Yes, Virginia, the New York Times is woke

April 17, 2022 • 9:45 am

Here’s an exchange I had with a reader in the comments section of my recent post, “Curmudgeon sees John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ as a harmful song.” I was surprised that there were nearly 100 comments on what I thought was a pretty uncontroversial post. But one never knows what can get readers worked up:

I stand by my reply: any paper aspiring to credibility has to give more than one political viewpoint in its op-eds (granted, the Wall Street Journal is close to just one), and a few conservative columnists in the NYT does not make for an objective, much less an un-Woke, newspaper. What makes me accuse the NYT of wokeism is the way it slants its news reporting, letting a “progressive” liberal ideology seep into the news itself. Its coverage of the Israel/Palestine conflict, with a clear bias towards Palestine, is one example. What happened to Bennet and McNeil are two others.

And yet another (or rather, several) is mentioned by Andrew Sullivan in the second part of Friday’s Substack column: “The NYT’s deliberate disinformation“. This refers to the tendency of the NYT to downplay race when a criminal proves to be black, but to emphasize race when the criminal is white and the victim black or a “person of color”—especially if the paper can find a “racist” or “white supremacy” angle. This is so clear in the NYT that I need hardly point it out. The reason, of course, is to indict whites for racism but avoid indicting blacks for racism—a clear double standard, but one reflected in the Woke definition of racism as “prejudice plus power.”

Sullivan’s main example is the recent subway shooting, with ten victims, by a black man who was apparently motivated by hatred of white people. (He also appears to be mentally ill.)  The NYT didn’t mention that the suspect was black until it had written twenty-one news items about the killing, and even tried to twist the suspect’s words to make it seem that he was a white supremacist.


A mass shooting earlier this week was the worst incident on the New York City subway system in 40 years. The man who committed the attack has an extraordinary voluminous record online of his views, which add critical context to his motivations. And if you wanted to know what those views were, the one place you would be unable to find it was the New York Times. In fact, you found out far more about this NYC terror attack in the pages of London newspapers.

Why? The answer, it seems to me, is simple. Frank James is black. And the NYT treats crime very, very differently depending on the race of the suspect. If a white man had perpetrated this act of terror, and had online rantings about how much he hated blacks, we would be in Day Four of analysis of how white supremacist hatred fuels violence. Imagine if a white man had been yelling the following racial expletives in the streets before shooting up a subway station: “Fuck you and your black ass too, you black racist motherfucker” “Slant-eyed fucking piece of shit.” “You’re a crime against fucking nature, you Spanish speaking motherfucker.” But James said exactly that — if you replace the word “black” with “white” in the first quote.

James is obviously mentally unwell. But what’s notable about him is that this derangement is fused with black nationalism and separatism, and hatred of whites. His vicious insults against black people are because they refuse to see the genocidal motives of white people. . . [JAC: Sullivan goes on to give examples of James’s racism.]

But wait! There’s more:

But here’s the kicker: the NYT kept all of this from you. They excised the black nationalist background, and made it seem as if his railing against his fellow blacks proved he was not driven by 1619 ideology, and was just an equal opportunity hater. In the body of their reporting, it took two full days — after at least 21 news items comprising more than 14,000 words — to note in writing that the dude is African-American at all. Here’s the line they finally coughed up to summarize all this context:

The videos he posted frequently devolved into outbursts of homophobia, misogyny and offensive comments about Black people, Hispanic people and white people. Mr. James, who is Black, directed much of his hatred toward Black people, whom he often blamed for the way they were treated in the United States.

Notice how they manage to invert his actual ideology. They make him seem like a white nationalist! They first highlight his homophobia and misogyny (they are minor themes in the record), and never call him a racist. (Even CNNNBC News, and MSNBC called the rhetoric “racist.”)


Now remember how the NYT covered the Atlanta shootings. There they invented a narrative of white supremacist anti-Asian hatred out of thin air — when there was nothing anywhere in the record to suggest it — and posted nine separate stories framed around that hate-crime narrative. This week, they bury reams of readily available evidence that the shooter was largely motivated by anti-white hatred, and had absorbed the prevailing CRT narrative. And still not a single op-ed or editorial on the terror attack, despite multiple opinion pieces in each of the NYC dailies. NYT: All the news that comports with CRT! Everything else buried deep.

Are these kinds of crime rare, as Nikole Hannah-Jones insisted this week? Of the 218 arrests for hate crimes in New York City last year, 103 were of African-Americans — 47 percent, compared with 24 percent of New York’s population. I wonder if James will be prosecuted as such. Or if “hate” only counts for some races and not others.

As far as I know, nobody (including the police) has yet turned up any evidence that the Atlanta “spa shootings,” in which Robert Long killed eight people, six of them Asian women, was a hate crime targeting Asians or motivated by Long’s hatred of Asians. The motivation seems to be Long’s cognitive dissonance between his Christianity and his “sex addiction” to frequenting massage parlors, in which customers would be sexually serviced by Asian women. He was not charged with a “hate crime” when he was given life without parole.  And yet despite the existence of no anti-Asian bias, people brought it up anyway, so eager are they to find evidence of race hatred. Even Wikipedia says this after dispelling a racist motive for the killings:

Some noted the ethnicity of six of the victims, who were Asian women, amidst an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic, or characterized the shooting as a hate crime. Some experts have said that race cannot be ruled out as a motive because of the fetishization of Asian women in the U.S. Long said that his actions were not racially motivated.

“Some noted” indeed! People “note” all kinds of unsubstantiated things.  And of course we can’t completely “rule out” the existence of the Loch Ness monster, despite concerted and fruitless attempts to find it.

What we see here is the desperation of some to paint a racist victim narrative. Now it may be true that Long’s act sparked other anti-Asian attacks that were motivated by racism, but that’s not the issue. The issue is what motivated Long himself, and the NYT did all it could to paint this as a hate crime. Indeed, one could conclude that the NYT itself was responsible for a wave of anti-Asian hate crime by painting Long’s attack as one example. The existence of “copycat crimes” is well known.

Why did the NYT slant the news in both cases? Because it’s woke. It has bought into the victim narrative inherent in Wokeism combined with the view that minorities can’t really be racist or commit racist hate crimes because “racism equals prejudice plus power.” Under that mantra, members of racial minorities simply can’t be racist.

No rational person would buy that claim. Anybody who hates people simply because of their ethnicity is a racist. The “power” bit is an add-on to excuse minorities from being racist. The NYT’s valorization of minorities is also seen in the fact that its news section capitalizes “Black” but not “white” when referring to race, and the paperhas offered the lamest of excuses (see also here and here) for this disparity. (The Washington Post capitalizes both.)

If a paper is objective, it does not paint a racial narrative when there is no evidence for one, as in the Asian spa murders. And it does not downplay a racial narrative when there is one, as in the NYT subway killings. If you engage in this kind of doublethink, you are simply causing more racial division—as well as misleading readers by obscuring the truth.

This kind of narrative goes against any vision of treating members of different groups the same way. An objective newspaper wouldn’t do what the Times did. And it does this over and over again (as do other media). There is no credible explanation beside Wokeness.

And I hate myself for doling out $4 a month to subscribe to this paper. But the fact is that it remains the best liberal paper in the U.S., and I’m a liberal. But the Wokeness repeatedly irritates me, as you can see from reading this website.

33 thoughts on “Yes, Virginia, the New York Times is woke

  1. We see this with reportings on so-called Islamophobia.

    A white guy recently ran over a Muslim family. Before the gruesome scene was even cleaned up, newspapers were wailing the siren song of “Islamophobia”, “white supremacy”, and “racism”, and enterprising Islamic groups were painting desperate needs for taxpayer-funded security at Mosques and hate-speech laws directed at curbing any criticisms of Islam.

    Speaking of Mosques, reading coverage of a recent shooting at a place of worship, you would have been convinced that it was a domestic white terrorist with deep-seeded hatred against minority groups. As a matter of fact, it was a former Muslim of Middle Eastern descent, which widely went unreported.

    Or an assault on a hajib-wearing lady in a public park. The narrative of the day were the “anti-vaccine” protests labeled as “white hate groups”. Somehow a link was set out. However, any reader with the least amount of investigative prowess would have cross-referenced the perpetrator’s name with social media and discovered it was a native!

    Now, on the other hand, when Muslim terrorists rent U-Haul vans and drive through crowds at peak hours…

  2. A brief response to the above:

    1, If the political viewpoints of columnists is not the question, then perhaps we should direct our criticism of their ideas towards the individuals in question, not the news venues that choose to cover them. Rather, the focus should be (as Sullivan does here) on actual news coverage and true editorials. Going further,

    2. I consider myself to be (for lack of a better description) a Biden democrat. As such I could make an argument that many outlets (not just the NYT and WaPo), by virtue of their both-sidesism, end up overplaying GOP propaganda points and thus underplaying this administration’s accomplishments. Jennifer Rubin in the Post has discussed this multiple times. And, perhaps parenthetically, the “Democrats in disarray” trope is one that is repeatedly invoked, neglecting, for example, the discipline they showed in passing the American Rescue plan and the infrastructure bill, as well as in the confirmation of Justice Brown Jackson.

    3. Historically, newspapers have been much more partisan than they are today. A famous example was Horace Greeley and the New York Tribune in the 19th century – it was a voice of the GOP of the time, and indeed Greeley made an unsuccessful run at the presidential nomination in 1872. The legacy of this tradition lives on in the names of papers that are still with us today – The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle is an example that comes to mind.

    But my main point is that all of us, myself included, need to do what we can to avoid confirmation bias. For me, that means evaluating what is published about a topic in a particular outlet without making a prior assumption about the venue one way or the other. In some cases (e.g Fox or The Nation) the evidence of systemic bias quickly becomes overwhelming. In my opinion, that is not the case for either the Times or the Post.

    1. Sorry, but I reject your accusation that I’ve made a “prior assumption about the NYT”. I did not. I arrived at the view that the NYT was getting woke after reading it for years. In fact, your last paragraph is offensive in its implication that you are doing the work of avoiding confirmation bias but me (and others who agree with me) aren’t.

      Sullivan is also criticizing the NYT for wokeness; did you even read his piece? And he’s been doing that for a long time.

      I don’t know what your comment #2 has to do with my post. I am also a Biden Democrat and am not pushing a “Democrats in disarray” trope. I reject your claim that I don’t recognize the accomplishments of Democrats, which is totally irrelevant to this post. Of course I recognize the accomplishments of Democrats, and, for example, applauded the selection of Justice Jackson.

      Finally, whether newspapers in the past were more partisan–and that is true–is also irrelevant to my argument, which is about the NYT now and how it’s catering to a certain moiety of the Left and thereby distorting the news for ideological reasons.

      1. Both Michelle Goldberg and Gina Bellafonte write incredibly biased columns regularly in the NYT, and for this reason I have stopped reading them because they are so infuriating. Then there was the op-ed by Roxane Gay promoting “curation”, a/k/a self-censorship, while contradicting herself by supporting diversity of views as well as on other issues. Her op ed was one of the most abysmally ignorant and vacuous I have read in the NY Times. These writers bother me more than the fuzzy faith-based ramblings of Ross Douthat and David Brooks because they purport to support universal ethical values and principles as well as secular values. Religious moralists will always be with us and we just have to sigh and move on when we see them. Yawn.

    2. I too am a Biden Democrat. Still, I do regard the Dems as being in disarray. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they are ALWAYS in disarray. They are consistently lack array compared to the GOP. The problem is that they express their own opinions which vary across the party, whereas most of the GOP these days are reading lies from a script coming out of Mar-a-Lago.

      The both-siderism really bothers me too but I understand how hard it must be for the press to deal with our current polarization. They are duty-bound to report what politicians say even if half of them are spouting lies. If they only interview politicians from one side of the aisle, that will definitely be seen as bias. Same if they flash “This is a lie.” at the bottom of the screen every time some GOP politician utters a falsity. It’s a hard problem.

      I don’t find it at all comforting to acknowledge that papers were arguably more biased in the past. I’m no historian but in the distant past most papers were founded to express a particular point of view on a specific topic. I believe the Economist, for example, and which I find to be the most unbiased source today, was founded to protest England’s Corn Laws. (Or was it to support them? I forget.) We’ve come a long way since then. We should hold papers to a higher standard now.

  3. First, I totally agree that the NYT is Woke. But perhaps they don’t really think “minorities can’t really be racist or commit racist hate crimes”. Instead, they just want to give POC a break. They know that there are masses out there on the Right who seem to enjoy receiving “proof” that POC are “bad people” committing most of the crime. Of course, it is hard to know what the powers at NYT really believe. I just thought it was worth pointing out another possibility. Regardless, I’d rather get my news straight without any of their attempts to manipulate the audience.

    1. I think your possibility is equivalent to obscuring the fact that people of color can commit hate crimes. And, at any rate, it’s terrible journalism to slant your stories so you won’t be perceived as playing into Republican hands.

    2. Used to be newspapers would always cite “black” when one was the offender. Now, when there is no mention of race, I can pretty much guess that the offender was black.

      If the media always mentioned the race of the offender, it probably never would have become an issue either way.

      1. I think that’s how it once was. Always seemed fair to me. It also wouldn’t bother me if the policy was never to mention race but I guess too many people want to know.

  4. I completely agree. Their treatment of the Atlanta spa shootings inspired me to cancel my subscription. That was the moment for me when it became absolutely clear that they were pushing a narrative. Well, this along with their enthusiastic treatment of events in which a police officer kills a black person alongside their lack of interest in reporting the occasions in which a police officer kills a white person even when police officers kill white people a lot more (of course I realize that police officers kill black people disproportionately and that’s a problem; what bothers me is that since they very rarely (maybe never as far as I can tell) report the occasions which the person is white, it gives the impression that police are just hunting black people). I think this reporting exacerbated the hysteria around policing in the summer of 2020 and ushered in support for the ill-conceived defund movement. Anyway, I’m also a liberal and it’s worrying that the media that I’ve historically enjoyed is increasingly “manufacturing consent” around these cultural issues.

  5. Sullivan says that the NYT was trying to show that James was not driven by “1619 ideology.” Does Sullivan feel proud of himself that he has now coined a new buzzword? Is CRT not good enough for him? The clear implication of Sullivan’s assertion is that the ideas presented in the 1619 Project, i.e., the predominance of white supremacy since 1619, is a motivation for a mass shooting. I understand fully that the views expressed in the 1619 Project have come under wide attack. But this is not the point. Sullivan is going beyond criticism to warn that it can be an impetus for violence. Does Sullivan have any evidence of this? I think Sullivan’s motivation is to reinforce in the public mind that the 1619 Project is somehow bad because its subtext is a call for violence. He could have made his views just as effectively without using the number “1619.” The fact that he did use it, I find particularly repulsive.

    1. I agree with your criticism of what Sullivan said about 1619 here. I want to make that clear, as I still think he’s right about the Times’s distortion of facts in the service of “progressive” ideology.

    2. Sullivan has been top-notch in his criticism of Trump and Trumpism. And he was right — and right much sooner than most — on same-sex marriage (a subject on which he was speaking in the manner of Cicero pro domo sua, as the saying goes). He’s also stylistically one of the finest essayists in the game today.

      But one needn’t scratch the lad too deeply before encountering the papist Tory substrate below.

    3. The “1619” reference is likely to the notorious tweet that Nikole Hannah-Jones sent out stating that she would be proud to have the 2020 riots/protest called the “1619 Riots”. Here is a discussion of that with Glenn Loury and John McWhorter.

  6. I was surprised that there were nearly 100 comments on what I thought was a pretty uncontroversial post.

    Yes! I remember being surprised and amused by the radio priest’s disparaging remarks. And having read the WEIT post, I continue to be amused by how emotional people get over it 🙂

  7. “Of the 218 arrests for hate crimes in New York City last year, 103 were of African-Americans — 47 percent, compared with 24 percent of New York’s population. I wonder if James will be prosecuted as such. Or if “hate” only counts for some races and not others.”

    (emphasis added)

    The applicable New York “hate crime” statute, NY Penal Law section 485.05 is facially neutral regard regarding the races of the perpetrators and victims. All it requires in relevant part is that the perpetrator:

    (a) intentionally selects the person against whom the offense is committed or intended to be committed in whole or in substantial part because of a belief or perception regarding the race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation of a person, regardless of whether the belief or perception is correct, or

    (b) intentionally commits the act or acts constituting the offense in whole or in substantial part because of a belief or perception regarding the race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation of a person, regardless of whether the belief or perception is correct.

    And as the statistics Sullivan himself cites demonstrate, New York City’s finest appear to display no reticence in arresting African-American suspects for hate crimes.

  8. The examples of skewed news coverage are shocking and bear out our host’s point; as he rightly notes, “a few conservative columnists in the NYT does not make for an objective, much less an un-Woke, newspaper”.

    That said, I was surprised to see that the NYT carry a piece by Ross Douthat last week that concluded:

    I will make a prediction: Within not too short a span of time, not only conservatives but most liberals will recognize that we have been running an experiment on trans-identifying youth without good or certain evidence, inspired by ideological motives rather than scientific rigor, in a way that future generations will regard as a grave medical-political scandal.

    Which means that if you are a liberal who believes as much already, but you don’t feel comfortable saying it, your silence will eventually become your regret.

    Perhaps it’s just me, but reading that I felt that it is possible that there’s a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

    1. We need an evidence=based psychological analysis of the consequences of allowing doctors to prescribe hormones to teen agers (who we don’t want to take drugs, can’t drink till they are 18 and are dependent on parental supervision and assistance until they are at least 21, when they can drink) long before they are emotionally and intellectually able to make rational choices. The word “adolescent” tells us they are not yet adults, and any psychologist worth her salt knows full well the emotional and social challenges of the teen years as children start to learn how to become more independent. Let’s not allow religious and regressive ideologies define the problem, and let’s not fear the solution: banning sex change via drugs or surgery until the person is 21. Do the parents who
      allows this let their children run free without rules or restrictions entirely, every day of their life? No, they do not. They exert judgment and oversight to protect them, not to inflict new trials upon them as they try to cope with the coming difficulties of living in a complex mass society.

  9. I’m with you entirely Jerry, and I don’t agree with the commenter that woke has been overused to the extent that it has no meaning. It certainly has been used a lot over the last few years, but that’s because wokeness is infecting society, and many of us are flipping well sick of it! However, to say it has no meaning is plain wrong; it’s just that defining ‘woke’ is difficult.

    I find it very hard to do with any clarity, but to my mind, there are two elements that usually distinguish woke ideas from those that are merely liberal. Firstly, there’s a deliberate performative element (usually of the virtue signalling kind). Secondly, there’s a denial or misrepresentation of reality, or misuse of facts / statistics (e.g the arbitrary singling out of 6 Asian women in the piece you quote).

    That’s hardly a complete definition though. For that I would seek the wise counsel of Justice Potter Stewart – I can think of no better definition of woke, than the one he coined for hard core pornography back in 1964:

    I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“woke”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it.

  10. I subscribed to the New York Times for at least 35 years and stopped about 3 or 4 years ago because I had lost faith in much of its reporting. An example of others I could use (like the way Hispanic and Asians are left out of social issue statistics, and often focus only on black/white):

    From around 2015 to 2018 or so, the Times used a headline again and again that was close to this: “Police shoot and kill unarmed black man” and , “White policeman kills unarmed black man”. (You could immediately infer that if the headline used “police”, the police involved was either not white or had various identities.)

    Not once did I see a headline in which similar shootings of white, hispanic, or asian men were noted.

    What this created in the mind of readers, and many progressive, is a gross exaggeration of the number of unarmed black men shot and killed by the police. You can google to find that survey……

    As a note, according to a shooting database kept by the Washington Post, but rarely actually used in its reporting, the number of unarmed black men shot and killed by the police in 2021 was 6, and in 2020 the number was 17.

  11. One more note, but the NYTimes has become notorious for its biases….especially given that according to demographics, it’s readers are synonymous with the overclass. So here is one more interesting bit:

    “At this point in the Kyle Rittenhouse story, @nytimes
    had published a 20+ paragraph piece about his social media & support for Trump.

    I’m not holding my breath for a similar look at the NYC subway shooter, whose racist tirades NYT merely calls “overtly concerned with race””

    1. To be fair, the Rittenhouse story had a lot more societal significance than the NYC subway shooter. The latter was just a clearly deranged individual whereas the former had threads about gun culture, urban rioting, vigilantism, Trump, and probably other things that I’m forgetting.

      1. I think that “societal significance” is largely due to the fact that one was white the other black. There is a huge pattern of this overdetermined reporting and not just at the NYTimes.

        The “derangement” of the subway shooter was hugely centered on race…including admonishment/despising of Supreme Court justice Brown Jackson, whom he excoriated for being married to a white man.

        Let’s see if he is charged with a “hate crime”…….Google almost immediately took down all of his recordings.

        1. I agree. None of that seems present in the NYC subway shooting. Even if the shooter had a coherent system of beliefs and they were largely racial, why was he shooting random people on the subway? Although the shooter was black, I don’t think my reaction would be different if he was white. By the same token, it matters hugely that Rittenhouse is white. Same for the support shown by Trump and the GOP. As far as I know, no one is coming to the subway shooter’s defense.

          1. I hope you’re not forgetting that Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted. You seem to be drawing a moral parallel between him and this fellow.

            1. The two parties in the comparison were chosen by the original commenter, not me. And, as far as I’m concerned, the comparison is on the basis of press reaction to the incidents, not on the morality of the involved parties. Are you trying to stir up trouble? 😉

              1. The tweet I posted was due in part to the fact that Rittenhouse was acquitted and acting in self-defense. The people he shot were attacking him.

                Now, here is another incident….Remember the Central Park dog walker(white) and the bird watcher (black.) No one was hurt and the chances that the police would have even arrested the bird watcher was zero.

                The Times, I understand wrote over 12 articles on this event and it was national news for days.

  12. It was why I dropped my subscription. I didn’t need the constant irritation of biased woke reporting. Life is to be enjoyed and News papers are supposed to tell me the news not their ideology

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