Disgrace at the New York Times

New York Times

The New York Times, that paper in which one can reliably find the agenda of the liberal wing of the US ruling class, is sounding increasingly absurd lately. There was the editorial page piece claiming the masks had been proven to useless in preventing the spread of viral infections (NYT 2/21/23). That generated so much pushback that they had to publish a much longer op-ed which thoroughly refuted it (NYT 3/10/23). Then, after Seymour Hersh wrote an extremely convincing article coming close to proving that the US had blown up the Nord Stream pipeline (https://seymourhersh.substack.com/p/how-america-took-out-the-nord-stream), there was a front page Times article postulating that non-governmental Ukrainians were the perpetrators.

“New intelligence reviewed by U.S. officials suggests that a pro-Ukrainian group carried out the attack on the Nord Stream pipelines last year…the operation might have been conducted off the books by a proxy force with connections to the Ukrainian government or its security services… with the help of experienced divers who did not appear to be working for military or intelligence services.”(NYT 3/7/23)

Sounds highly unlikely.

Well recently (3/19/23), two thirds of a page in the editorial section is devoted to an article called America Is in a Disgraced Class of Its Own, by Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond. It’s all about poverty – and it doesn’t even mention capitalism. That’s not really so far from the Times’ usual practice, but the sophisticated author tries to blame all those who are not poor for the problem. He is liberal enough not to blame the poor themselves, acknowledging that the poor have “faced more obstacles in life.” However, the next sentence says “many of us help to create and uphold those obstacles through the collective moral failing of enriching ourselves by impoverishing others.” Us includes all those who earn a decent living and can afford a home, food, and have health care, lumped right in with the captains of industry.

Of course the NY Times editors are really not stupid. Instead they are basically scared that workers might actually fight back, and that one aspect of that is understanding what is happening and why. We must not learn how the terrible lack of a public health system led to the highest death rate from Covid-19 in the world, but think that all public health measures are useless. We must not believe that our government is capable of huge acts of sabotage with terrible environmental consequences. And we must not understand that capitalism underlies poverty and racism, let alone disease, climate change and war.

The Latest Article in Defense of Deception

In the Disgraced piece, what “we” are supposed to do about low wages, for example, is find “ways to even the playing field between workers and bosses” by such means as “supporting collective bargaining and requiring that worker representatives be given seats on corporate boards.” Does this guy know that only 10.1% of US workers are even unionized at this point? Does he remember that when railroad workers tried to strike over issues like sick days and safe staffing – is there any rail safety problem here? – the federal government prohibited them from doing so? Is he aware that when workers vote to unionize, as at Amazon, the company refuses to ever bargain with them? Instead, he says “Poverty persists in America because many of us benefit from it.”

Do you think the author or the editors of the NY Times don’t know that bosses increase profits by keeping wages as low as possible? Do you think they don’t know that there is no such thing as profit unless workers are paid less than the value of what they produce? That underlying capitalist reality is called exploitation, but Desmond suggests we shun companies who exploit their workers, when that is what a company must do in order to exist. Even though Marx is the first to have said it out loud, the nature of profit making, of exploitation, was not, is not, a secret to any boss. It is not a moral question, it is a necessity. Competition insures that every company must try to maximize its profits, or it will lose investors. The equation is only mitigated when workers militantly fight back by going on strike. And do you think Desmond actually imagines honest workers having real power on corporate boards where they will happily oversee their own exploitation?

And then, of course, being as he’s writing about the USA, we come to the question of racism.

He only discusses it in terms of segregation in neighborhoods and schools, which he says is something “we continue to embrace.” Here he is putting forward the untruth that segregation has come about and been maintained because of the racism of individuals, a carefully cultivated myth. As many articles on the multiracialunity.org blog have reviewed, racism, especially anti-black racism, has been carefully created and cultivated by those in power in order to justify slavery and then huge wage and service differentials. As shown by Richard Rothstein in his book The Color of Law (reviewed at https://multiracialunity.org/2017/05/23/the-u-s-government-caused-segregated-housing-with-malice-of-forethought/), housing and school segregation was and is a purposeful government initiative, part of an overall plan to separate and divide workers against each other. But Desmond suggests that “homeowners [begin] donating a portion or even all of their mortgage deduction windfalls to eviction defense” That’s right, individual charity, even though he does admit that if we collected unpaid taxes from the top 1%, the problem could be solved. But “Poverty isn’t just a failure of public policy. It’s a failure of public virtue.”

The NYTimes article doesn’t even bother to mention the vast differences in wealth, wages, death rates, health parameters, police murders, or educational funding, to name a few between black and white Americans. Nor is the racist campaign against all immigrants, save Ukrainians, mentioned nor the super- exploitation of undocumented labor. And, of course, there is no consideration of the ways that US imperial policies have impoverished much of the world, justified by racism. Only in one sentence does he acknowledge that the Civil Rights and labor movements may have played a role in altering government policies and suggest we should band together to demand an end to poverty. Despite the massive movements of the 1960s, school segregation remains as bad as it ever was, even in liberal cities like New York. That’s because the fundamental nature of the system, which needs racism and inequality to persist, was not questioned.

In short, I guess it is getting harder to justify the vast gap between pretending to stand for democracy, humanism and progress and the reality that the US imposes poverty, violence and misery on many of its own people and much of the world. The New York Times uses its status as “the paper of record,” the voice of liberal democracy to not only selectively print the news but to try and Justify US policies and practices. In fact, as the US falls behind China in productivity and military might, its aggression abroad and oppression at home must needs increase. As workers’, soldiers’ and students’ movements in opposition also increase, suppression by the state will too. Authoritarianism will not be the enemy abroad. It will be here.

Writing false and wishful articles in the NY Times will not delay or change that. It will continue to obscure the truth.

Ellen Isaacs  is a physician, anti-racist and anti-capitalist activist and co-editor of multiracialunity.org. She can be reached at [email protected].

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