The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sign of the Times

The New York Times has convinced itself and many of its readers (I’m a reader who hasn’t been receptive to their claim) that it is a paragon of journalistic excellence, hiring only the very best journalists who report all the news that’s fit to print in an objective and thorough fashion. Over the past few decades, however, the NYT has transformed itself into an agenda-driven broadsheet that allows the bias of left-leaning editors and reporters to sully its fine tradition.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with taking a liberal position on the editorial pages. But when news on the front page is misreported, when context is purposely ignored, when the US government is assumed guilty until proven innocent, when national secrets are published without concern about the harm that publication might do … well, you gotta begin to wonder.

A case in point provides only the most recent example of the Time’s pathetic attempts to force its news reporting to fit it's the personal ideology of its staff. In this case, let’s state the ideological narrative first: War, when it is conducted by the United States, is inherently wrong regardless of the circumstances, and those who participate in it (US military personnel) are psychologically damaged and have become dangerous brutes as a consequence.

Of course, this narrative is never stated explicitly—that would be too honest. Rather it is implied in this case by front page reporting. Ralph Peters describes a front page story that appeared in last Sunday’s NYT:
The New York Times is trashing our troops again. With no new "atrocities" to report from Iraq for many a month, the limping Gray Lady turned to the home front. Front and center, above the fold, on the front page of Sunday's Times, the week's feature story sought to convince Americans that combat experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan are turning troops into murderers when they come home.

Heart-wringing tales of madness and murder not only made the front page, but filled two entire centerfold pages and spilled onto a fourth.

The Times did get one basic fact right: Returning vets committed or are charged with 121 murders in the United States since our current wars began.

Had the Times' "journalists" and editors bothered to put those figures in context - which they carefully avoided doing - they would've found that the murder rate that leaves them so aghast means that our vets are five times less likely to commit a murder than their demographic peers.

It only would have taken a quick check of DoJ statistics to recognize that US military personnel are less violent than the general US population for people in their age group. But heck, that kills the whole story and destroys the implied narrative, doesn’t it?

Peters provides a sarcastic comment on the real statistics:
Know what else you'll learn? In 2005 alone, 8,718 young Americans from the same age group were murdered in this country. That's well over twice as many as the number of troops killed in all our foreign missions since 2001. Maybe military service not only prevents you from committing crimes, but also keeps you alive?

Where are the Time’s editors? AWOL—to use a term from the democraphic they wrongly criticize. Where was the necessary context? Where … oh, what’s the point.

Thankfully, the era of the NYT is coming to a close. Today there are too many news sources and too many bloggers who spent the 10 minutes it takes to check the facts. What they find is blatant bias. At some level, I feel sorrow for this once great newspaper. I suppose it’s just a sign of the Times.