Cartoon exposes true quacks

Jerry Moore

WATERTOWN — It must be rather discomforting for the management of the New York Times for the company to frequently make the news rather than merely report it.

But shake-ups among opinion section staff members have created headlines by pointing out some of the flaws revealed there. So the Gray Lady of American journalism has undoubtedly grown a tad grayer in light of these recent events.

James Bennet resigned last month from his position of editorial page editor at the NYT. This followed an uproar from readers and Times journalists over an essay by U.S. Sen. Thomas Cotton of Arkansas, which the newspaper published June 3.

The column called for deploying military troops in cities across the nation if local law enforcement agents and members of the National Guard failed to contain rioters and looters. They engaged in violence against individuals and vandalized businesses and public structures during protests responding to the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Cotton’s column included questionable claims that should either have been substantiated or removed, according to an NYT editor’s note. In addition, the essay’s tone “in places is needlessly harsh and falls short of the thoughtful approach that advances useful debate.” NYT editors also repented over their own choice of a headline for the column, “Send In the Troops,” which in hindsight they described as “incendiary.”

Reader outrage over the essay proved overwhelming, so Bennet attempted to explain the newspaper’s rationale for printing it.

“Times Opinion owes it to our readers to show them counter-arguments, particularly those made by people in a position to set policy,” he wrote in a thread on Twitter. “We understand that many readers find Senator Cotton’s argument painful, even dangerous. We believe that is one reason it requires public scrutiny and debate.”

However, Bennet failed to pacify those who objected to the piece. Several days after the column ran, he left the newspaper. Jim Dao, the NYT’s deputy editorial page editor, was demoted as well.

Longtime critics of the NYT pointed to this incident as an example of cancel culture. They claimed the social media mob rallied to have Bennet ousted from the NYT because he often disturbed the sensibilities of the woke.

To be sure, many progressives periodically expressed their displeasure at Bennet’s choices. He tried to highlight more diverse voices in the opinion section following the 2016 election of Donald Trump as president. This drove a good many of the newspaper’s left-leaning readers bonkers.

But overlooked errors and poor judgment decisions pertaining to the editorial page plagued Bennet’s four-year tenure in this position. Saying that he didn’t read Cotton’s column before it was published (an ill-advised assertion, even if it was true) didn’t help his cause any.

This latest controversy appeared to be the final straw on this list of problems. So it’s doubtful that cancel culture warriors can actually claim Bennet as another notch on their belt.

Bari Weiss, however, cites this as her primary reason for leaving the NYT last week. A writer and editor for the newspaper’s opinion section since 2017, Weiss resigned Tuesday. She posted a scathing letter chronicling incessant bullying on the part of her colleagues at the newspaper, blaming her bosses for allowing such a hostile environment to exist.

Prior to writing for the NYT, Weiss served as an op-ed and book review editor for the Wall Street Journal. Her career at the Times seemed to be under a constant microscope.

Her hiring by the NYT resulted in endless of angst and generated a lot of publicity. Many of the columns she wrote become regular fodder for her social media critics.

Some people accused Weiss of having thin skin, particularly for someone of her profile. There is likely a lot of truth to this. She had to expect that she would come under extraordinary scrutiny given the NYT’s appeal to a largely progressive readership.

But it’s troubling that newspaper leaders ignored the relentless tirades by staffers against both Bennet and Weiss — much of them made publicly. If journalists have legitimate concerns about a published piece in the opinion section, they should address their issues with someone representing the NYT’s management team.

However, it simply isn’t possible that every column they complained about rose to the level of an existential crisis. Yet this is how they reacted, which mirrors a sad trend among Americans.

Many people claim that just about any viewpoint or comment they disagree with is offensive. And if they take offense, it obviously makes them uncomfortable. And if it makes them uncomfortable, it must be dangerous. And if it’s dangerous, they need to crush the person responsible so this doesn’t happen to anyone else.

You see? Problem solved. Debating the merits of any arguments offered is not necessary.

Now we spend much of our time lamenting the perils of opinions aired rather than engaging in constructive dialogue to determine if we can understand each other and possibly learn something. We’re quick to label ideas foreign to our own as threats to the goal of achieving equality, and these impediments cannot be allowed to stand.

Sorry, but the essay that Cotton penned and columns that Weiss wrote were not pernicious despite such accusations by the NYT’s critics. Pearl-clutching over every idea expressed that raises eyebrows has become a cottage industry in our society, and the newspaper has let this trend among its staff members get out of hand.

The job of NYT journalists and contributors is to report the news and offer thoughtful commentary on important issues, not feign outrage over every provocative item they read in their own publication. A healthy exchange of differing viewpoints is vital for a free society, and a newspaper opinion section is the proper forum to do this. However, we’ve become a nation more bent on overreacting with snarky comments than generating ideas worth considering — and social media platforms have helped us perfect this pathetic behavior.

How does the NYT expect its readers to appreciate civil dialogue when its staff members rail against this practice? They’re diminishing the value of the content they produce — how counterproductive! And when this ongoing dissent to material they loathe turns into intimidation and harassment against co-workers, it’s apparent the newspaper’s leaders have lost control.

Obviously, the NYT should define its standards for pieces run in its opinion section. But once it does, it must ensure essays meet these criteria and then vigorously defend its decision to publish them.

The NYT has found itself far too many times lately begging readers and staff members for forgiveness. This makes it look weak and undermines its credibility. If our nation’s newspaper of record cannot support free expression, it’s a sign this worthy cause is in serious trouble.

Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to jmoore@wdt.net.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(32) comments

LAW

Pitbull Jul 20, 2020 1:29pm

I used sic because your screen name is LAW ..

No, you used it because you have no idea what "sic" means.

LAW

"Pitbull Jul 20, 2020 1:29pm

I used sic because your screen name is LAW but you are advocating against law and order. Take a hard look at what is happening in Portland. Peaceful demonstrations?"

Maybe you'd be more believable if you weren't such a careless BSer. Or maybe not.

The "A" in LAW is capitalized. It's NOT "LaW". Try to pay attention.

And yes, the demonstrations WERE peaceful until Herr Fuehrer Trump sent in his pet Gestapo Storm Troopers in camouflage and in unmarked vans to illegally detain Americans exercising their 1A rights. Is Freedom Of Speech only for Natzi sympathizers in this corrupt, amoral, and failing Presidency? The one-trick pony that squats, lies, and blusters incoherently in the Oval Office is, as usual, flailing insanely as he tries to avoid blame for the biggest bankruptcy he has ever caused - THE ENTIRE UNITED STATES. His father would be SO proud. You can tell Trump I said so.

BTW: You still don't seem to understand how the Latin "sic" is used in English writing. Why don't you stop trying to appear literate and maybe take a class in English grammar and composition? With the COVID-19-caused chaos at colleges all over the country, on-line tuition should be pretty affordable.

I am not your enemy but I am not your servant either. If you want respect, earn it. Lose the bumper sticker slogans.

Pitbull

Good Lord, Law, or L, or AW, or LAW, or LaW, or whatever the frig. If you were my servant, I would send you to the servants quarters for 24 hours until you learned to not be so childish. I wonder what you would think/believe if the Portland nutjobs (and they are nutjobs) attacked your house, you white privileged racist. Quit trying to pretend you're superior to others and try to communicate. I know you hate Trump. Lay off that for once. And lose the bumper sticker slogans.

Holmes -- the real one

Pitbull --

Quite clearly you have never read "your" Bible front to back.

Perhaps if you do some quick googling you will be able to find these. Obviously they're not places where "your" Bible just falls open from frequent use.

"But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. "

There's lots more there. Just read it.

rockloper

[thumbup]

zeitgeist

Didn't Jerry issue an apology to readers back in Jan. 2019 re his editorial "President Pinocchio"?

Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't the WDT issue an apology over a cartoon it published some time ago?

I don't think apologies make a newspaper look weak. I think they make a newspaper look attentive to new knowledge, new insights, new realizations, corporate character, the public good, morality, ethics, and ethical journalism.

Jerry seems to imply that a series of apologies is altogether antithetical to newspaper standards. When a newspaper decides to go with an editorial like Cotton's, it should stick to its decision and defend it. How ridiculous is that? You mean newspaper folks are to remain unchangeable, unmovable and impenetrable? Everyone is supposed to engage in dialogue regarding a piece except the newspaper folks, themselves? One of the reasons I subscribe to the New York Times are the readers' comments. They are often brilliant. I'm supposed to learn and be affected by them but the NYT folks are to bury their heads in the sand for the sake of newspaper industry correctness?

Jerry, you're a newspaper-guy-purist. You insist on absolute adherence to traditional rules and structures. But look at our times. All of the rules and structures are crumbling... and for the better. Get with it.

Kevin Beary

If you don't toe the party line, you will be forced out sooner or later:

"A critical mass of the staff and management at New York Magazine and Vox Media...seem to believe, and this is increasingly the orthodoxy in mainstream media, that any writer not actively committed to critical theory in questions of race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity is actively, physically harming co-workers merely by existing in the same virtual space." An alternative to the MSM is the only way out, as Sullivan says.

https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/07/andrew-sullivan-see-you-next-friday.html

LAW

"If you don't toe the party line, you will be forced out sooner or later"

That's ABSOLUTELY TRUE - of Emperor Trump "DIVINE LEADER"'s administration.

rockloper

republicans learned that didn't they? Hahahaha

Kevin Beary

Reading Jerry Moore's column and Bari Weiss's resignation letter regarding the mobbing situation at the NYTimes, I was reminded of Oscar Wilde's De Profundis, in which he describes his psychological subjugation to his friend Alfred Douglas: "I gave up to you always. As a natural result, your claims, your efforts at domination, your exactions grew more and more unreasonable. Your meanest motive, your lowest appetite, your most common passion, became to you laws by which the lives of others were to be guided always, and to which, if necessary, they were to be without scruple sacrificed."

No doubt Weiss's bosses at the NYTimes consider themselves to be independent thinkers who would never compromise their ideals to gratify a catty, hysterical clique. When they do give in, they justify their change of heart by a specious appeal to "standards," or with other similar excuses by which they save face in their own eyes if not in the eyes of the world. They still think they are in control of their paper, as Wilde thought he was still in control of his own life as that control slipped away from him: "I had always thought that my giving up to you in small things meant nothing: that when a great moment arrived I could reassert my will-power...It was not so...My habit...of giving up to you in everything had become insensibly a real part of my nature...I had allowed you to sap my strength of character."

The people who make scenes and throw hissy fits in offices, restaurants and on social media are now in full control of the NYTimes.

https://www.bariweiss.com/resignation-letter

LAW

"Not surprisingly, public opinion is on the side of law enforcement and law and order, not insurrectionists. According to a recent poll, 58 percent of registered voters, including nearly half of Democrats and 37 percent of African-Americans, would support cities calling in the military to “address protests and demonstrations" that are in “response to the death of George Floyd.” - Senator Tom Cotton, R-AR NYT Op-Ed June 3 2020

I am impressed! Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, cites a poll that measured attitudes of American voters about protests ranging from Hong Kong to racial injustice- specifically, the murder of George Floyd by a rogue police officer.

I'm impressed because the poll data was collected between May 31st 2020 and June 1st 2020. I'm impressed because the summary report he linked his Op-Ed piece to is 373 pages of densely packed numbers. Frankly, after several hours, I couldn't find any table that supported his weird assertions, but it might be somewhere. What impresses me, is that Senator Cotton got a summary report from a poll that ended on 1 June and somehow wrote and published his in-depth analysis early on 3 June. You'd almost think that he had written his self-serving racist screed BEFORE the report existed. How silly is that? HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?

Jerry Moore is quite correct in his statement that"the essay that Cotton penned ... [is] not pernicious..." in the sense that 'pernicious' means 'harmful in a SUBTLE way'. It is NOT subtle, it is a flagrant incitement to violence against Americans practicing freedom of speech. FRANKLY, I have to wonder: Is it the business of the Watertown Daily Times to criticize, in print, other newspapers? Is this what NNY360 subscribers agreed to pay for?

Tom C also wrote that "They engaged in violence against individuals and vandalized businesses and public structures during protests responding to the May 25th death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police." It wasn't THEIR HANDS, it was the KNEE of ONE POLICE OFFICER, Jerry. Try again.

BTW:A poll from 3 June isn't recent anymore.

Today is 17 July.

Pitbull

LaW(sic), you are an insurrections without reason. Floyd was a felon convicted and sentenced to 5 years for participating in the robbery of a pregnant woman where he placed his gun to the abdomen of the pregnant woman. The police officer will be summarily punished. The destructive vandals, etc. Need to be apprehended and punished. They need to be permanently prevented from doing deeds further damaging to our society. Cotton is 100% corrwct.

Holmes -- the real one

Pitbull:

Perhaps you misunderstand the proper use of "(sic)."

This should help:

sic /sik/ adverb

used in brackets after a copied or quoted word that appears odd or erroneous to show that the word is quoted exactly as it stands in the original, as in a story must hold a child's interest and “enrich his [ sic ] life.”.

Origin

Latin, literally ‘so, thus’.

Pitbull

I used sic because your screen name is LAW but you are advocating against law and order. Take a hard look at what is happening in Portland. Peaceful demonstrations?

Jackie

In his column, Mr. Moore explains the reasons for Bennet's demise and the fact that the op-ed by Sen. Cotton had overtones of racism. However, he makes no mention of the fact that Bari Weiss wrote extensively on Jewish and Israeli issues, and that being on the Right is what led to the shameful behavior of her colleagues. If you read her letter, you will see that that was the issue for her. Her colleagues, and even Mr. Moore, suggest that maybe she was a little "thin-skinned." Are those who took offense at Cotton's article too thin-skinned? Is is OK to create a hostile work environment for a Jewish woman who writes about Jewish issues or only when it concerns issues of racism towards African-Americans?

rockloper

I'd prefer to live in a responsible society rather than one that allows virtually anything goes. You reap what you sow. As a society we can determine what is morally right and responsible, we just have to strictly abide by it. It's like anything else in life when dealing with people. Some people will try and get away with anything they know they can get away with. Irresponsible speech and actions are no different. If you feel being responsible is too restrictive then move to a place that tolerates it.

A perfect example is the wearing of face coverings. A handful of businesses and governmental entities actually require individuals to wear them whereas there are some who are going through the motions without enforcing it. I doubt any business that requires them have lost business because of it. I know some who don't want to wear masks will avoid those businesses but there are some, such as myself, who will pick a business that requires them over one who won't if at all possible.

This isn't the same as 'everyone has to agree with me'. There can be and should be responsible discord without going overboard. I think this country has let the pendulum swing too far in the direction of irresponsibility. I doubt it will get any better for quite some time. One would have a better chance with this concept in Canada. They are far more superior with moral responsibility and they will be the next emerging economic power. Something for my grandkids to ponder.

Holmes

You could always emigrate to Canada if it’s ‘far more superior’. Since your refutation of America is so massive and your utopian fantasy and ‘more superior..moral responsibility’ of Canada is so great why stay here?

rockloper

In past posts I have addressed that fake Holmes, too late for me but not my grandkids.

Pitbull

Responsible, morally right, irresponsible, moral responsibility...these are words that require a defining origin. What is your book of definitions? Where does your compass point? I want to make sure that just because I am on the winning side, I'm not necessarily "right" and vice versa. What does "good" really mean? Too bad I have to cut this short but I need to go to church where I will listen and pray and pray, and ponder, seeking what is good and right.

rockloper

"seeking what is good and right"? You won't find that in your bible. I don't think you took the time to read my post or you wouldn't be asking the questions you did.

Pitbull

It is my Bible, yes, but it's also yours whether you like it or not. Seeking good and right and justice are all throughout it. Have you read it front to back, rockloper?

rockloper

Your 'good' book advocates for slavery and even instructs its followers just how badly they can beat their slaves. No, it isn't my bible. I don't believe in superstition.

LAW

Don't forget to take lots of money. That's why they're in the holy roller business. SUCKER.

rockloper

What's the pitifull, no answer regarding slavery in your 'good' book?

gasgun

If you deny to anyone else the right to say what you think is wrong, it

will not be long before you will lose the right to say what you think is

right. Defense of the freedom of others is self-defense. Voltaire stated

this fact: “I wholly disagree with what you say and

will contend to the death for your right to say it.”

Holmes -- the real one

gasgun – I think it’s safe to say that most commenters here fully support respectful dialogue and exchange of ideas.

You have to use better reasoning if you are going to argue a statement like that. Shall we provide an unregulated forum for people to advocate child abuse? Hate crimes? Violent overthrow of the government? Should a mean spirited person be free to tell children that the yellow line in the middle of the street is for bicycles?

Oh, and before you go slinging about quotations, you should do some research.

“The most oft-cited Voltaire quotation is apocryphal. He is incorrectly credited with writing, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." These were not his words, but rather those of Evelyn Beatrice Hall, written under the pseudonym S. G. Tallentyre in her 1906 biographical book The Friends of Voltaire.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voltaire

Pitbull

Htro, I sense some self-righteousness in your tone. You attack Gasgun unjustly. Yet I dont hear that same indignation when people you agree with make ludicrous statements that are both mean-spirited and destructive. How about this oft repeated routine on this forum (paraphrase): "tRump supporters and Republicans are all TRAITORS. We must rid this country of tRump and all his supporters!" Let's hear you speak out against that in the spirit of "respectful dialogue".

Holmes

Bottom line: Htrfo states that Trump is fomenting hate because

he hates Trump.

Holmes -- the real one

Pitbull

Please identify just where in my statement you believe I attacked Gasgun unjustly. What was unjust? What was attack?

Surely you should be aware that in a respectful discussion or debate, it is expected that each side will state its views. The other side, after listening and pondering those statements would either request definitions/clarifications or offer points that contradict and/or support those views.

Pitbull

Htro, the first thing you refer to is respectful discussion. Gasgun was not disrespectful. I do watch these posts regularly and I note what various people say and how they say it.

Holmes -- the real one

Pitbull

You need to look back at what was said and at the context. Critical reading skills are important if communication is to occur.

My first sentence in no way accuses gasgun of disrespect. Re-read it.

“gasgun – I think it’s safe to say that most commenters here fully support respectful dialogue and exchange of ideas. “

LAW

Do you do also greeting cards for COVID-19 victims, Comrade GassySmell?

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