of justifying their disinformation by explaining that they were just speaking their own truth.

Naama Kates
Naama Kates
1 month ago

At least when the ennobled institution finally crumbles, we’ll know what to put on the headstone…

“Here lies the New York Times.”

David Frost
David Frost
1 month ago
Reply to  Naama Kates

Why wait? It could be the byline right now.

Robert Bass
Robert Bass
1 month ago

What I have noticed also about the NYT is their labeling of mainstream conservative politicians/parties around the globe as “far”, “extreme” or “hard” right – no plain conservative or right of center. I have never seen them use those modifiers in conjunction with “left” to describe any liberal or progressive politicians/parties. I suppose that reflects their vantage point from where there isn’t much further to go on the left.

Jeffrey Clark
Jeffrey Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  Robert Bass

I recognized this labeling issue 40 years ago, and it has persisted constantly ever since. I am sure it was done before then but it takes a little while to recognize it.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 month ago

We can all thank Hillary Clinton, who coined the phrase in public about the alleged “Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy”, which was supposedly at work, behind the scenes, to bring down her husband with continued allegations about his corruption.
Of course, it seems to be glaringly obvious that there is a left-wing conspiracy today, but no one calls it that. Politics is an ugly business.

Terry M
Terry M
1 month ago

The mistake you make is assuming that the NYT had credibility with anyone outside of blue regions. Since the 1930’s they have been apologizing for statist thugs, lying about conservatives (when they are discussing them at all), and spreading disinformation, conspiracy theories, and propaganda. Ignore the NYT unless you need to wrap fish.
https://thefederalist.com/2017/03/24/new-york-times-contributed-ukraines-bitter-harvest-1930s/

Last edited 1 month ago by Terry M
Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
1 month ago

To quote Gerald Celente, “The toilet paper of record”

doug masnaghetti
doug masnaghetti
1 month ago

NYT is never humiliated. They know exactly what they are doing. They are well aware they spew lies and slander to prop up the democrat party’s gross incompetence and hatred of democracy. The entire staff at NYT are morally depraved animals and enemies of free speech.

Leejon 0
Leejon 0
1 month ago

Even, clever, people I know personally quote the $500 million nonsense, still! They are perfectly capable of doing basic arithmetic, but choose not to do so, Why? Because they choose not to allow reality to impinge upon their beliefs. Despite denying that their world view is in fact a belief; to them it is self evidently true. Same old morons, same old shit! Humans will never embrace rationality. I’m not entirely sure you lot/me are any different!

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 month ago

The New York Times has been rotting for years. It’s self-inflicted. Hardly ‘the paper of last resort’. The fab thing about today’s media environment is that there are myriad alternatives.

Last edited 1 month ago by Cathy Carron
John Aronsson
John Aronsson
1 month ago

Heavens, the NYT has been an unreliable source since 2014 when it went all in for Ukraine.

Terry M
Terry M
1 month ago
Reply to  John Aronsson

Unreliable since at least the 1930’s.

cupera1
cupera1
1 month ago

This is a constant condition for the NYT’s. When the paper was fitting a angle halo on terrorist Baghdadi after he was killed by Trump. Letters to the paper had some of those sugar coated obituaries for the terrorist to be applied to Adolf H and Jeffery D too.

David Frost
David Frost
1 month ago

“A stream of corrections is undermining the newspaper’s credibility.”
Well, it would be if they still had any…

George K
George K
1 month ago

You want to promote treason and break us up.
Why? Why do you support Putin?
Who are you, really?