February 14, 2021

DEATH TO ME! The New York Times and the creepy personal and ideological logic of public confessions.

If I were Donald G. McNeil Jr., I would want to tell The New York Times, and its publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, to go jump in a lake. Instead, McNeil chose to declare his love for the paper and proclaim his guilt for having “hurt” many hundreds of people. For McNeil’s professional death to have meaning, the party—or the paper—must be infallible. Death to me!

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Reporting for The New York Times about the Moscow Trials of 1936, Walter Duranty commented that “it was unthinkable that Stalin and Voroshilov … could have sentenced their friends to death unless the proofs of guilt were overwhelming.” Other newspapers signed off on Stalin’s executions, too. In fact, the New Statesman (Sept. 5, 1936) argued, the defendants had demanded the death sentence for themselves! Surely they must have been guilty.

Stalin’s most celebrated victims were themselves used to humiliation and self-abasement. As Robert Conquest writes in his indispensable book The Great Terror, “Their surrender was not a single and exceptional act in their careers, but the culmination of a whole series of submissions to the Party that they knew to be ‘objectively’ false.” Conquest tells of a former member of the Soviet Supreme Court who was informed by an interrogator, “Well, the Party demands that you, as a Bolshevik, confess that you are an English spy.” The man responded: “If the Party demands it, I confess.”

These days we repeatedly confess our racism and misogyny, suppressing any sense that we are perhaps not as sinful as we are told. Maybe we haven’t harassed, demeaned, or insulted anyone—but the very impulse to defend ourselves indicates our guilt. After all, we are all part of “the system,” and only a thoroughgoing racist would dispute the idea that the system is guilty.

Of course, America is not Soviet Russia, or, for that matter, Xi’s China. Our new political commissars don’t use torture, prison cells, and executions. Today’s woke ideology can be publicly attacked, unlike communism in the Soviet Union. Its critics are in fact legion: According to polls, most Americans of all genders and ethnicities think political correctness is a problem. But people are afraid for their careers, and so they remain silent—no matter how much “power” or “privilege” they ostensibly have.

And speaking of power and privilege: New York Times Defends Star Journalist Who Doxxed Free Beacon Reporter on Twitter.

Eileen Murphy, a senior vice president of communications for the Times, wrote in an email to National Review that “The inclusion of the phone number was inadvertent and when it was brought to Nikole’s attention, she deleted it.”

However, a Twitter exchange on Saturday – two days before she deleted the tweet – indicates that Hannah-Jones was aware even then that she’d posted Sibarium’s phone number. In the exchange, Uché Blackstock, a Yahoo News medical contributor, replied to Hannah-Jones, “Lol, and he included his phone number and thought you would actually call him,” to which Hannah-Jones replied only “Girl.”

According to the Times’ social media guidelines, “newsroom employees should avoid posting anything on social media that damages our reputation for neutrality and fairness.” According to the guidelines, Times employees are to “always treat others with respect on social media” and avoid making “offensive comments or do anything else that undercuts The Times’s journalistic reputation.” Employees who tweet an error or something inappropriate and wish to delete the tweet are directed to “be sure to quickly acknowledge the deletion in a subsequent tweet.”

Washington Free Beacon Editor in Chief Eliana Johnson told National Review in an email that “The behavior and the Times’s disingenuous response speak for themselves.” Sibarium similarly responded that Hannah-Jones’s “behavior speaks for itself.”

As does this:

In general, the New York Times is really delivering the goods these days:

What has the New York Times got against Ayaan Hirsi Ali?
N.Y. Times Doxxes Scott Alexander Because They Hate Free Speech.
New York Times Turns Vital School Re-Openings Into Cynical Republican ‘Seizure.’
The New York Times Retracts the Sicknick Story.

One author makes a modest proposal to solve the Times’ myriad woes: Starve the octopus. “The first step to ridding ourselves of the octopus is to stop being afraid of it. Oh my how terrified people are of the octopus. What if it comes down on you? What if it attacks you? What if you are cancelled and your reputation is ruined and your name dragged through the mud and you can never again get a job or a friend or enjoy a meal in peace. That is just another deception. The New York Times does not have guns and tanks to send against you. It cannot really hurt you. The next step of ridding ourselves of the octopus is to stop feeding it. Stop feeding the octopus. Just stop. Stop reading the New York Times. Right now. Never again visit that awful web site or look at that awful paper or that tweet or that awful article. Do not have that conversation. Do not click or press on the link your friend sent you who is trapped in its clutches. It is a boogeyman and if you fear it it will only get stronger and if you ignore it it will go away.”

UPDATE: Half of New York Times employees feel they can’t speak freely: survey.

More:

Hannah-Jones (and Stelter) stumble over Michael Crichton’s Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect.

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