I still read the New York Times, but it’s not indispensable any more. It has become intellectually incurious over the years, irresponsible, and the pomposity of its writers, increasingly in bed with our plutocratic rulers, is no longer justified by their work.
Gail Collins is an admirable successor to Russell Baker, but the Times has no one now with Johnny Apple’s authority and has apparently not attempted to replace dour Drew Middleton, who understood the military more intelligently than our politicized generals.
I admired the Times for decades, though its Sunday’s fluff was never worth its weight, and the padded travel section has never been more than a shill for adjectived group travel. And the Times’ business section—though David Carr is always worth reading—continues implicitly to believe up is good, whether its Krupp Arms or Dick Cheney’s start-up, Torture Equipment, Inc. (“Agony in Defense of Freedom!”).
I’m not thinking of the Time’s matter-of-fact labeling in a news story of Edward Snowden as a “rogue contractor” and its avoidance of coverage based on his revelations, or Judith Miller and her lazy pre-invasion reporting on the horrors of Saddam’s weaponry (which an even half-competent editor would have squashed), or sleazy Rick Bragg with his I-was-here when he wasn’t pieces, or weird Jayson Blair, whom I always pair in my mind with John Hinkley, but, more particularly, of Israel.
My wife and daughter and I were invited by Palestinian friends to the huge auditorium in Kuwait City in November, 1974 to watch the telecast of Yasser Arafat’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly. I saw no other Westerners in the large crowd, and we were seated politely in the front row, as guests and witnesses, I think, to a moment of hope. Small boys in camouflage fatigues marched to the front for opening remarks, and I thought at the time, quite wrongly as it turned out, that that display of militance was mere bluster.
Forty years ago, Palestinians, who were and are disliked in the Arab world for their sophistication and arrogance much as Jews were for ages in the West and are again, increasingly, though now for their brutality, still had hope that American policy would dovetail with its rhetoric, for even-handedness, they knew, would have to acknowledge and try to remedy the injustices Palestinians had experienced from Israel.
That hasn’t happened, of course. Israel, which learned its statecraft from its thuggish neighbors, has called our tune since the Six-Day war. One hundred senators, including many who know better, recently proclaimed admiration for Israel’s virtue in defending itself against “unprovoked” attacks from Hamas.
The Times stands in line with our right-wing radicals and Christian jihadists and anything-for-a-buck Congress to get its Hanukkah kiss from Tel Aviv. By way of example, it asserted in a front page story August 5 that related Israel’s rage at White House criticism of the IDF’s Sarajevo-like shelling of penned-in Gaza civilians at a U.N. school refuge, that Israel is our “closest ally in the Middle East.” That assertion was presented without explanation, as fact, even as anyone who fights back against Israel is unapologetically labeled in that authoritative Times monotone a “militant,” or “jihadist” or “terrorist,” with scant explanation of why those “folks,” as President Obama might say, might have good reason to be angry.
I’ve read the New York Times for 50 years, and I can’t recall even once (though this lapse is widely shared across our large media and statecraft establishment) a rational exposition of the nature of the alliance that exists between the U.S. and Israel. The assistance seemingly flows just one way: we send them money and weapons and give them cover internationally, and they stand on the throat of the Palestinians, and then we and the Times are astonished when militant terrorist jihadists attack us, the innocent.
The Times is irresponsible not because it is a Jewish newspaper, or not even because it is biased, but because it pretends to objectivity.
Israel, by any objective assessment, is strategically insignificant to this country. If it disappeared tomorrow, our economy would blink only for a moment, and that from concern that peace might break out in the Middle East (unlikely, given the dysfunction and nastiness of Arab regimes) and our arms merchants, i.e., most of our most profitable corporations, might suffer. Israel is smaller than Belgium, tiny compared to Nigeria or the the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose suffering millions warrant none of the Times’ ink. Jews’ blood, to the Times, is the reddest of all.
Israel is an ally? Please explain how that is true. What does the United States gain from the relationship? What interest have we in providing the dogs to Israel’s many Bull Connors? What do we gain from Israel’s belief that Jehovah sanctions its every meanness?
The Times is irresponsible because through its coverage of every Israel hiccup (except those from its vile Orthodox theocrats) it insists that Israel is of crucial important. By doing that, the paper provides its waning but considerable influence to help distort our national priorities. Given the current level of violence and ugliness in the Middle East and given the level of our national discourse, that is sad.