The New York Times Destroys More Than Just Its Credibility | Opinion
Category: News & PoliticsVia: texan1211 • one month ago • 4 comments
By: Matt Robison (Newsweek)
There was a mainstream media race to the bottom recently, and The New York Times was the ringleader. The consequences were immediate, terrible, and may be felt for years to come.
Announcing the horrifying news of an explosion at a hospital in Gaza, the Times made a series of deliberate and unconscionable choices that contorted the story, and in a way that may have contributed to lost lives.
Their headline "Israeli Strike Kills Hundreds in Hospital, Palestinians Say" is abominable journalistic malpractice. Think of the editorial decisions involved here: repeating an inflammatory claim (an "Israeli strike"), one that is highly likely to provoke a violent response, one that is unsubstantiated and heavily disputed, and subtly bending the rules of writing by burying the extraordinarily suspect source of this allegation as an afterthought at the end of the headline.
Think of the decision to further whitewash the accusers by attributing the claim to generalized "Palestinians" rather than the "terrorist group Hamas," which was the actual source, and which is defined as a terrorist group by the U.S. government and numerous other Western allies.
As if there were any lingering doubt about who they are after Oct. 7.
Did I mention that they put the headline over a gruesome photo of a bombed-out building? A building that was somewhere else entirely, not associated with the hospital, and that was just an available and sensational image intended to amp up readers? Why not deepfake a mushroom cloud?
In the ensuing hours, one could watch the Gray Lady's "sorry, not sorry" back peddling in real time. Sorry in the sense that the Times did eventually change their headline as the evidence that they had been played mounted. Not sorry in the sense that they did everything possible to leave the reader with the exact same impression that they started with. First they took out the word "Israeli" but left the word "strike" and added a new, even more highly-charged photo. Then, they dialed back "strike" to the more neutral "blast" but added the subhead, "Israelis Say Misfired Palestinian Rocket Was Cause of Explosion."
When they want to emphasize that something is an unsubstantiated claim, and when the claimant is Israel, they remember to put the "source says" attribution first. Go figure.
Make no mistake: There is now video evidence, audio evidence, and the assessment of our own intelligence agencies that the blast was caused by a misfired rocket from another Palestinian terrorist group, Islamic Jihad. Yet, the Times has merely retreated to a mealy-mouthed hash that the facts are disputed and they "have not been independently verified." Go figure again.
So to sum up, the most prominent media institution on Earth decided to take an unproven allegation from a vicious terrorist group that 11 days earlier had murdered 1,300 innocent people, taken 200 hostages, and burned alive and decapitated their victims including children, and present it in the way that most served the propaganda aims of the terrorists.
And because they eliminated their public editor position, it was left to Twittersleuths to call out the shameful episode, as well as their ham-handed attempts to cover their tracks.
This moment really matters, for three reasons.
The New York Times logo hangs above a doorway of their corporate headquarters.Gary Hershorn/Getty Images
First, and most immediately, the consequences are horrible. This was a huge win for terrorists. The media enabled them to spin a botched terror attack on Israel into a PR victory, one which stoked mass protests that have led to two deaths so far. The early coverage decisions left a mistaken impression that may turn the tide of world opinion—that Israel so desperately needs for its survival—permanently.
Second, it matters because it's The New York Times. If they establish a tone, other news organizations follow suit, and the herd mentality of timidity and bothsidesing from other news outfits has been obvious and growing. Which means that the media is actively helping some of the most repugnant, racist, violent murderers on Earth to muddy the waters on what they have done, and it is only getting worse. The Times could help change that. If they chose.
Third, like hearing a clock chime for a 13th time, this moment is not only wrong in itself, it calls the entire underlying mechanism into question. Democrats like me have spent years beating back attacks on the mainstream media by right-wing politicians with bad agendas. And to be clear: There is still no equivalence between The New York Times and Fox News, the latter being a full-time propaganda outlet for the Republican Party that doesn't even try to practice journalism or adhere to facts.
But it is hard for defenders to wave the recent coverage away. Does it mean all these media institutions are overcome by wokeness? Not necessarily. But does it suggest that they have been overtaken by weakness, a glaring awareness of the business reasons for playing to a social media-driven audience that is farther left than most Americans, and that will make the most noise? The Times just made that a lot harder to deny.
It pains me to write this. Growing up in New York City, my reverence for the Times was so great that as a high schooler, when I didn't have the money to buy a copy, from time to time I might have used a street trick that allowed me to pop open the old-fashioned newspaper vending machines to borrow a copy (after reading, I'd sometimes repeat the trick and put it back).
After this week, that credibility is fractured. And this time, they didn't just hurt themselves.
Matt Robison is a writer, podcast host, and former congressional staffer.
The views in this article are the writer's own.