Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Before Jayson Blair: Race, Corruption, and the New York Times

By Nicholas Stix

Send In The Clowns

The Jayson Blair story is over. As New York cops might say to crime-scene spectators, ‘Move along, there’s nothing to see.’ I know this, because Times columnist Frank Rich told me so.

On June 15 (six-and-a-half weeks after Blair’s resignation), in an essay entitled “15 Minutes Became 5 Weeks,” Rich described the Blair scandal as a “mediathon,” not unlike the coverage of Martha Stewart, for whom Rich suddenly had great sympathy. Rich defined a mediathon as "a relentless hybrid of media circus, soap opera and tabloid journalism we have come to think of as All Calamity All the Time." The implications were clear: The coverage of the greatest scandal in the history of the nation’s most powerful newspaper, was itself a trashy, Jerry Springer-style, media-engineered spectacle, born of envy, and serving a titillation-addicted mob. The mediathon washed over the Times like the social equivalent of a storm that, having passed, would now move on to some new, luckless target.

Thus does a writer at what is arguably the most corrupt newspaper in America, have the unmitigated gall to use the phrase “tabloid journalism,” as if he were in a morally superior position to say, The National Enquirer.

In Rich’s desire to bury the Blair story and the bigger story of the systemic political corruption that made a Jayson Blair possible, he buried his lede, not even obliquely mentioning the scandal until the 38th line, not citing Blair until the 50th line, and barely touching on the scandal thereafter. Rich credited the story only with carrying “a whiff of race.” And so, when he cited “internal newsroom failings that allowed [Blair] to thrive,” and acknowledged that Blair’s “transgressions exposed festering issues throughout the newsroom,” he was most certainly not referring to black racial privilege – but would not specify to what he was referring. (The Times’ cover story was that deposed Executive Editor Howell Raines had a “star system.”)

As if to underscore his own obtuseness, Rich took a cheap shot at Rupert Murdoch’s mild, neocon media properties: “Much of that coverage was accurate, fair and balanced (except, predictably, from the Murdoch empire).”

But Rich gave no examples of unfair coverage from Fox’ cable or broadcast stations, or from the New York Post or the Weekly Standard. Such are the standards, or lack thereof, at the so-called newspaper of record.

But it wasn’t just the Times that wanted the story to go away. Much of the mainstream media, which slavishly follows the Times’ lead in matters of “diversity,” engaged in damage control on behalf of their presumed rival, denigrating or denying outright the role of race in the Blair scandal. Indeed, what I saw on Fox was no better, with carefully balanced panels (including socialists such as American University journalism professor Ann Hall) tiptoeing around the 800-pound gorilla in the living room. (Hall noted that her students take discredited “documentary” film maker Michael Moore’s statements as gospel.)

As Rich made abundantly clear, folks at the Times have no shame. In an age in which the guilty routinely blame their predicament on “the media,” even the media now blame the media, when they get caught in flagrante. But it was recently deposed Times Executive Editor Howell Raines himself, who imposed the practice of “flooding the zone” of a hot story with relentless coverage. As is typical of the powerful and corrupt, the rule at the Times is, ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’ (E.g., Times editors’ penchant for stealing story ideas from freelancers, and passing them along to staff writers.) And it was the same Howell Raines, who at a closed-door, May 14 meeting of all reporting staff (excepting media reporter Jacques Steinberg), admitted that Jayson Blair got so many chances, due to the color of his skin.

People Who Won’t Take Yes For An Answer

No journalist denied the race angle more aggressively than one of the Times’ own relentless race-baiters, columnist Bob Herbert. Five days AFTER Raines confessed to the scandal’s racial basis, the black Herbert took the offensive.

"Listen up: the race issue in this case is as bogus as some of Jayson Blair's reporting.

"But the folks who delight in attacking anything black, or anything designed to help blacks, have pounced on the Blair story …

"And while these agitators won't admit it, the nasty subtext to their attack is that there is something inherently wrong with blacks.

"There's a real shortage of black reporters, editors and columnists at The Times. But the few who are here are doing fine and serious work day in and day out and don't deserve to be stigmatized by people who can see them only through the prism of a stereotype.

"The problem with American newsrooms is too little diversity, not too much. Blacks have always faced discrimination and maddening double standards in the newsroom, and they continue to do so. So do women, Latinos and many other groups that are not part of the traditional newsroom in-crowd. [In other words, you’d better see ALL those groups “through the prism of a stereotype” – or else!]

"So let's be real. Discrimination in the newsroom - in hiring, in the quality of assignments and in promotions - is a much more pervasive problem than Jayson Blair's aberrant behavior….

"And the correct response is not to grow fainthearted, or to internalize the views of those who wish you ill. The correct response is to strike back - as hard and as often as it takes."

For Herbert, criticism of incompetent blacks who were hired based on the color of their skin, is “proof” that the critic is a white supremacist (or a non-white Uncle Tom), and should properly be addressed by even more aggressive race-baiting. (On May 21, the Times broke with its usual policy of protecting affirmative action hires and leftist columnists from unflattering letters to the editor. It published a brief letter responding to Herbert, by quoting Raines’ admission that race was the cause of the scandal. However, when the Times’ editors later archived the Blair scandal, including links to letters to the editor, they declined to link to said letter.)

Note that Herbert is following the modus operandi established by race hustlers in one hoax after another: Once it has been determined that the black “victim” was in fact a perpetrator, the race-mongers who made the original extortionary demands (jobs, cash payoffs, political advantages, etc.) purportedly as compensation for a racial offense, shamelessly repeat the same demands! (See my 3 June column for a discussion of the, ahem, “journalism” of Bob Herbert.)

Censoring The News

Those of us who are journalists, or who follow the media with the requisite jaundiced eye, were shocked, but not surprised, by the Blair case. The Times had for years been hiring racist hacks based solely on the color of their skin, and permitting them to pervert news coverage. It was just a matter of time, before a scandal would break out.

The most systematic chronicle of affirmative action’s racist consequences for news coverage in general, and specifically at the Times, was provided in 2001 by William McGowan’s book, Coloring the News: How Crusading for Diversity Has Corrupted American Journalism.

McGowan cited Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., who "has repeatedly stressed that diversity is 'the single most important issue' facing his paper.” Not truth, but “diversity.” But then, what do you expect from a man who, during the War in Vietnam, cheered on the communist North Vietnamese to kill American G.I.s?

The Times’ editors responded to Coloring the News, by attempting to kill it with silence. They refused to review (as a critic recently noted, when the Times’ editors want a book to succeed, they will assign as many as three separate reviewers to write on it – one for the Sunday book section, and two more for different weekday editions) or even mention the book.

Under Sulzberger, who in 1992 took over the newspaper from his father, the daily, which had always leaned left – at its nadir letting Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty cover up Stalin’s mass murder – is penning yet another dark chapter in the annals of American newspapering.

The Times, notes McGowan, has under the regime of the junior Sulzberger, refused to identify the race of brutal black rapists who were still at large, and has romanticized violent, misogynistic rap stars.

McGowan observes that in 1993 -- at least four years after the phenomenon of “political correctness” (which was established years before the initially positive phrase was coined) had been reported across the country -- black Times editorial writer Brent Staples informed his readers that “there was no such thing as ‘political correctness.’”

McGowan recalls the 1994 publication of a book by photographer Eugene Richards and reporter Edward Barnes, Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue, which was dominated by stark photographs of crack addicts in East New York and Red Hook, Brooklyn, and North Philadelphia. In Staples’ review of the book in the New York Times Book Review, he demanded to know “why nearly all the people in these photographs are black?” Staples went so far as to insinuate that Richards had staged a particularly powerful photo of a black woman who, with a baby strapped to her back, was apparently servicing a john, as pictures of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X hung on the wall behind them.

McGowan reports, “When I asked Staples if he had any evidence to support this serious charge – alleging a breach of ethics that New York Times photo editors I spoke with said would cost a photographer on their staff his or her job [the Times had published a carefully culled spread of Richards’ photos in its Sunday magazine months before, with proportionate representation of whites, blacks, and Hispanics] -- he huffed, ‘You mean did I do any reporting, go out there and talk to people? No I did not.”

Had a white Times writer so impugned -- without a scintilla of evidence -- the honesty of a black photographer, the charge would never have made it into print, and the white writer might well have been cashiered.

That would be the same Brent Staples who, as Dinesh D’Souza observes in The End of Racism, bragged in his celebrated autobiography, Parallel Time, of stalking white folks in the subway, for the sheer fun of terrifying them, and then accused his victims of racism, for seeking to avoid him. In his book, Staples, who at the time of the stalking was a graduate student, remarked wistfully, with neither regret nor irony, “If I’d been younger, with less to lose, I’d have robbed them, and it would have been easy.”

He also likely would have ended up in prison, if not dead.

The stories McGowan cites in which the Times racially skewed reportage, whether through sins of omission or commission, run the gamut, and are too numerous to cite, beyond a few examples. (See also my columns, NY Times Uses “Big Lie” Technique to Advance Opposition to the Death Penalty, Barry Bonds, Race, and the New York Times' Mr. Subliminal, and In the New York Times' Bizarro Universe of Race Relations, the Truth Always Blinks.)

In March, 2000, when six-year-old, white Kayla Rolland was shot to death in Flint, Michigan by a black first-grade classmate, the Times refused to report that the boy who killed her was black. (Even McGowan shies away from examining possible racial aspects to the case, or from noting that the young sociopath knew to run away from the scene of the crime, and hide the murder weapon.)

McGowan: “And instead of raising questions about the failure of the child welfare system that had led to the boy’s access to guns in his uncle’s crack house, the Times established the official liberal media ‘storyline’ on the case by spotlighting President Clinton’s reaction: the case showed the necessity for gun control legislation, especially handgun locks.

McGowan reports that in 2001, when the Times finally reported -- after being scooped by the National Enquirer -- on Jesse Jackson’s illegitimate child, and the support payments Jackson had been making to his mistress, the Times buried the story on page 21, “a position much less prominent than what a conservative political activist of equal stature to Jackson would earn if he or she had produced an illegitimate child and was supporting it with a nonprofit corporation’s funds.”

Meanwhile, the Times’ writers and editors have steadfastly sought to deny both the reality and the evil of black racism, while inventing white and Asian racism, where none exists.

McGowan quotes white Times columnist Anna Quindlen, then a star at the paper (she has since left), who once bragged of being the first explicit affirmative action hire to win a Pulitzer Prize. “Hatred by the powerful, the majority, has a different weight and very often different effects than hatred by the powerless, the minority. Being called a honky is not in the same league as being called a nigger.”

In reporting on the racist, yearlong, 1990 black “boycott” of two Korean grocery stores in Flatbush, Brooklyn, the Times refused to cite the racial epithets or violence being employed by the henchmen of black gang leader Sonny Carson. (The “boycott” was only broken, after a second judge forced black Mayor David Dinkins to honor the court order an earlier judge had issued – and which Dinkins had ordered police to disobey -- ordering the “demonstrators” to stay at least 100 feet away from the stores.) Indeed, about two years after the “boycott” ended, with one grocer forced to sell his store, and later murdered in his new store in another black, Brooklyn neighborhood, a Times reporter obscenely re-wrote history, portraying the case as having arisen out of Korean racial insensitivity.

In reporting on the 1991 black race riot in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, during which orthodox Jew Yankel Rosenbaum was stabbed to death, dozens of other Jews were assaulted, and Jews’ property was destroyed by racist blacks, the Times misrepresented the riot as a clash between two mutually hostile groups, rather than as an unprovoked, mass, anti-Semitic attack.

As McGowan notes, even when black criminals have confessed to singling out whites for assaults and robbery, the Times has refused to report this.

Perhaps the low point of the Times’ dishonesty in matters of race, was when a reporter writing on the December 8, 1995 “Harlem Massacre,” referred to mass murderer Roland Smith Jr. aka Abubunde Mulocko, as a man of “principle.” McGowan quotes the unnamed reporter, and I remember how shocked I was in reading the article when it originally appeared.

Roland Smith Jr., a follower of rabid racist “activist” Morris Powell, who had been leading a “boycott” full of threats of violence (“demonstrators” had threatened to burn the store down) against a Jewish-owned store, murdered seven workers, shot several others, and did in fact, burn the store down.

(As McGowan notes, “boycott” leader Morris Powell has made a career of leading demonstrations outside of white and Asian businesses, until the owners paid him extortion money. In one case, Powell fractured the skull of a Korean shop owner, when she touched one of the boycott signs. And after Smith had committed his mayhem, Powell referred to Smith as the victim of a “white setup.” But instead of honest reporting, the Times described Powell as an “elder statesman” who spoke “softly” and in “in measured tones.”)

McGowan examines the 1998 essay and eventual book, “It’s the Little Things,” by Lena Williams, a black alleged reporter at the Times. The essay “ostensibly examined ‘the looks, stares, offhand remarks and other facts of everyday life’ that blacks find offensive and irritating about whites’ behavior toward them. But it was really an apology for anti-white anger, framing uncivil and racist actions by blacks as a variety of historical reparation. In Williams’ eyes, a black man violently pushing his way through a crowd of whites was not simply loutish, he was “a brother fed up with eating crow, as in Jim.’”

Wearing Blinders

The funny thing is, in reality, it is New York blacks who routinely treat whites and Asians to ugly looks, stares, and offhanded racist remarks. That is, when blacks of all socioeconomic backgrounds aren’t casually assaulting whites and Asians.

Around 1978, a college classmate from Brooklyn told me the unwritten rule that whites in New York City (Asians, too, as I later found) followed in dealing with blacks: To always avoid looking them in the eye. (Years later, I would discover that middle and upper-class blacks feared the stares of angry black men just as much as other groups did, but the blacks refused to admit it to whites.) Meanwhile, as I learned almost immediately after moving to New York in 1985, for an ever increasing proportion of black New Yorkers, staring down whites is a sport, which often precedes an assault. Failure to stare back could cost you your life. I always stare back.

But then, already joked in the early 1970s, as children in Long Beach, Long Island, my sister and I had joked about the racist black girls on the school bus, who would stare at Jewish girls who were already avoiding looking at them, demanding, “What you lookin’ at, gir-r-r-l?!” (The black girls didn’t dare pull the same stunt on Irish girls, because the latter, unlike the Jews, had been raised to be unafraid of fighting blacks.)

During the early 1990s, in one of the first editions of the Sunday Times’ new “City” section, the cover essay was devoted to the phenomena of staredowns and stereotypes. The writer depicted a towering, scary, young Chinese man, who appeared to be staring down frightened subway riders. The writer then “explained” that the young man was actually mentally retarded, his stare a function of mental blankness, not menace.

The Times writer was engaged in the construction of a fictional, parallel universe. In New York, no one feared the stares of young Asian men, no matter how big! But the Times is such a compulsively dishonest publication, that its editors decided to create a non-existent “situation” for the writer to “explain.” One wonders how future historians and anthropologists will approach the New York Times’ contemporary dishonesty about race.

(During the same period, well-to-do, white socialist political operatives would commonly engage in obscene dinner table conversations about Korean grocers, in which they charged that the Koreans’ stores were all financed by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, largely through “drug money.” The hard-working Koreans were a safe target for the sort of hatred the socialists would never vent against even the most vicious blacks.)

The Go-Fer

To understand the corruption of the mainstream media, and the hatred so many of its members feel towards anyone exposing that corruption, read Seth Mnookin’s review of Coloring the News in the January/February, 2002 Washington Monthly, where McGowan had earlier been an editor. Mnookin was so obsessed with discrediting McGowan, that he insinuated that McGowan had lied about the aforementioned Times reporter’s characterization of Roland Smith Jr. as a man of “principle.” Mnookin also told blatant lies, as McGowan pointed out in his rebuttal, such as Mnookin’s insistence that “… McGowan seems to have done little research since the mid-'90s, when he initially signed on to write his book….” and “(A humorous example of how out-of-date this book is: Anna Quindlen is the most frequently cited New York Times columnist, and she hasn't worked for the paper since 1994.)”

McGowan’s book is full of cases from the late 1990s, and as he notes in his rebuttal to Mnookin, the Times columnist he cited most frequently, seven times, was Bob Herbert, who is still at the paper.

Mnookin called McGowan’s (for me) restrained book, a “polemic” and an “outdated tome.” Had Mnookin not been such a politically corrupt hack, he could have simply said that he disagreed with McGowan. The problem, however, is that McGowan’s book is full of facts. Since Mnookin couldn’t disprove the facts, he had to discredit McGowan via cowardly insinuations and outright lies.
Mnookin now works for Newsweek. In writing on the Jayson Blair scandal, true to form, he engaged in sycophantic damage control, in burying the racial nature of the story. Can a Pulitzer Prize and/or a job at the Times be far off for Mnookin?
Unfortunately, as McGowan has amply documented, the corruption in reporting on race in which the Times led the way, has spread throughout the mainstream media.
Veteran Chicago journalist and essayist Jim Bowman, wrote the following “confession” in his e-journal, Blithe Spirit, the other day. (Jim is as wont to riff on the Church, Chesterton or poetry, as on the Chicago media or urban crime.)

All The News That´s Fit To Print

“CONDIGN PENANCE . . . I sought out my correctness confessor the other day. ‘Forgive me, Father, I have sinned. It's been 15 minutes since my last confession.’

‘Fifteen minutes?!’

‘Yes, and I thank your ilk for being so accessible, ready at a moment's notice.’

‘Go on.’

‘I have sinned against correctness.’

‘Go on.’

‘Affirmative action.’

‘Alone or with somebody?’

‘Alone. It was a sin of thought.’

‘Go on.’

‘Bank One got my account fouled up. I gave them information they never recorded. I blamed it on affirmative action.’


‘I said -- to myself -- they were hiring the minimally equipped.’

‘That again.’

‘For these and all the other sins of my past life I am heartily sorry.’

‘For your penance say “All the news that's fit to print” 25 times. Now go and sin no more.’”


Dutch Boy said...

Just when you think the bottom of the barrel can't go down any further, along comes Mnookin!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Nicholas for another tip on a good bookwrite up and interesting Amazon reviews, mostly very positive. Are we catching on?