Saturday, June 13, 2020

BECAUSE WE SHOULD BE ABLE TO RELY ON NYT EDITORIAL WRITERS, SITTING IN A ROOM UNDER A PORTRAIT OF THEODORE HERZL, TO TELL US WHAT'S "RIGHT"

no.
Journalism's Top Ethics Expert Isn't Concerned With Right and Wrong
As journalists wage a civil war, America's leading media ethicist doesn't seem to quite understand what anyone is fighting about.
Last Wednesday, The New York Times published an op-ed in which Republican senator Tom Cotton called for a military crackdown on citizens protesting against police killings of Black people. It was an incendiary argument packed with lies the newspaper's own reporters had already debunked. The decision to publish it led to revolt inside the Times' newsroom, and, four days later, the resignation of Opinion editor James Bennet, until then reportedly in the running to take over the paper.

Outside the Times, journalists would in days to come deride the paper's decision to publish the op-ed. Osita Nwanevu of The New Republic traced the debacle to the Times' insistence on promoting illberal ideas in the name of liberal ideals, predicting that the paper will "continue to publish the opinions of a right that openly disdains the principles underpinning a free press and a free society." Vox's David Roberts wrote that the op-ed shouldn't have been published "because it reflects a worldview incompatible with the baseline small-l liberal values that make the Times's work, and journalism generally, possible." Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan, herself a former Times public editor, criticized the publication of the op-ed and took the occasion to argue that whatever the merits of assiduous neutrality in theory, there is no such thing in practice. "Every piece of reporting—written or spoken, told in text or in images—is the product of choices," she wrote. "We choose what to focus on, what to amplify, what to investigate and examine."

The day after the op-ed was published, Kelly McBride, America's foremost expert on media ethics, shared with me a very different opinion, more in line with that of the people inside and outside the Times decrying the episode as a triumph of "safetyism." McBride wouldn't have published it had she been in charge of the section, she said, because it was "crappy" and “intellectually dishonest.” As she saw it, though, publishing controversial and unpopular arguments, like one that the government should use military force to deny protesters the ability to exercise First Amendment rights, is important in order to ensure a robust "marketplace of ideas."

By this logic, of course, the Times is unjustly denying the public the ability to debate the virtues of cannibalism, or of the United States becoming a Communist state, or whether people killed in mass shootings are really crisis actors, or any number of other unpopular ideas whose adherents aren't given some of the limited space available in its Opinion section. Further, the issue wasn't whether Times readers should be informed of Cotton's positions, which were already well-known; a news article in which they were described critically and contextualized would have caused no controversy. The issue, as critics had it, was that the paper turned their platform over to him so that he could make an inherently illegitimate argument, unchallenged.
"As she saw it, though, publishing controversial and unpopular arguments, like one that the government should use military force to deny protesters the ability to exercise First Amendment rights,..." Ignoring the looting as opposed to reporting the looting and arguing that the cops made things worse, or that the cops themselves ignored it.

It's fair to claim that Cotton's claim about antifa had been "debunked", but the looting was real enough. A friend and his wife were trapped in their home with people trying to smash in their door.  And I've spent the last week reading defenses of looting and violence written by people who decry Cotton's op-ed.

"The issue, as critics had it, was that the paper turned their platform over to him so that he could make an inherently illegitimate argument, unchallenged." And who's to judge what's inherently illegitimate? McBride called Cotton's op-ed "crappy" and “intellectually dishonest.” I like that.
Pulitzer Prize for "Commentary" has gone to...
...Bret Stephens, Thomas Friedman, Charles Krauthammer and, this year, Nikole Hannah-Jones.
And now Taibbi has joined in, defending the journalism of "truth". In this country, anyone who claims to be interested in politics as an idea is a moralist.
The phrase "the marketplace of ideas" founds adversarialism in the market, as if greed didn't need an adversary.

Remember Osita Nwanevu and "The Enemies of Truth"
He's a good reporter but you don't you need a graduate degree from the University of Chicago to be a hack. It just gets in the way. He's got a great career ahead of him as a self-important mediocrity.

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