After years away, I recently began reading the New York Times again and I can now report without equivocation: The New York Times has become the Matrix — a plausible imitation of reality created to pacify those within it, to keep them from realizing their substance is being drained to supply energy to a machine. The Democrat machine, that is.
There are the scandals that have been photoshopped out of the paper's overall picture of national events: the nearly non-existent coverage of IRS corruption, Benghazi malfeasance, and the politicization of the Justice Department. And this from the outlet that made endless hay out of the non-scandals of the George W. Bush administration, like the Valerie Plame bagatelle and the legal firing of federal attorneys.
There is the relentless left-wing framing of controversial social issues as when, say, feminist efforts to have others taxed to pay for their birth control are weirdly conflated with "a woman's right to contraception," or when the potential slowing of government spending increases are misrepresented as "spending cuts."
And there is the bizarrely triumphalist reporting on the disastrous Obamacare program. Wednesday, for instance, the paper trumpeted the "newly insured people... hiding in plain sight," because they had gotten private insurance rather than use the government exchanges. But two early studies show that the "vast majority" of these independent sign-ons were likely already insured. And anyway, they won't begin to make up for the seniors reaping the benefits of Obamacare's unfair price-gouging on the young or the once-independent customers now sucking up government subsidies or who-knows-how-many sign-ups who won't or can't pay their ways over the long haul.
But perhaps more than anything, there is simply the paper's leftist atmosphere: the screwy political/moral assumptions so pervasive they are nearly invisible. Consider this scare headline from Sunday's front page: "New GOP Bid to Limit Voting in Swing States," arrayed above a photo of African-American demonstrators marching to the polls as if it were 1964. Or better yet, in the same edition, the meltingly sympathetic description of the homecoming struggles of Palestinians released from Israeli prisons, "demonized as terrorists by Israelis and lionized as freedom fighters by Palestinians." Oh, the challenges that confronted the poor fellow who returned to a hero's welcome with $100,000 in Palestinian Authority grants in his pocket! Never mind that the demonized freedom fighter beat a 72-year-old Holocaust survivor to death with a metal rod.
Now you may say: so what? No one reads the Times anymore. No one reads newspapers anymore. Or you might come out with that most foolish of conservative declarations: "I never read that trash!" As if your personal habits had anything to do with the case.
But leftists know better. They understand the power of taking once-great institutions and corrupting them to use their residual authority to promote garbage propaganda. ("NASA-backed report says society will collapse from income inequality and environmental abuse.")
And the Times was truly a great paper once. In the early 1970's, during the reign of executive editor A.M. Rosenthal, its depth of reporting was unmatched and even the conservative National Review praised its even-handedness. (The death of the paper's commitment to fairness is detailed in Gray Lady Down by William McGowan.)
On the strength of the reputation earned in those better years, the paper continues to set the news budget not only for smaller papers around the country, but for the television networks that wet-plug its Matrix illusions directly into the public spine. Businessmen, librarians, publishers and students who read no other paper still assume that a glance at the Times gives them a reasonable overview of the nation and the world.
The corruption of this journalistic institution — and of the news media in general — is sometimes given philosophical cover by the idea that, since there is no such thing as true fairness, it is best to show your bias clearly. But this is in itself a falsehood. A newspaper staffed with editors and reporters of diverse political perspectives and with a leadership committed to truth over partisanship can well serve democracy by providing the public with honest journalism.
We know this, because the Times did it once, long ago. But they have followed the White Rabbit of ideology down a very dark hole indeed.