Highlights from James Bennet's 17,000 word attack on the New York Times
I've just saved you 6 hours.
James Bennet was the New York Times editor fired for publishing an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton, which argued that that, in the face of this —
“… [I]n New York State, rioters ran over officers with cars on at least three occasions. In Las Vegas, an officer is in “grave” condition after being shot in the head by a rioter. In St. Louis, four police officers were shot as they attempted to disperse a mob throwing bricks and dumping gasoline; in a separate incident, a 77-year-old retired police captain was shot to death as he tried to stop looters from ransacking a pawnshop.” …
… President Trump should deploy the National Guard to stop the violent riots.
Times staffers went ballistic. There’s now an “Editors’ Note” nearly as long as the op-ed attached to the column. Bennet was tortured for 2 days — ADMIT YOUR PRIVILEGE! — then fired. Having had 3 and 1/2 years to think about it, Bennet published his response in The Economist this Thursday.
Below are the highlights and my comments.
ON THE PASSION FOR TRUTH SEEKING AT THE TIMES:
The Times’s union…would issue a statement calling the op-ed “a clear threat to the health and safety of the journalists we represent”.…
This followed years of the NYT telling blacks: Your authentic black spokesmen are the criminals – not those nerds reading books and protesting non-violently.
Trump.. .became more powerful because journalists had forfeited what had always been most valuable about their work: their credibility as arbiters of truth and brokers of ideas, which for more than a century, despite all of journalism’s flaws and failures, had been a bulwark of how Americans govern themselves.…
True, but with the Times’ loss of credibility came a slew of Pulitzers for that fantastic “Russian collusion” reportage.
The Times’s problem has metastasised from liberal bias to illiberal bias, from an inclination to favour one side of the national debate to an impulse to shut debate down altogether….
[The liberal ethos:] you are always right about everything, and so you are justified in shouting disagreement down. … workplaces and boardrooms across America find that it is so much easier to compromise than to confront … [explaining] how liberal-minded college presidents lost control of their campuses.
Corporate boards and college presidents weren’t exactly putting up a fight.
BENNET’S EXPERIENCE WITH RECENT COLLEGE GRADS AT THE ATLANTIC:
I was starting to see some effects of the new campus politics within the Atlantic. A promising new editor had created a digital form for aspiring freelancers to fill out, and she wanted to ask them to disclose their racial and sexual identity. Why?
Duh. To make it easier to blacklist the white writers.
HIS EXPERIENCE AS THE TIMES’ AS EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR:
“Too many liberals,” read my notes about the Opinion line-up from a meeting I had with him and Mark Thompson, then the chief executive, as I was preparing to rejoin the paper. “Even [the Times’] conservatives are liberals’ idea of a conservative.”
They got that right.
Yet we also did more in four years to diversify the line-up of writers by identity, ideology and expertise than the Times had in the previous century ...
And still somehow, they couldn’t find a single white Protestant to write for the op-ed page.
The old liberal embrace of inclusive debate that reflected the country’s breadth of views had given way to a new intolerance for the opinions of roughly half of American voters.
(President Trump himself submitted one op-ed during my time, but we could not raise it to our standards – his people would not agree to the edits we asked for.)
My guess: They objected to cutting the all caps sections and Trump’s multiple uses of the word, “strong.”
After the profile of the Ohio man [who had attended the rally in Charlottesville, Virginia] was published, media Twitter lit up with attacks on the article as “normalising” Nazism and white nationalism, and the Times convulsed internally. The Times wound up publishing a cringing editor’s note that hung the writer out to dry …. [T]he very headline of the piece – “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland” – undermined the claim that it was “glowing”.
(As it happens, being platformed did not do much to increase the power of that Ohio man. He, his wife and his brother lost their jobs and the newly married couple lost [their] home….)
Hilarious – the Times gets some guy canceled for objecting to the destruction of a Robert E. Lee statue, and Times staffers are mad that the piece wasn’t vicious enough.
Empathetic reporting about Trump supporters became even more rare. It became a cliché among influential left-wing columnists and editors that blinkered political reporters interviewed a few Trump supporters in diners and came away suckered into thinking there was something besides racism that could explain anyone’s support for the man.
And they wonder where Hamas-supporting BIPOCs got their self-righteousness.
[I]n my four years as Opinion editor, I received just two complaints from newsroom staff about pieces we published from the left. … a reporter pulled me aside to say he worried that a liberal columnist was engaged in ad hominem attacks; a reporter in the Washington bureau wrote to me to object to an op-ed piece questioning the value of protecting free speech for right-wing groups.
N.B. Times staffers objected to the op-ed page not being sufficiently anti-free speech.
ON TIMES’ READERS (IT’S WORSE THAN YOU THOUGHT):
More than 95% of Times subscribers described themselves as Democrats or independents, and a vast majority of them believed the Times was also liberal.
Everyone I know used to read the Times daily. (And I know a lot of Republicans.) Nearly all of them stopped in the last 5 or 6 years, including a former Harvard Crimson editor and former SDS radical. They can’t take it.
The Times was slow to break it to its readers that there was less to Trump’s ties to Russia than they were hoping, and more to Hunter Biden’s laptop, that Trump might be right that covid came from a Chinese lab, that masks were not always effective against the virus, that shutting down schools for many months was a bad idea.
“Slow” is putting it mildly! This is why I wrote, “Resistance is Futile.” Driven mad by hate, liberals kept imagining monstrous intrigues and plots being hatched by (the simultaneously incompetent) Trump. The angrier they got, the nuttier their attacks on him became, and therefore were consistently ineffective.
THE MENTALITY OF TIMES’ JOURNALISTS:
The journalist’s role was to be a sworn witness; the readers’ role was to be judge and jury. …
Illiberal journalists have a different philosophy, and they have their reasons for it. They are more concerned with group rights than individual rights, which they regard as a bulwark for the privileges of white men.
The term “objectivity” to them is code for ignoring the poor and weak and cosying up to power, as journalists often have done.
Yes, like the media -- especially the Times -- cozied up to the Kennedy family for half a century.
See, e.g., my column, Liberal Victimhood: A Game You Can Play At Home:
<< Sen. Teddy Kennedy let a girl drown at Chappaquiddick, after driving with his lights off to avoid detection on the way to a late-night extramarital liaison, and then didn’t report the accident for hours, passing houses with their lights on, while he tried to construct an alibi, ending with him asking his cousin to say he was driving.
The New York Times’ James Reston’s first sentence on Kennedy’s killing a girl was: “Tragedy has again struck the Kennedy family.”>>
The impatience within the newsroom ...was intensified by the generational failure of the Times to hire and promote women and non-white people, black people in particular. …
Diversifying the newsroom has turned out GREAT!
[I]t has been a revelation to [whites] that their skin colour was not just part of the wallpaper of American life, but a source of power, protection and advancement.
Our power is stupendous! Whereas Ketanji and Kamala got their jobs by being BETTER, SMARTER, FASTER than a white person.
And so a newsroom technology columnist might call for, say, unionisation of the Silicon Valley workforce, as one did, or an outside writer might argue in the business section for reparations for slavery, as one did, and to the average reader their work would appear indistinguishable from Times news articles.
The so-called “news” section of the Times became yet more opinion journalism — and you’ll never guess whose opinion it was.
I urged [Dean Baquet, executive editor] several times to add a conservative to the newsroom roster of cultural critics. That would serve the readers by diversifying the Times’s analysis …He said this was a good idea, but he never acted on it. I couldn’t help trying the idea out on one of the paper’s top cultural editors, too: he told me he did not think Times readers would be interested in that point of view.
Bennet suggests having one -- just one -- conservative cultural critic at the Times. Top editors: ONE IS TOO MANY!
News desks were urging reporters to write in the first person and to use more “voice” ..
This kind of lazy, narcissistic writing is the result of more girls in the news room.
The Times magazine, meanwhile, became a crusading progressive publication. …Its work was not labelled as opinion and it was free to omit conservative viewpoints.
Much like the rest of the paper.
The tiny redoubt of never-Trump conservatives in Opinion is swamped daily not only by the many progressives in that department but their reinforcements among the critics, columnists and magazine writers in the newsroom. They are generally excellent, but their homogeneity means Times readers are being served a very restricted range of views
Generally “excellent”? Charles Blow has written the same column one-to-two times a week for 15 years.
What’s the point in sucking up now, Bennet?
Once, when I told [Sulzberger] we were preparing an editorial series on nepotism within the Trump White House, he was quick to note that the Times was in a glass house when it came to such criticism.
That explains why the Times held Jared and Ivanka harmless – but how about the rest of the media?
Adam Rubenstein [an Opinion editor]…had received a note of praise from Sulzberger himself, for a piece by a former congressman, Joe Walsh, a Tea Party favourite who had called for a primary challenge to Trump.
Wow – you guys DO have a diversity of opinion!!! A Trump-hating, no-name former representative writes an op-ed … attacking Trump! Never could’ve seen that coming.
After police gassed protesters before Trump posed for a photo in Lafayette Square on June 1st, the editorial board, which I led, weighed in against that use of force and Trump’s “incendiary behaviour” …
Bennet still can’t shake the Times’ dust from his shoes. This is a classic NYT lie about law enforcement officers.
As the Inspector General’s report found, no federal law enforcement “gassed” protesters. The DC police -- under the control of the black mayor -- used gas in a different incident around the same time. And the Park Police had no idea Trump was planning to enter the park to “pose for a photo” or for any other reason. Yes, technically the clearing of the Park (no gas used) occurred “before Trump posed for a photo,” but you could also say, “police gassed protesters before Biden was sworn in.” One had nothing to do with the other.
See Politico: Park Police failed to warn BLM demonstrators before clearing Lafayette Park, watchdog says: ‘Are you freaking kidding me?’ incident commander replied when told of Trump’s presence
ON THE RESPONSE OF TIMES EMPLOYEES TO THE COTTON OP-ED:
Comment made on an internal message board:
“Amplifying a message that argues for MORE force only puts our own people in harm’s way, and undermines the paper’s commitment to their safety,”
Bennet won’t say who wrote this, but it’s one of these three -- Marc Tracy, Rachel Abrams Or Edmund Lee --and my money’s on the Asian. (Who knows what it’s like to be black in America better than an Asian?)
[A]fter the article [about the fracas] was published on the Times website, the editors scrambled to rewrite it, replacing “military force” with “military response” and “protesters” with “civic unrest”. That was a weaselly adjustment – Cotton wrote about criminality, not “unrest”... The Times did not publish a correction ...
The union condemned our publication of Cotton, for supposedly putting journalists in danger, claiming that he had called on the military “to ‘detain’ and ‘subdue’ Americans protesting racism and police brutality” – again, a misrepresentation of his argument. The publisher called to tell me the company was experiencing its largest sick day in history; people were turning down job offers because of the op-ed, and, he said, some people were quitting.
These are the same people who are constantly demanding we admire them for their bravery.
[Jim Dao, the op-ed editor] also dutifully itemised language that we might have softened, and said the headline, “Send in the Troops” should in retrospect have been made more palatable, if duller.
Woke politics makes everything boring.
Actual NYT headlines in the past few months:
“Using Dance to Tell the Story of Mozambique’s Struggles”
“How Unconscious Bias in Health Care Puts Pregnant Black Women at Higher Risk”
“Alok Vaid-Menon Is ‘Fighting for Trans Ordinariness”’
“Rikers Is Already Awful, and It’s Worse if You’re Trans”
Headlines such as “Tom Cotton’s Fascist Op-ed” [was] the headline of a subsequent piece …
That was the headline on a column by Michelle Goldberg, the Times’ fascist-spotter.
One of the ironies of this episode was that it was not any newsroom reporter but Rubenstein who wound up receiving death threats because of the Cotton op-ed, and it was the newsroom that put him in harm’s way.
Early that morning, I got an email from Sam Dolnick, a Sulzberger cousin and a top editor at the paper, who said he felt “we” – he could have only meant me – owed the whole staff “an apology for appearing to place an abstract idea like open debate over the value of our colleagues’ lives, and their safety”…
Like his cousin, the publisher, Dolnick is a smart guy with a good heart, and I know he meant well.
Oh drop the false flattery! They’re not inviting you back, Bennet.
Before the company-wide meeting [with a couple of thousand people, about the op-ed] … Alex Levy, contacted me … to tell me to use whatever question I got first to apologise, and at some point to acknowledge my privilege.
Why not? Six-year-olds at New York’s finest private schools have to.
[M]y Times colleagues demanded to know things such as the names of every editor who had had a role in the Cotton piece. Having seen what happened to Rubenstein I refused to tell them. A Slack channel had been set up to solicit feedback in real time during the meeting, and it was filling with hate. The meeting ran long, and finally came to a close after 90 minutes.
Sounds like a fun place to work.
[Sulzberger] did not explain why, if the Times was an independent publication, an op-ed making a mainstream conservative argument should have to meet such different standards from an op-ed making any other kind of argument, such as for the abolition of the police.
[Waving my hand frantically] I know! Because the Times is not a serious newspaper.
[I believed [Cotton’s op-ed was] a potentially consequential idea from an influential voice … and [readers] should know about it and evaluate it partly for that very reason.
Times colleagues who were frightened or angry about the piece had the opposite view: that readers should not hear Cotton’s argument. To expose them to it was to risk that they might be persuaded by an elected politician.
Wait until Times readers emerge blinking into the light and find out about Table 43!