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The New York Times, a Social Engineer
by Brian S. Wise, Fifth Columnist
02 December 2002 

An examination of the New York Times, and its refusal to continue pretending.

Inevitably, some social circumstance or the other will call for my fraternizing with strangers, some of whom will at some point take it upon themselves to wonder out loud exactly what I do; that is, exactly what got me the invitation. Comes the reply, “I’m a writer,” and interest is piqued. As discussed previously in this space, most people have an odd vision of the writer, as though all of us are suicidal drunks sitting over a manual typewriter babbling on poetically about the running of the bulls. It’s patiently explained that while their vision is certainly more romantic than my own reality, there is imminently more value to be placed on causing people to think, as opposed to causing them to fantasize. That is a point well taken, even if it does offend romanticism (offending romanticism being one of those things that isn’t done nearly enough these days).

Another common confusion is the difference between being a columnist, one who gives his opinion to an audience on Tuesdays and Fridays, and being a journalist, one who reports the news. Those who have confused the two, most notably with this column on the Scott Ritter matter, have criticized these efforts as “not digging deep enough for the facts,” whatever those are supposed to be. But that argument presupposes each column is an exercise in studied investigative journalism and not a philosophical examination of a current event, which is false on the one hand and ignorant on the other.

The differences between commentary and journalism are on my mind today because the New York Times has finally, under new editorial leadership, slipped off the veil of dignity and crossed its own thin line between being a paper of record (and what a fine paper it could be at times, if not for its opinion pages) to being an outright advocate for the Left and its particular brand of social engineering. At issue is a commentary disguised as an article detailing the voluminous outrage being heaped upon CBS (which broadcasts the Masters) for not forcing its hand on the matter of Augusta National’s refusal to allow female members. Problem is, there is absolutely no such outrage being directed at CBS; the piece is a wish list, neither the author nor the editor having the decency to let the reader in on the joke, such as it is, until the end.

The concern is twofold. To the first part: Obviously the New York Times is free to print on its pages whatever it wishes in any form it chooses, but what’s to be said when the paper makes up stories and lies to its readers in the name of advancing an agenda? Quite the behavior for an outlet that has, we presume, previously dedicated itself to the reporting of the news as it exists, or at least a steady unearthing of the news (i.e., investigative journalism), not its wholesale manufacture. Whether or not Augusta National must allow female members is a foregone conclusion: The Supreme Court has ruled that a private organization (Augusta is one) has the right to include whomever it chooses as members, case closed. (As to whether or not Augusta should have female members, and whether or not CBS should be sticking its nose into the matter, is a column for another time.)

We trust the Times will advocate Leftism just short of an American Communist State in its opinion pages (although you couldn’t put it past them); but anyone who has ever so much as taken a basic high school journalism class understands that there is a certain danger when a paper cannot be trusted to draw the distinction between what is news – again, what is actually happening in the world today – and what the writers and editors hope for when they close their eyes at night (provided they do, indeed, sleep with their eyes closed).

Most worthy of mention here is the difference between slanting a story and lying outright. We also trust that the Times will slant whatever stories it most hopes will support its ideological bent; so do most newspapers, and while it’s a mildly bothersome practice, it’s not forthrightly objectionable. At least in the case of slant, more astute readers can look past it and discern what has really occurred. The second concern is that there are such things as less astute readers, and that the Times is preying upon their weaknesses toward the end of social engineering, knowing these readers will accept as a foregone conclusion something that is, in actuality, an adroit fantasy.

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