The Spectator on the decline and fall of the New York Times

October 24, 2021 • 1:15 pm

Batya Ungar-Sargon used to be the opinion editor of The Forward, and now she’s an opinion editor for Newsweek (which leans right); she also just wrote a new boo, from which the Spectator piece below is excerpted. The book, whose title tells you where she stands, is called Bad News: How Woke Media Is Undermining Democracy, and has endorsements by both Greg Lukianoff from FIRE and Jon Haidt. At the bottom you can see her interviewed by Megyn Kelly.

This all doesn’t necessarily mean that Ungar-Sargon is a conservative, and to some extent that’s irrelevant, for we should hear what she has to say: in this case, an analysis that could only have been done by a journalist on why the New York Times has sunk so low. It’s complicated, involving feedback between the reading public and the paper. (Actually, it’s not that complicated.)

Because I’m no fan of the new NYT (though I subscribe and read and like many articles), it’s become abysmally woke, and that’s what Ungar-Sargon is trying to explain: how it happened.

Click on the screenshot to read.

The sequence in short (quotes are indented):

a.) NYT decides to go digital in part.

b.) To boost their subscriber base, its journalism begins to fuse with advertising.

Of course, journalists have always been aware who their readers are and have catered to them, consciously and unconsciously. But it was something else entirely to suggest that journalists should be collaborating with their audience to produce ‘user-generated content’, as the report put it. ‘Innovation’ presaged a new direction for the paper of record: become digital-first or perish.

c.) Trump’s election gave the paper a huge boost in attention and revenue (remember, online most of the revenue comes from ads). Subscriptions in 2017 were up 46% from 2016. In the meantime, the paper realized that they could derive “emotional profiles” of its readers from the pattern of clicks, and use those to target the ads accompanying specific articles to specific readers. And because emotions drive readership, the Times, realizing what topics generated the most emotion, pitched its content to those topics:

If you want to know what makes America’s educated liberal elites emotional, you only have to open the Times. Judging by the coverage of recent years, two things make them more emotional than anything else: Trump and racism.

In the aftermath of the 2016 election, books like J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy soared to the top of the bestseller list as blindsided liberals sought to understand how people could have voted for Trump. For a brief period, it seemed like the American mainstream might truly grapple with the question of class. But this quickly disappeared in favor of an easier explanation: Trump voters were racists.

Liberal news media pushed study after study allegedly ‘proving’ that the class narrative — that Trump’s voters had chosen him out of economic anxiety — was false. They were simply racists, we were told by the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Atlantic and Vox. You could feel the relief seeping through the repetition: if Trump’s voters are racists, we no longer have to care about them! This line absolved journalists of the inner twinge of doubt that must come to any honest reporter when they realize that they are afflicting the afflicted. There is only one problem. It’s just not true.

She goes on to argue that Trump voters weren’t one-issue voters who were promoting racism as the ideal, but had a number of different motivations, and were willing to overlook Trump’s own palpable racism because they liked other things he stood for.  As she argues, “Trump’s racism was not a deal breaker for his supporters, many of whom expressed discomfort with the president’s ranting and raving.”

d.) Journalists became complicit in an anti-Trump, anti-racist “moral panic”, which of course was good for the NYT’s bottom line. Judge this for yourself:

The truth is, the reasons people gave for voting for Trump were numerous —and legitimate. His promise to appoint conservative justices was a major motivating factor for antiabortion evangelicals. Others were swayed by his commitment to religious liberty, which gave him a lot of support in the Orthodox Jewish community. Independents especially appreciated his anti-war position. Lower-income voters were impressed by his opposition to America’s disastrous trade deals.

Anyone who talked to Trump voters knew their reasons for voting for him. But journalists at America’s leading publications did not know any Trump supporters socially, and that made it easy to caricature and misrepresent them. When New York Times reporters did venture into Trump country, they inevitably found some reason to tar the people they interviewed as racist.

This penchant was part and parcel of a larger dynamic that preceded Trump, in which liberal news media, increasingly reliant on digital advertising, subscriptions and memberships, have been mainstreaming an obsession with race, to the approval of their affluent readers. And what was once a business model built on a culture war has over the past few years devolved into a full-blown moral panic.

Any journalist working in the mainstream American press knows this, because the moral panic is enforced on social media in brutal shaming campaigns. They have happened to many journalists, but you don’t actually have to weed out every heretic to silence dissent. After a while, people silence themselves. Who would volunteer to be humiliated by thousands of strangers, when they could avoid it by staying quiet? The spectacle alone enforces compliance. . .

. . .This bears repeating: there can be no moral panic without the media and the social consensus they create. The power of the press — despite its unpopularity — is still immense. And it has used that power over the past decade, and with exponential intensity over the past few years, to wage a culture war on its own behalf, notably by creating a moral panic around racism.

Nor is it surprising that the New York Times played an outsized role in shaping our moral panic. Its business model is deeply bound up with the mores of affluent white liberals. Inevitably, in the spring of 2020, it turned its wrath on its own. By the time the dust settled, five people would no longer work at the Times.

e.) Ungar-Sargon goes on to review the familiar stories of the departure of Bari Weiss, op-ed editor James Bennett, and others. You’ll recall that Bennett was fired for running an op-ed by Republican Senator Tom Cotton saying that if (racially based) demonstrations got out of hand and couldn’t be controlled by the police, the National Guard or other troops should be called in to stop violence and destruction. (Most Americans agreed with this.) Cotton’s editorial was objected to by a thousand Times staffers, who said that the piece was racist put their black staff “in danger”. Twitter backed this up. (Go have a look at the editorial and the new “introduction” by the NYT editor.) Anyway, that was the end of Bennett.

What I found interesting is that the Times pretended that only one sub-editor, Adam Rubenstein, was responsible for editing Cotton’s piece, and, close to when Bennett left, he did too—another casualty. But Ungar-Sargon contradicts the Times’s own narrative about the vetting of the fatal op-ed (how she got this information I have no idea):

Cotton’s ‘whatever it takes’ language was harsh, but the majority of Americans — including a large share of black Americans — agreed with him. This is why the Times’s Opinion section, which planned to run an editorial and two opinion columns opposing the use of the Insurrection Act, was also on the lookout for a piece defending it. When Cotton pitched an op-ed about how Twitter was threatening to lock him out of his account, a senior editor suggested he write up his thoughts on the Insurrection Act instead.

Cotton’s first draft was deemed strong by two senior editors at the Times. He excoriated defenses of looting as ‘built on a revolting moral equivalence of rioters and looters to peaceful, law-abiding protesters’. He insisted that the majority ‘who seek to protest peacefully’ shouldn’t be ‘confused with bands of miscreants’. He argued that the president had the authority to use the Insurrection Act to send in US troops if governors couldn’t quell the rioting and looting on their own.

The draft went through a series of edits — fact checks, line edits, clarifications and copyedits. There were several phone calls to the senator’s office. A few lines were deleted and some language clarified. By the time the piece was ready for publication, no fewer than seven editors had worked on it. Having been approved one final time by a senior Opinion editor, the piece was published on the Times website on June 3.

All hell broke loose.

So it goes. The last part of the excerpt has an interesting comparison (my emphasis):

And the hunt for insufficiently antiracist Americans has become its own genre. The Times has run articles declaring that wine and surfing are racist, and that it’s time to ‘decolonize botanical collections’ by ridding them of ‘structural racism’. It even ran an article about a 15-year-old girl who used the ‘N-word’ when she bragged about passing her driving test in a private video to a friend — which another student got his hands on and saved for three years until he could use it to get her kicked out of college.

Stories like this seem to attract an unlimited audience in the way stories of crime once did for Joseph Pulitzer’s papers. That’s because articles that offend the woke person are crime stories for the affluent: stories of people just like themselves who commit crimes of thought or speech, and lose everything when they fall on the wrong side of the reigning orthodoxy. As the Twitter mob pursues small infractions as avidly as it does large ones, and as the etiquette keeps shifting, who dares trust their own ability to judge right from wrong?

It’s how you know we’re in a moral panic: only the mob has the right to judge you. And too many journalists have ceded them that right. Indeed, a huge number of the mob are journalists — journalists from the most important newspapers in the country and the world, all tweeting the exact same meaningless sentence repeatedly. People who had been hired to think for themselves now mindlessly repeat a dogma like their jobs depended on it.

Well, they do.

There’s no doubt that the NYT caters to the mob: their firing of Bennett, and the disclaimer in front of Cotton’s editorial, shows that they not only lied about the vetting of that editorial, but also truckled to the mob and to their own staff, even though the paper initially wanted Cotton’s piece. They couldn’t rescind it, but the preface is now larded with self-flagellation about how the piece was insufficiently vetted. The truth is that it was well vetted, but black and white NYT staffers raised a ruckus because the editorial made them “unsafe”. That’s bogus, of course, but enough to make at least two heads roll at the paper.

I can only guess that Ungar-Sargon, who’s been around journalism a long time, had some inside information about what went on at the NYT. You may not agree with her analysis, but you have to agree with some of her claims. The paper is woke, and that goes for both the news section (which refuses or hesitates to cover stories that reflect badly on the Left) and the op-ed section.  Read her piece and report below what you think. I think it’s a thought-provoking analysis.

Here’s her interview with Megyn Kelly about the book. It’s interesting (especially Kelly’s take on Fox News and its audience after she’d worked there), so watch it.

h/t Doc Brydon

46 thoughts on “The Spectator on the decline and fall of the New York Times

  1. NYT does exactly what Facebook is accused of doing – stoking up people to drive engagement/revenue, but who is it that gets lambasted in Congress and in the media broadly?

    1. Isn’t that what all newspapers (and all media) do and have done for as long as there have been newspapers?

  2. One of the things I’ve noticed, given big-time media conflagrations such the Covington Boys, Jussie Smollett, 2020 summer riots/protests, or more recently, media coverage of the Chapelle/Netflix protests, is that lots of people, despite their education and class and their status as progressives…..huge chunk of progressives, like their right-wing counterparts, want to be lied to. (Glenn Greenwald has acidly covered this.)

    But they want to be lied to as long as those lies confirm their ideological and political priors. I also know this from personal experience, not just from media observation.

    In this regard, I sense a class and epistemological collapse, an erasure of difference, between a Fox viewer and a New York Times reader.

  3. Thanks to Prof. Coyne and DrBrydon for this. I’m meditating on this sentence from Ungar-Sargon’s Spectator article: “What the group found was perhaps not surprising: emotions drive engagement.” This indicates, IMO, the Achilles heel of the liberals and progressives. (I count myself in that number.) To wit, they are fixated on facts, λόγος, so much so that they think if only the sorry ignoramuses on the Right could grasp the truth (according to liberalism/progressivism), these ignorant ones would come around to the Left and vote for their candidates. In fact, the Democrats, liberals and progressives, have long betrayed their ignorance of the basic truth of politics, viz., that narrative, μύθος, is what persuades people. This is why Trump won and may win again: He is the Master of Mythos.

  4. A classic purity spiral. Of course, taking place in the US of A, the ultimate driver could only be money (no surprise there). But in essence it’s no different than the North Korean communist party members clapping for 45 minutes a Kim Jong-Un speech because no one wants to be seen as the first to stop (in that case the driver is self-preservation, of course). The analysis is excellent, the real question is what is the endgame? History shows that purity spirals usually end badly, as the moral outbidding continually drives the whole group to more extreme positions. I’m thinking of Robespierre and the Terror for some reason.

      1. Using the availability heuristic to come up with examples to be used as rhetorical devices is within the rules. It’s only when they are used to buttress logical claims of cause and consequence does the bias introduced by the heuristic cause cognition to go off the rails.

  5. A pretty similar story (although less extreme… so far) at The Guardian.

    On a slightly different note, the leaders at The Guardian anticipated that they would lose money during the first UK lockdown in March 2020 and withheld a staff pay rise. In the event, the gloomy predictions proved inaccurate and it made even more cash. It then continued trying to withhold the pay rise – whilst simultaneously castigating employers for similar behaviour, naturally. Only a huge threatened staff walkout brought the management to their senses – not that you would know any of this from the pages of said newspaper itself, of course…!

  6. While Ungar-Sargon’s analysis seems right to me, her interview with Megan Kelly seemed off. She seems to give Fox a pass for doing exactly the same thing as she rightly accuses the NYT of doing. Fox is in fact the best example of an outlet distorting the news and focusing on moral (and in Fox’s case, economic) panic to drive ratings up. The right and the left media are doing exactly the same thing, just aimed at different groups.

    1. They are cultural populists at Fox News — which is to say, cultural warriors, exalting the lowbrow and trolling the Left.

      Economic populists, not so much. I mean Tucker Carlson — scion to the fortune generated by the sale of Swanson frozen foods — as an economic populist? Give me a break. He’s a cynical poseur who’s traded in his bowtie for what he sees as the route to ratings. (I think he has half-a-mind to run for political office but cultivating the Trump cultists himself.)

      The actual economic populists have always been on the Left, historically with people like the La Follette family in the upper Midwest, or, more recently, Jim Hightower in Texas.

      Progressives like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Ohio senator Sherrod Brown — people who want to roll back the economic disparity between rich and poor that’s grown rampant in the US over the past half century, who want to revivify collective bargaining — these are today’s economic populists.

      1. You are quite right that Fox News pushes cultural populism. This is what motivates the Trump cult. On the other hand, the economic populists are an important part of the Democratic coalition. But, how much they help Democratic electoral prospects is uncertain. The right has painted them as socialists, meaning that they may lose the Democrats the votes of those in the middle. They are lumped together with the relatively small Woke faction of the Party. This, in conjunction with the fact that Biden has yet to get his agenda passed, thus making his look ineffectual, also helps the Republicans. The result of all this is that Biden’s approval rating is low and the Republican chances look good in 2022 and 2024.

        Note that the Republican Party is now authoritarian, some would say fascistic, but this is not a factor in those deciding to vote Republican. Interestingly and sadly, it is the Republicans more than Democrats that feel democracy is under attack. According to a CNN poll: “Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to say that democracy is under attack, and that view is most prevalent among those who support former President Donald Trump. All told, 75% of Republicans say democracy is under attack, compared with 46% of Democrats. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, those who say Trump ought to be the leader of the party are much likelier to see democracy as under threat: 79% in that group vs. 51% among those who say Trump should not be the party’s leader.” In the Orwellian world of the Trump cult, its members believe they are defending democracy because they believe the Big Lie that the election was stolen. In their deluded world, they think Trump is a defender of democracy. Yes, it can happen here.

        https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/15/politics/cnn-poll-most-americans-democracy-under-attack/index.html

        1. “Democracy” is one of those broad words that means whatever you want it to mean. However, if you are talking about a political system with multiple parties competing against each other in elections, with frequent transfers of power, then it is time to look hard at the institutions who pushed Trump hysteria during the Trump administration. What were they saying? Many were saying anyone who voted for Trump or supported Trump, or even favored any of Trump’s policies was white supremacist or a Nazi.

          Well, we have a two party system, when you say that the Presidential Candidate of the opposition party is a Nazi seeking to destroy democracy and all his supporters are the same, you are saying that the two party system is illegitimate, and that transfer of power to the opposition party is illegitimate. There is no longer a loyal opposition, approximately half the country are “extremists” and internal enemies. You actually have become an anti-democratic extremist yourself.

          Not to say Trump is some democrat, but it is very hard to see much a political philosophy behind him, and its probably true that the mark is not far off on 15% to maybe 30% of his supporters, but he was a GOP candidate, and the GOP is diverse and anything he did was always mediated through the GOP leadership, and so as we saw, you basically had a GOP administration with some racist tweets. That is to say, the Trump hysteria was rooted in hysteria and hyperbole, and it was fundamentally anti-democratic, as are the attacks on individual rights, free speech and the rest of it.

          The other side is that there aren’t enough college educated voters who have embraced “critical theory” to actually carry national elections, and the Democrats have gone way too far (in my estimation) on their boutique social issues and its hurting them in the general electorate. As they double down on their rhetoric, they only alienate more would-be supporters. Hopefully, they move on, but its seems like their is a real fanaticism in their sentiments. If they lose elections and keep up the GOP-is-not-legitimate rhetoric, they may find the target is on them.

          1. As far as “Biden stole the election”, I can remember in 2000 when “Bush stole the election” and an overwhelming number of Democrats supported that sentiment. Was that the end of American Democracy? I also remember 2016 when “Putin stole the election” and an overwhelming number of Democrats fell for one of the nuttiest conspiracy theories ever promulgated, the stupidity of which Glenn Greenwald demonstrated time and time again. Was that the end of American Democracy? And why couldn’t the all powerful Kremlin steal the election again in 2020?

            I grant that large slivers of the population questioning election results is not a sign of health, but the Democrats have questioned the legitimacy of the 2000 and the 2016 elections, so it is a little hypocritical to come down on Republicans for doing the same crazy in 2020. [And I don’t think the “steal” is doing the GOP any help with Independents, which should be their focus.]

            1. Really? Some people pointed out that if the system were actually democratic, instead of the electoral college, first-past-the-post, two-party system, then the will of the people would have been expressed through the election results a few times when it wasn’t.

              But no-one made such outrageous claims as Trump did.

            2. In January 2021, Donald Trump did his damnedest to enlist the United States Department of Justice, numerous state election officials, the Republican Party, and his own vice-president in a plot to stage a coup by overturning the results of a legitimate election and having himself illegally and unconstitutionally installed as the incumbent president or the United States of America.

              It is true that Democrats did a fair amount of pissing and moaning about the outcomes of the 2000, 2004, and 2016 elections. But those events and Trump’s attempted coup cannot rationally be compared. Like foot massages and cunnilingus, these things are not in the same ballpark. There not in the same league. They’re not even the same goddam sport.

              1. If there was coup attempted, why has no one been charged with sedition or treason yet? Is Garland just being “nice”? All I have heard is a lot of big words out of Congressional Committees, political theater stuff. Surely if there was an actual case, the USAG’s would be on it.

              2. @KD:

                Donald Trump pressured his acting Attorney General, Jeffrey Rosen, to lie to the public to declare that the 2020 presidential election was “corrupt,” telling him that he (Trump) and the Republicans would take care of the rest to get the election results overturned. (We have the notes of Rosen’s chief deputy, Richard Donoghue, to establish this.) Trump also threatened to fire Rosen and Donoghue so that his lackey, the third in command at the DoJ, Jeffrey Clark, could take over the Department and do his bidding. Ibid. (Clark had already drafted a proposed memo to state election officials claiming the election was fraudulent.) All that stopped him was the threat that, if he followed through with this plan, there would be mass resignations from essentially the entire Justice Department.

                Trump also called the Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, pressuring Raffensperger to “find” him 11,780 votes — one more than what he needed to beat Joe Biden in Georgia. (We have a tape-recording of this phone call.)

                Trump also pressured his vice-president, Mike Pence, to reject the results of the electoral college sent to congress — something a vice-president has absolutely no constitutional authority to do. Trump then fomented an insurrection at the US Capitol in a last-ditch effort to prevent the election results declaring Joe Biden the president-elect from being certified by congress.

                If this is not an attempted coup, what in the world do YOU call it? Business as usual?

                As for why no one (except the Capitol rioters themselves) has yet been charged with sedition, the investigation — which Republicans are desperately trying to stifle — has only just gotten underway.

        2. “Note that the Republican Party is now authoritarian, some would say fascistic…”

          Fascistic ? Really ? This kind of completely over the top rethoric is exactly the sort of “moral panic” Ungar-Sargon talked about. Many democrats seem to be completely oblivious to their own paranoid conspiracy theories…

          How can anyone hope returning to a more healthy political landscape when the only alternative political option in a two party state is demonized in this fashion and where, by association, anyone supporting their ideas is considered suspect of being a nazi (who else would support a fascistic party) ?

          What about addressing the hysterical wokism that is poisonning our public life and ruining the credibility of our institutions, academia in particular ? That would certainly do a lot more for the country than going around claiming that the republican party is a fascist party…

          Good grief !

      2. Ken, I did not say Fox was promoting economic populism. I said they were promoting economic panic. “The Democrats will drive us into a recession, the migrants will take away your jobs” etc. I stand by that.

        1. I did not mean to suggest that you had done otherwise, Lou. The point I was seeking to make was more general. Sorry for any confusion.

  7. One of the joys (or horrors, depending on viewpoint) of living in the boonies, is that I cannot get a decent daily paper delivered. The Globe & Mail and The National Post are not printed, distributed or sold east of the province of Quebec. The only option for a physical paper is the Halifax “Chronically Horrid” – a nickname I’m sure you can decipher. So it’s online news for me, but I find myself having to read multiple articles on several sites and then taking a gestalt to guess what might have actually happened. The BBC is too simple and hopelessly biased these days, which is truly sad. CNN is still foaming at the mouth about Trump. I can read both the Globe and the National Post with some browser shenanigans, and also the Torygraph and the (London) Times. NYT and WP are too devoted to US-only news to do much for me. I refuse to touch Facebook in any form and find Apple’s News app childish. Turns out my morning routine for news goes like this:
    CNN, G&M, NP, Spiked! (curious site: ex-Trots turned libertarian), The Critic, DT, Times, CBC local page, Tablet (the jewish one, not the catholic one). Then I think I know what’s going on, which probably means I’m just as misinformed as everyone else!

      1. Thank you – a sensible suggestion that is now on my bookmarks bar!
        BTW, if you use Firefox or a Chromium based browser, do take a look at the extension Bypass Paywalls Clean (or Bypass Paywalls, but that is updated less often) which will let you read many paywalled sites.

    1. “Spiked! (curious site: ex-Trots turned libertarian” – Absolutely, a very strange set of people. Not least Claire Fox, now a member of the House of Lords, but formerly a frequent panellist on BBC programmes like The Moral Maze for no reason that I could ever discern.

      1. Spiked! is a perfect example of why I dislike ‘package deals’ when it comes to sets of beliefs or opinions. I’ll listen to them (at Spiked! – the quondam Living Marxism magazine) all day long when they spout common sense about cancel culture or trans lunacy, but I’ve no time for their anti-lockdown stance.

  8. Newspapers have alway had ideological slants, why has this suddenly become a threat to democracy? Are there readers out there who are unaware of the fact that all media are biased?

    We have always known that if we want to hear all sides of the story we need to get our news and analysis from different sources. This was true in the 19th century, it was true in the 1930s and the 1970s, why wasn’t it a threat to democracy then?

    Newspapers aren’t a social service, they are commercial enterprises run by rich people either simply to make money or to push an agenda that the owners think is going to help them make money elsewhere.

    1. “Newspapers have always had ideological slants” – true, but:
      I think that papers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and similar papers in other major cities have had a justified reputation in the past for quality, basically factual reporting, with a clear distinction between reporting and opinion – and even more so between either reporting or opinion and advertising. The two I mention may have had a liberal bias in their opinion, but you could reasonably count on an honest description of events.
      Like our host, I’m increasingly disappointed in the NYT, which seems to have moved from “all the news that’s fit to print” to “all the news that fits, we print”.
      As to why this is a threat to democracy, see Abe Aamidor’s comment above, to which you replied. Were the NYT just a newspaper, as it was in, say, 2000, I think they’d still be reporting factually; but they’re now a web presence, and looking to increase and monetize that presence, and I think that is leading to their excesses. They’re not Facebook, but that’s only because they’re years too late – Mark Zuckerberg got into creating the social reinforcement echo chamber too long ago and has spent too much time optimizing it for anyone else likely to be able to catch up.

      1. I am not American and so am not familiar with the reputation of the various newspapers, so it may well be that the NYT has become worse in this respect.

        A pity.

  9. Explaining the NYT’s slide into wokery as motivated by the bottom line makes a lot of sense. In fact, the widespread infection of other businesses by the language and culture of D/E/I could be explained equally plausibly, at least in part, by the machinations of the Diversity Consultant industry. This sector of the economy produces nothing, but its bottom line depends on incessantly peddling its watchwords and advice to cultural institutions, NGOs, and the HR departments of businesses and government agencies.

    One fine example is the Equity Project, a Colorado-based consultancy which figures in a subject of several other WEIT discussions. According to a Daily Mail article, it was this outfit which advised the airheads of the Art Institute of Chicago to fire all their volunteer docents. The Equity Project’s website reads like a glossy brochure, with enticements in managementese like the following.

    Organizational Assessment
    In an organizational assessment, we compare your current state to your desired state, and design a customized set of recommendations to help guide your ongoing EID efforts.

    Equity Blueprint
    A strategic plan for operationalizing equity, diversity, and inclusion work across your organization.

    Executive Equity Coaching
    Our coaching helps executives develop a personal “equity posture”, effectively communicate challenging content with their teams, and identify leadership opportunities.

    Looking for HR Services?
    Check out our sister organization, The HR Shop—a team of trusted advisors who provide customized HR solutions that range from short-term strategy to full HR partnership management.”

    1. While I have no truck with The Daily Mail (a Wikipedia acquaintance successfully got the title blocked from being regarded as a “Reliable source” only to find his mother being doorstepped by the paper as a result), this kind of corporate capture most definitely needs to be called out. It’s a shame that the liberal press is unable (or unwilling) to do so.

      By coincidence, earlier this evening I emailed the BBC about its abject failures with respect to the “Nolan Investigates” podcast series exposing the connections between the LGBTQ+ lobbying organisation Stonewall and the BBC. (In my opinion it unreasonably denied Freedom of Information requests that other public bodies, such as the Scottish government, were able to comply with transparently; couldn’t provide a single interviewee over 10 episodes to defend their position and did not answer specific questions put to them when providing written statements; and failed to broadcast the series on its leading radio news and current affairs channel, BBC Radio 4).

      The series is available here for anyone interested: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p09yjp0d

  10. I am glad that the “All conservatives are racists” issue is at least under discussion. It is maddening, even for an individual who is not particularly conservative on most issues, to listen to that narrative when it is applied to virtually all of one’s neighbors and family.
    Especially when they are clearly not racist. I am a middle-aged White guy with a mustache and a big hat. I do not think that people would try to hide their public or private racism from me. Yet I never see any. I am sure it exists, in the same measure as it exists in any population. If one were to rely on the nearly unanimous media depiction of us, one would surely assume that we hold regular Klan meetings and the occasional public lynching. Also that our general belief in limiting government powers is somehow a sign of supporting fascism. It is a false construct.
    I would even propose that, as an example, a young inter-racial couple are measurably safer walking hand in hand in the park here than they would be in a park in Chicago, especially after dark.

    The Chappell protest is a good example of the current environment. “Comedian and videographer Vito Gesualdi screams profanities as he engages with peaceful protesters” is how it was framed by mainstream news, but he was not the one screaming, he used no profanity, and they were not peaceful. Yet the completely false description of the event was widely published, even though the full video was also available, and a great many people would be assumed to see both.
    To add to that issue, the person who organized the Netflix walkout did so before deleting their social media history, even though it was predictably full of actual hate and undisguised racism.

  11. Not all conservatives are racist. Far from it. But those who are traditional racists or xenophobes invariably find their home on the Right. And, particularly in the Age of Trump, non-racist conservatives have demonstrated an unhealthy tolerance for having traditional racists in their ranks.

  12. I worked next to someone who was intending to vote for Trump for more than a year before the 2016 election. Nice guy, very smart and definitely not racist. I got a good idea of some of the reasons people were intending to vote Trump. One was that they thoroughly distrusted Clinton. I think people way underestimated how much the Clinton candidacy got people to go out and vote against her.

    I had also spoken to a number of evangelical Christians before that election and realised that they didn’t think it very important who was in the Whitehouse as long as they would appoint strong conservatives to the SCOTUS.

    So I was not particularly surprised that Trump won in 2016. I was only surprised that so many were confident that he wouldn’t.

    I imagine that if Trump had been foiled in replacing RBG he would have won easily in 2020. The number of evangelicals in the swing states is easily larger than the margin.

    1. My wife, in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election, said the same thing. People underestimated how toxic Hillary was to a large percentage of people. And their feelings about her go back way back beyond when Trump entered the picture.
      One of my wife’s Neighbors has one of the Texas ranches where Trump flags are prominently flown at the main gate. It is reasonably likely that Dr. Coyne saw them when he did his BBQ tour. We know them very well. to begin with, they are not racists, or particularly religious. Beyond that, they don’t particularly care for Trump as an individual. They support him because of what the democratic agenda represents for their lives.
      They raise cattle, they farm, they hunt. Although they are not in the oil business, the price of fuel is often what makes the difference between a rich and lean year.
      Plenty of people are just not going to vote for anyone that wants to kick down their doors to search for guns and other contraband. Similarly, there are folks that see abortion rights as the primary issue, and always vote democrat.
      It is not a buffet. There is a fixed menu with no substitutions allowed. The gyros roll comes with tomatoes. Gun rights is on the menu, but it comes with a side of abortion restrictions. If you want to order the Reproductive freedom, it is available, but only with the gun control sauce and intersectional garnish.

      Stereotyping all of the rubes in flyover country as fascists and racists serves the same purpose as characterizing the WW2 Japanese as myopic,bucktoothed savages. Or applying more conventional blood libels. It is a way to make your people more able to do the things to them that you are planning, but that people are normally reluctant to do if they have any empathy for the subject.

  13. The only problem I have with this is it greatly overstates how much influence the NYT or any media has on actual opinion. I doubt it changed many minds at all. But ca 2016 2017 it resonated with what many liberals were already thinking. And lest we forget, there was plenty of NYT column space devoted to the debate over whether the Trump draw was simple racism – the article seems blind to that. So, just like its overly woke take today, and with a similar level of push back (as exemplified by this blog).
    Also, what would the NYT nay-sayers suggest to prevent a Trump re-election? Do you really think acknowledging the economic issues those voters face is going to make a difference, when Biden will have done more for them than Trump ever will? They will still hate Biden with seething fury.

  14. The digitization process has had a strong, albeit negative, effect on the press. In a world where their revenue depends on clicks, likes and shares, it is not so surprising that they try to build audiences that are loyal to them, hence the extreme partisanship. Case in point: while NY Times always had a leftist bias, CNN tended to be more in the center. But that all changed when Trump appeared on the scene, they became MSNBC 2.0. The biggest casualty, in the meantime, has been public trust inthe media.
    https://news.gallup.com/poll/355526/americans-trust-media-dips-second-lowest-record.aspx

  15. Saying huge numbers of people are racist simply means that racists think racism is normal.

    And smashes any hope of improving race relations.

  16. “For a brief period, it seemed like the American mainstream might truly grapple with the question of class. But this quickly disappeared in favor of an easier explanation: Trump voters were racists.”

    From this side of the pond it has always looked very strange the way USers seem to be obsessed with race while somehow pretending that class does not exist (not all USers of course but you know what I mean).

    The recent explosion of woke/PC/right-on just looks like an extreme form of this, with upper/middle class people fixating on race as a way to distract attention away from class. Unfortunately you’ve now infected the rest of the world with it.

    1. The reason why America is surrounded by a fog of white supremacy is that Clinton/Obama/Biden have done almost nothing for Black and Brown voters, except foreclosing on them and making it harder to file bankruptcy and putting them in prison for draconian terms. The clear person to blame would be Pelosi, Schumer, Biden, Obama and co., which is why you need some invisible demonic threat that can only be held at bay with ritual performances.

      1. Lol. “Surrounded by fog of white supremacy”.
        There was a time “white supremacy” identified shadowy groups that distributed “the Turner’s Diaries” and killed everyone who disagreed with them.
        Now the term has been cheapened beyond recognition. Don’t be surprised next time you warn people of dangers of white supremacy and all you get in response is a collective yawn.

  17. It’s not just “the economy, stupid”. If you want to explain *why Trump won when previous Republicans didn’t*, racism is actually important – more important than economic losses among swing voters. And voters who switch parties, or from non-voting to voting or vice versa, are how you explain election victories.

    As for culture-war issues like abortion, sure Trump promised to appoint pro-life judges, just like every other Republican in recent memory. And Hillary promised the opposite, just like every recent Democrat. This lack-of-change has zero explanatory value for why Obama won and Hillary lost.

    By falsely painting the issue as “the NYT says all Republicans are racist” instead of what they actually said, namely that racism trumped economics in explaining the shift, Ungar-Sargon creates and demolishes a straw man.

    1. You are correct. That study clearly shows that rural white counties in Iowa were motivated by a desire not to have people from Haiti or Somalia immigrate there , although they had hardly ever met people from Haiti or Somalia.

      1. People prefer their own culture, from Johannesburg to Iowa:

        https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/05/world/africa/south-africa-xenophobia-riots.html

        If you get too much immigration, you get a nativist backlash, which restricts immigration, then you get assimilation while the immigration wave is digested, and you reopen immigration, at least that is the historic pattern in a generally open and pro-immigrant society like the US. Similar to communism, the open borders people have the wrong species.

        Some people radically underestimate how hard it is to get hordes of strangers to cooperate instead of attacking each other. If you put 250 unrelated chimps in an airplane, they will kill each other. We are not Chimps, but neither does social cohesion magically appear when you say the magic words. As the UN puts it “poor management of diversity”.

  18. This story reveals the problem with the “theory” (concept) of moral panics. One man’s moral panic is another’s righteous cause. The moral panic model doesn’t really explain anything. At best, it describes a kind of group-level phenomenon. More accurately in my view, it invents the phenomenon it claims to merely describe. For example:

    The Left says, “The Right is in moral panic over CRT in public schools.”
    The Right says, “The Left is in moral panic over white supremacy.”

    Perhaps the term, “moral panic” is best understood as a *sophisticated* pejorative hurled at political opponents. You know, politics by another name.

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