The New York Times is at war with itself
The self-inflicted decline of the paper reflects a malaise in America's ruling class
Once the newspaper of record for the richest and most powerful empire the world has ever seen, The New York Times still leads the world in in-depth coverage of one particular topic: the internal politics of The New York Times.
Its foreign reporting, buoyed by budgets British newspapers can only look upon with envy, is now overshadowed by its recent coverage of ‘The Gray Lady’s’ own bitter internal disputes over the acclaimed Caliphate podcast; whether or not it should have published Senator Tom Cotton’s call to disperse protestors by force; first the presence, then the resignation of opinion writer Bari Weiss, a lightning rod for progressive angst; and its 1619 Project, an ambitious attempt to replace one national myth of the essential moral goodness of America’s founding, with another, on its inherent moral evil.
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A newspaper whose moving and remorseless coverage of America’s endless foreign wars, most expertly and intelligently displayed in its At War section, is now turning inwards, at war with itself. At War will be shuttered as America and The New York Times grapples with a far more intractable conflict: America’s escalating culture war.
Of course, any puzzled British reader of the NYT’s bizarre coverage of the UK will have already observed an essential fact of modern American journalism: it is no longer predominantly engaged in descriptive analysis of the rest of the world but instead in telling its readers moral fables about the US; parables in which the rest of the world features as mere local colour.
Its coverage of Brexit or of the admittedly multiple failings of the Johnson government function as oblique critiques of Trumpian populism, in which Britain itself, with all its complexities, is reduced to a mere shadow play for American journalists to tell their readers improving stories about themselves.
As America’s public discourse becomes ever more detached from reality, and ever more intensely focused on the internecine theological squabbling which defines the country’s new faith, even the very notion of a newspaper of record now seems a strange relic of an unrecoverable past — not least to its own journalists.
The role of journalism, in the age of Trump and Twitter, is now that of unabashed activism. Their function is no longer to describe the world, but to reshape it. No doubt the self-congratulatory tenor of much post-2016 journalism, in which journalists, adopting the uncritical adulation afforded to the armed forces in the Bush era, thank themselves for their service with ever-growing fervour, has much to do with this strange new world.
Perhaps we can be grateful that in the UK, journalism has traditionally been considered a humble trade, like plumbing or estate agency, rather than a profession like medicine or the law, which require specialised degree courses and demand social prestige.
Because in the sad, self-inflicted decline of The New York Times we are given a powerful glimpse of the internal turmoil afflicting America’s governing class. Like the staff of a grand city-centre department store fighting in the shop window, the elevation of internal Slack disputes and bitter office gossip to its front pages is a powerful metaphor for a country, and class, at war with itself. So absorbed are they in rooting out the internal enemy that the rest of the world fades into obscurity — and perhaps, as America’s social conflict widens, this is something for which we in the rest of the world ought to be grateful.
One other worrying trend I’m noticing from mainstream journalists is to label non left-wing news sites as ‘right-wing’ or ‘alt-right’. Quillette has recently been called such, which is disturbing because I find their articles to be quite diverse and exploratory for the most part. Unlike the Guardian or the NYT, where I’m lectured and scolded to for not kowtowing to their woke ideology.
Left and right is some odd kind of number line where going left of center progresses in decreasing fractions so that one can never actually make it to ‘Far Left, no matter how far one goes. Conversely moving right of the center point increases exponentially so any move right of center is far Right. This system is the accepted grading system of politics now days.
In the same vein, the NYT loves to label groups “far right” and almost never labels anyone “far left,” no matter how extreme their views may be to a vast majority of Americans.
True, but somewhat out of date.
The unfailingly fawning treatment the NYT and nearly the whole of the rest of the US media gave Senator, later President, Barack Obama from 2007 onwards was a wholly biased, partisan, propagandist wonder to behold.
He could do no wrong, he was never given a hard question to answer, the failings (and often sheer thuggish delinquency) of some of his government’s departments were never exposed.
This treatment has continued to the present day.
What the candidature, and later election as President, of Donald Trump did was to expose this wholly unethical and unprofessional type of journalism as in the glare of massive arc-lamps.
For that newspaper, like most broadcasters and other print organs in their land, went berserk and obsessed with hatred against Mr Trump; loathing out of all proportion to his faults.
SInce he became even a contender for the Commander in Chieftainship, he has been treated as if he were Adolf Hitler’s worse elder brother, or Satan’s personal and plenipotentiary vicegerent on Earth.
What this absurdity, on both counts (the treatment of Obama, the treatment of Trump) shows is that nowadays the awful ‘meritocratic’ ruling caste in the western nations is one body made up of privileged persons – national politicians, national journalists, big money types, Leftie gurus – and they all (accurately) feel threatened by each and every populist tendency which surfaces (e.g. our Leave vote in 2016, or the strides made electorally by populist parties across Europe 2017/18).
Journalism at that level in the States, and to some extent over here, is no longer about reporting facts, still less speaking truth to power. It is a niche of employment for the schmoozing networking grifters who infest it. Often they are married to, in bed (literally frequently and usually metaphorically) with their political counterparts.
The supreme irony is that Pres. Obama’s right-hand man and fixer Ben Rhodes professed complete contempt for the Washington DC press corps in a NYT Magazine article of May 5, 2016 – before even his boss had left office.
Flatter your prince like mad for 9 years of slavish devotion; and your reward is that he has you spat upon!
The role of journalism, in the age of Trump and Twitter, is now that of unabashed activism.
The NYT has become a campus paper with a wider circulation. What’s ironic is how much of it and the rest of the media’s business model seems to rely on the presence of Orange McBadman.
Yes, some journalists are now worried about their careers should Biden become president in November. Who can they turn to to drum up drama and tragedy for their reporting? I predict that many of them will go out of business.
That is probably why, apparently, quite a lot of these people secretly voted for Trump in 2016. Their business model needs him.
Biden’s tribe started several wars, some of which are still ongoing, so in spite of Biden’s laid-back or catatonic demeanor, there is no reason to believe he or his handlers won’t start a few more. They should be good for all the drama and tragedy anyone might want. But as for activism, when if ever weren’t news media ideological and activist? It’s certainly not a new development.
Who could the Biden Army actually fight? The only enemy their camp recognizes is traditional America. Maybe Walk Kelly like they can use ‘Pogo’s great line, “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us.” and increase their attacks on us.
Yep, 1619. Cotton. Weiss.
No further questions your Honour.
Between freeloading , before unloading …on the military in Vietnam. And then Watergate seemingly conferring grace on activists to masquerade as journalists ?
This was the time when journalism died.
True journalists are online and way outside the mandated consensus of loathing Brexitrump deplorables.
Soldiers , missionaries or army chaplains. ..but no courage, no faith and no belief in truth other than Soros, Bezos and Davos being gods they get paid a few pieces of Judas silver to serve, suck up and off.
The NYT will be gone within a few years.
Hopefully it will enact a suicide pact with the Guardian.
The death of woke, as that well-worn saying goes, has been greatly exaggerated. Pundits keep telling us that woke is finished or “get woke ““ go broke” but that fashionable morality is proving to be be remarkably resilient.
I suspect that main attraction is the simplicity: find an underdog cause, declare your solidarity and your ascent to the moral highground is assured.
Well the NBA is going broke due to going woke – to the extent that an organisation in thrall to to China can be woke.
Channel 4, likewise, is pretty much going broke. And various woke films and marvel comics were a disaster. Then there’s Gillette, and various other examples.
Glad to hear it ““ but I’m still not optimistic.
What we might call “the creative class” (mostly woke folk) have a major influence on people’s world view. “Sit back and enjoy the entertainment” they tell you (while bringing you the kind of heroes and anti-heroes they think you should admire).
Creative people love a revolution. They can’t stomach conservative stability for very long ““ its just not innovative enough. They must have change.
NBA strongly assisted in going broke by Covid.
The key aspect of modern journalism is to find a community you can then click-bait and farm for monetisation prospects. Many *journalists* (more accurately commenters) are concious of being larger brands (or wanting to be) than the things they write, speak or present for.
And woke type culture wars are where the clicks are in punditry.
I imagine many uber woke people couldn’t care less about the supposed causes they rotate around….and indeed just having rows is far better than wasting video creation time, or writing time, penning thoughtfull, balanced and reflective pieces.
Companies can carve out a space but that’s increasingly with the former add-ons becoming *the point* of the company….like commercial events,
But the real compression yet to come is when every media company has to be significantly and prominently visible in the video (aka ‘TV’) space…so You Tube wins I suppose….along with Apple and Amazon?
It’s proving resilient partly because people haven’t figured out how to deal with its circular logic. If you fight back against the ridiculous claims of critical race theory, for example, you are only proving your “white fragility.”
One of the oddities of the internet is it doesn’t really like competition and loves monopoly.
So the largest competitor to the Guardian is the NYT.
But really the interpretive type of journalism that most TV and newspaper reporters like to think is what they do is what is dying…reporters are at the scene of action a vanishingly small number of times. Whereas somebody who isn’t a journalist is always there (it if it hasn’t been videoed these days then , for a number of reasons, it doesn’t really exist) .
*Just gimme the facts* is the boiled down essence of journalism and these days everyone can get those for themselves with a decntly curated social media and you tube set up..
AS a conservative Ima reading the New Woke Times for free as part of their Covid-19 promotion since March this year. I would never, ever pay a dime for such a piece of left-wing, woke, anti-white and relentlessly Trump bashing propaganda publication. I detest Trump but frankly I wonder if their “journalists” are obliged to produce at least once Trump bashing article a day to keep their jobs???? The New Woke Times could proudly compete with such tradition-honoured publications as the National Socialist Voelkischer Beobachter orthe Soviet Pravda. The bigger the propaganda and the distortion of facts the better it will sell. Goebbels would have approved. Regretfully the Guardian of Wokeness in the UK is following into the NYT ‘s footsteps and preaching the same we hate Whiteness love diversity and left-wing politics with a passion type of attitude. News have been replaced by propaganda and not only in print but the TV and cable media ( CNN, ABC, MSNBC, CBS, BBC etc) have largely become the purveyors of left-wing propaganda denouncing systemic racism, inequalities , perpetuating the same trite “progressive “cliches and fostering the policies of victimhood and White supremacy which have become the new articles of faith. I think wokeness has become the equivalent of what the protestant Reformation achieved in the 15th and 16th centuries in Europe
Yes, I’ve often wondered why the Guardian and many other UK publications went down that path? Like Britain’s Labour Party, they’ve managed to alienate a huge slice of their following, leaving themselves with only their most ardent supporters.
Yes, I completely agree about the Guardian. Having read it (among other things) for nigh on thirty years, I’ve had to stop. I couldn’t comment on the NYT, but in the last few years, any semblance of objectivity or balance in the Guardian has gone right out the window.
Free? Damn, I’m paying $4/month at least until my year is up.
I generally check the op-eds for the opportunity to write comments disagreeing with the author, and about half the time my comment gets published. And gets about 3 likes.
Then I’ll scan down the screen looking for something interesting before moving on to The Federalist for the opposite take. Then might visit Reason for a libertarian viewpoint.
Guardian, WSJ, and WaPo being behind paywalls saves me the effort of going there.
Perhaps you should consider stopping your financial support of them. Vote with your wallet on the (lack of) quality of their journalism. If you want to hear far left propaganda just go to CNN.com. They make Fox News look sober and objective.
I remain stunned at how media seems to all fall in line critical of anything Trump may do. While he’s simply a narcissistic hustler with solid personal appeal, his plain speaking style without poll tested worn talking points is refreshing. He is not a conservative but holds some conservative values. Indeed the press fell for the Russian disinformation planted by opposition because it fit their desired narrative – too many times. A biased press by never questioning it’s stories can be manipulated by external forces quite happy to have a divided polarized nation – the US or the UK.
Yes, that just about sums it up. Thank you, Aris. 20 years ago I would buy the NYT when in NY. Today I don’t even pick it up at the library, where it is free. It has become truly evil. One thing to add is that the NYT, I believe, supported the invasion of Iraq and various other insane foreign interventions, as did CNN etc. It’s good for clicks and eyeballs…
The New York Times has cast itself free from the moorings of rational thought and objective reporting of actual news, is now adrift in a sea of wokism, progressive bedwetting, and self-flagellation, and is swiftly and inexorably headed toward the whirlpool of self-destruction.
We live in hope.
Hope So…I want News not opinions & Copy &Paste ”Climate idiots”
Having many of the world’s broadsheets on my tablet and good anti-paywall software, I long ago dumped the NYT and WP; too little journalism and too much opinion. I don’t necessarily always disagree with the opinions, but prefer to form my own after good reporters have informed me of facts. Unherd, Politico and similar non-family (or -gangster) -owned organs help. Private Eye does much the same, with the occasional touch of humour, though the cartoons are now lamentable
Journalism began to lose it’s way when it became an academic subject.
Before then local newspapers, let alone nationals, had large staffs with varying political views and all ages.
Today more and more online news providers are either full on frauds like Skwakbox, Canary or Novara Media in being political activists masquerading as journalists, or like TV news and much of the print media a relatively small group of people with weirdly homogenous views.
The more the major broadcasters have tried to diversify staff in terms of ethnicicty, colour, age, gender or whatever, the more homogenous in terms of education, thought, outlook and objectivity the staffs have become.
And it is truly weird now how many in journalism are the wife, husband, son, daughter, dad or mum of someone else in journalism.
Which also doesn’t help.
Hopefully Plumbing, Roofing, and central heating contractors will never go the same way as journalism has, or we will be really stuffed.
“weirdly homogeneous views” – indeed, quite odd. And they never leave their major city thus avoiding Walmart shoppers. I wonder if they all have designated parking spaces for their Prius.
An accurate take, I think, except for the slant that this is an “American thing”. We already see plenty of this awful “Journo-activism” “Hacktivism?” here as well. I’ll cite Owen Jones and Polly Toynbee – others are available.
This toxic and staggeringly ignorant style of journalism is increasing and may already be just as bad here – It’s unsurprising as hacks worldwide now inhabit the same rather sick social media bubble, removing their heads from their backsides only to immerse themselves in the latest dribble of Twitter poison.
Some good points, but a thing that serious concerns me is the response to the outright politicization of what we used to regard as news sources of record: it usually consists of equally political ripostes. UnHerd, for instance, is clearly a retort to what its creators, editors and columnists regard as the hegemony, in much of the established media, of a certain type of “liberalism”. But UnHerd is quite the reverse of a journal of record – it is basically equivalent to the opinion pages of a newspaper, shorn of the actual reporting. Of course some of its columnists are wise and thoughtful, and they draw on reported facts to inform their opinions. But I can’t help feeling that what we really need is the reverse of this: a pure news source, dedicated to reporting that is as factual and unbiased as it is humanly possible to be, and striving to exclude opinions from the reporting – again, as much as it is humanly possible to do so.
The problem is reporting is expensive, opinion is cheap.
Also opinionators are cheap. Journalists are expensive.
As the money ran out of print journalism we got where we are today. On top of the money issues is the fact that the religion of wokeness didn’t look like a faith when it first arrived, and many left wing papers just slid that way almost by accident.
The NYT in particular has shed its journalistic standards steadily over the past two decades or so. First Bush II set their hair on fire because he talked with a drawl, and now Trump’s unsavory character has pushed them over the edge into pure propaganda mode. But it was no accident; there were, and are, too many staffers in the NYT bubble who ignore or belittle those of us in ‘flyover country’, and were more than happy to deport any who challenged their woke religion. They think that diversity of opinion is evil and unnecessary. Good riddance.
The advert market belongs to insanely profitable social media companies. To compete, websites of all stripes use various ad wholesalers with revenue depending on clicks. Genuine news collection requires actual foot soldiers who must be compensated. Even TV news has cut back on those given a fixed advert pool. A revenue sharing tool needs development to fund actual collection as opposed to publication. Too long overdue, clever folk need to devise a mechanism.
Journalists need sources. They are being bought by their sources. Treat me well and I will give you a story removes all impartiality from their so called journalism. They are beholden to too many sources who they have to treat well to think critically about positions.
Aris, I very much enjoy your writing, whether the topic is chicken keeping, plastic, or obscure British politics. This is another brief but sparkilng piece.
Regarding the New York Times, I am deeply disturbed by their editorial agenda, but I am addicted to the crossword puzzle, especially Friday and Saturday. I guess that means I’m part of the problem.
I used to subscribe to the International Herald Tribune (the renamed the International NYT) but I stopped after seeing how deranged its coverage of the country I live in (the UK) had become which made me think its coverage of other places and issues would probably be as unreliable. Like much of the US (and global actually) establishment media recent political reversals for their world-view, principally Trump and Brexit, have caused complete breakdown and psychosis
This side of the pond the Times is clearly in conflict with itself.
Kudos Aris — very succinct and spot on. In particular, I think you are right to note the theological/mythical nature of much of this. America is in the throes of one its periodic “Awakenings.”
To the occasion for this piece, I am really sorry to see “At War” go — the country needs that sort of thoughtful self-assessment, and somebody to keep track of where we are deploying force, and at least some of the human costs. I’ve argued that for all the NYT’s ills, at least they could still afford this sort of long form, long term commitment, journalism . . . So now we still have JSOC out there, various theres . . . while we fight at home. Not the republic I was tring to argue for in https://www.davidawestbrook.com/deploying-ourselves.html
Thanks for an interesting and informative article. But:-
“No doubt the self-congratulatory tenor of much post-2016 journalism, in which journalists, adopting the uncritical adulation afforded to the armed forces in the Bush era, thank themselves for their service with ever-growing fervour, has much to do with this strange new world.”
I assume Mr. Roussinos means the US armed foces and the second Bush era. If so, the sentence seems bizarre given the loud and continual condemnation of the US military during that time by mass media.
Read the Spectator -I dropped my subscription- for similarly bizarre, infantile reporting on the US.
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