The Gadfly Bytes --
Kristolnicht: The Decline of The New York Times
January 8, 2008
Have you ever been betrayed by a old and trusted friend?
If so, you might understand my rage at and disgust with The New York
While I gave up on the Times some time ago, I can’t allow the latest
outrage, the hiring of William Kristol as the newest Times columnist,
to pass by without complaint.
The New York Times and I go way, way, back. Since before I was born,
my parents subscribed to the Times. Throughout college, graduate
school, and early career, the NYT was my gold-standard of journalistic
accuracy and integrity. It was reputed to be “the newspaper of historical
record,” and I believed it. When, in the sixties, I lived in Manhattan and
taught at the City University of New York, I would eagerly await the
Saturday night appearance of the Sunday edition, which I would then take
home, spread out on my bed, and devour. (See also my
News that Fits the Bush Agenda).
All the News That Gives Us Fits.
Had you been reading the Times for the past two decades, you would
That Bill and Hillary Clinton were involved in a crooked
land deal, dubbed “Whitewater.”
That Chinese-American nuclear scientist, Dr. Wen Ho Lee, was
probably spying for the Peoples Republic of China.
That Al Gore was a “serial liar” who had claimed, among
other things, to have “invented the internet” and to have “discovered Love
That Bush would have won Florida and the 2000 election,
regardless of the Supreme Court decision, Bush v. Gore.
That Saddam Hussein was importing aluminum tubes to manufacture
That Saddam Hussein was stockpiling and prepared to use weapons
of mass destruction.
All this was published as news, not as opinion. And it was
false. All of it!
Had you searched elsewhere for news – the independent and foreign press, and the
internet, you would have discovered:
That the GOP slanders against Al Gore were all groundless.
That the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" conducted a baseless
smear against John Kerry, and conversely, that Kerry’s military record and his
medals were authentic.
That George Bush was absent without leave from his military
obligation with the Texas Air National Guard.
That Bush likely violated securities law as an executive and
investor with Harken energy.
That there is compelling evidence that the 2000, 2002 and 2004
elections were stolen by the Republicans through election fraud.
That, according to "The Downing Street Memos," prior to the
outbreak of the Iraq war, Bush and Blair were willing to "fix the intelligence"
to fit the pro-war policy.
None of this was
prominently included among what The New York Times proclaims as “All the
News That’s Fit to Print.”
To its credit, the Times reported that the Bush Administration violated
the FISA laws on wiretapping of US civilians. However, the NYT held the story
past the 2004 election, an editorial decision which might have affected the
And now, to top
it all off, they’ve hired Bill Kristol – notorious neo-conservative, Co-Founder
of PNAC, propagandist, war-monger, demonstrable liar.
This editorial decision has set off an avalanche of complaints and cancelled
subscriptions. Some by writers who frequently contribute to the Times.
“As a believer in free speech and the First Amendment, I understand the
argument that all points of view be represented in your Op-Ed pages. But in
fact, they are not. There is only one regular woman columnist (and one on
your blog), no feminist spokesperson who questions the status quo, no
anti-war columnist, no columnist who speaks for the rights of children or
questions the priorities of the military industrial complex.... Why
give more space to one who already has plentiful outlets and is not a
questioner but a confirmed propagandist?”
“I cannot imagine why the
has hired Kristol . Kristol is not merely some right wing loose cannon like
David Brooks or even William Safire, and his hiring by the Times is
not a free-speech issue. Kristol has plenty of opportunities to speak, and
if he didn’t he could blog, like the rest of us. Kristol is a war-monger and
a hate-monger, and his lies has been exposed over and over in the last four
years... In Iraq alone, Kristol has the blood of hundreds of thousands on his
hands. He is unrepentant and eager for more... You would have thought
that remorse for the Judith Miller debacle would have taught [The New
York Times] something, but clearly not. Sadly.”
“It is not that Bill Kristol has an ‘opinion’ with which I disagree. Bill
Kristol is a strategist posing as a columnist. The Times shouldn’t be
giving him free space to push his agenda, and that of his employer, [The
American Enterprise Institute]. Bill Kristol was an architect of the
propaganda campaign for the failed Iraq war and the failed surge.... Kristol
is a lying propagandist who poses as a writer/editor on television. His
fondness for Leo Strauss says to me that he openly espouses and glorifies
the use of deception in public life... Public revulsion at the man has
nothing to do with a rejection of free discourse, and everything to do with
wanting to protect it.”
The response by
NYT Op-Ed Editor, Andrew Rosenthal, has been pathetically weak and hackneyed:
“Mr. Kristol ... is a columnist and magazine editor, with views that clearly
bother you. I disagree with many of his views, as well as many of the other
views expressed on our Op-Ed page. It is not my job to print only those with
whom I agree. It is my job to give readers [as] broad a spectrum of views to
read as we can manage.”
This excuse is ludicrous on its face. Rosenthal seems to regard the Op-Ed page
of The New York Times as equivalent to a Hyde Park soap box, a village
bulletin board, or the internet – the latter open to anyone with a computer and
a modem. Anyone can play, and we don’t exclude opinions just because we don’t
always agree with them.
Gimme a break!
In fact, the Op-Ed page of
The New York Times is the most valuable and
exclusive journalistic real-estate in the United States, and arguably the world,
however much it may have been devalued by this most recent addition. Space on
the NYT Op-Ed page was at one time earned through merit: like a Pulitzer Prize,
casting in a Broadway play, or a place in the New York Yankees lineup.
The publication of a Kristol column in
The New York Times is as
incongruous as the Yankees putting in the line-up, a player with a 000 batting average
whose fielding errors frequently lose games. This approximately describes Kristol’s
performance as a prognosticating
pundit. He is strictly Bush league material (pun intended).
During my career I have refereed hundreds of submissions to scholarly journals.
These journals insist that the referees set high standards, since only a very few submissions are accepted for publication. None of these
journals allow what Rosenthal would have us believe is the NYT Op-Ed standard:
“It is my job to give readers [as] broad a spectrum of views to read as we can
No, Mr. Rosenthal, it is your job to give your readers intelligent, informed,
cogent commentary, from columnists with a proven record of factual accuracy,
foresight and integrity. William Kristol fails on all counts. The New York
Times can pick from
a field of thousands of outstanding conservative scholars and journalists. Kristol is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the best that you can do.
Andrew Rosenthal and The New York Times will likely weather the immediate
storm of protests and cancellations provoked by Kristol’s addition to the Op-Ed
page. But this outlandish and misguided editorial decision can only continue the
decline of a once-magnificent newspaper. That decline will accelerate if, along
with falling circulation, many additional outstanding writers such as Erica Jong and Jane Smiley,
refuse to publish in the Times.
The news is not all bad. Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, Bob Herbert remain on
the NYT Op-Ed page. And just last week, the Times editorial page
published a searing indictment of the Bush Administration,
America.” In addition, last Sunday the NYT Magazine published one of
the first mainstream media investigations into the election crisis, Clive Thompson’s
“Can You Count on Voting Machines?”
Though much less
than what the “black box voting” critics would want (the author refuses to
seriously with the issue of whether the 2000, 2002 and 2004 elections might have
been stolen), it is at
least a breakthrough.
To get back on track toward a reinstatement of its former greatness,
York Times need only look to the past, and to the standards that at one time
it scrupulously enforced. A restoration of its former reputation will lag behind
these reforms, as it must, for the Times must prove itself anew.
There is no need for
The New York Times to compensate for its recent swerve to the right by
becoming a mouthpiece for the progressive Democrats. Just the facts – “All
the news that’s fit to print” – will nicely suffice.
After all, as Stephen Colbert correctly observes, “reality has a liberal bias.”
Copyright 2008 by Ernest Partridge
Ernest Partridge's Internet Publications
Conscience of a Progressive:
Partridge's Scholarly Publications. (The Online Gadfly)
Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field
of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at
the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He
publishes the website, "The Online
Gadfly" and co-edits the progressive website,
"The Crisis Papers".
His e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org .