During the recent Oscars telecast, the New York Times (NYT) ran an advertisement entitled “The Truth Is Hard.” David Ruben, the NYT’s branding editor, said, “The idea [of running the advertisement] is to be a part of that discussion about what does it mean to find the truth.”
Reporting the truth is indeed hard, and it is often too hard for the NYT. The newspaper suffers from two common problems: reporting less than the whole truth and believing news that is not true.
Ideally people who want to add to “that discussion about what does it mean to find the truth” would be truth seekers. But for the NYT it is too hard to seek, much less report, more than snippets of truth that favor points of view the NYT wants to impart to its readers. Rather than informing readers about the all the salient facts of an incident, the NYT seeks and peddles anecdotes, i.e., half-truths.
For example, each of Barack Obama’s* policies as president had positive and negative consequences. Typically the policies had positive effects on some people and negative effects on others, but the net effects of a policy on the people of the United States and the economy on which they depend is often the most important part of the truth for a newspaper to report. Obama’s policies were usually great for the people whose stories the NYT reported. The positive effects of a policy, however, are not the whole truth and cannot be used alone to ascertain its merits. No matter how many positive anecdotes there are, a policy could be disastrous for many people and the country as a whole. Moreover, even if a policy benefits the majority of people in the short term, it may have net negative effects if it will wreak havoc on their children and their children’s children.
So when the NYT time and again truthfully reported only the positive consequences of Obama’s policies and omitted the negative consequences, it was telling half-truths. The whole truth proved to be too hard for the NYT, which you can count on to neither seek nor report the negative side of the policies and the people it supports. (On occasion, the paper will throw in tidbits about actual or possible negative consequence of a policy in order to create a patina of objectivity. Faint damnation, however, is as effective as faint praise in making a case.)
Inasmuch as the NYT opposes Donald Trump (both because it opposes Trump’s policies and because Trump calls out the NYT’s deceit by half-truths), the newspaper is now doing the reverse of its strategy under the Obama administration. It is reporting almost exclusively on the negative consequences of Trump’s policies and actions and omitting sufficient coverage of their positive consequences. Seeking, finding and reporting the facts needed to make a fair assessment is just too hard for the NYT.
The NYT’s claim that politicians should be held accountable is absolutely true, but this does not defend its biased badgering of Trump. To hold accountable only those politicians with whom the newspaper disagrees and to give politicians with whom it agrees free reign prevents readers from determining the whole truth. Demanding accountability from all politicians would be just too hard for the NYT.
In addition, the NYT buries the truth when it is not forthright with its mistakes. When the paper reports something that is not true on its front page and is compelled to write a retraction, it hides its corrections deep in the paper if the admission of error hurts its political objectives. Once the NYT has inflicted damage on its targets with false assertions on its front page, it makes it as difficult for readers to learn the facts as it can.
The advertisement the NYT ran was an effort to deceive rather than inform. For example, three seconds in the NYT repeated a palpably false meme it and its allies have been promoting. “The truth is alternative facts are lies.” You might tell me the sun’s rays are bad because they cause sunburns, but I could respond with the alternative fact that the sun’s rays are good because they help your body to produce vitamin D. Both facts are true; they are just alternative takes on real effects of sun exposure. Moreover, a lie is an intentional untruth. A person is not lying when she asserts an alternative fact before the person learns the asserted fact was not true, she is mistaken. It is fake news to report that “alternative facts are lies,” but the NYT has repeatedly proclaimed this falsehood and pushed the slogan again in its advertisement.
Next in the advertisement, the words “The truth is” appeared and were followed by a long list of statements that were mostly opinions. The statements were not necessarily unsupportable opinions, but they were opinions nonetheless because other knowledgeable and intelligent people logically support contrary opinions. Most of the items presented in the advertisement as facts are not the truth; they are just true to some people who believe them. The NYT is a true believer.
True believers can be blinded from the truth and truly believe their false facts (opinions) are true. They do not hesitate to call alternative facts fake news, as is evident from the advertisement.
As true believers, the NYT editors are not interested in finding the truth. They are interested in banishing nonbelievers, suppressing facts that serve false gods, and proselytizing others with factoids that support their faith.
Mark Twain explained the NYT’s problem when he said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” In this case, the NYT “knows” its beliefs are the truth when really they are opinions.
Let’s return a moment to David Ruben’s comment: “the idea [of running the ad] is to be a part of that discussion about what does it mean to find the truth.” This statement reveals that in addition to the paper’s reporting failures, its leadership suffers from irrationality as well. There was nothing in the advertisement that even touched on “what it means to find the truth.” Instead, it only offered a list of items the NYT believes Trump opposes. It was pure political commentary and had nothing to do with finding the truth, much less what finding the truth means.
The advertisement ended with the idea that “the truth is more important now than ever.” This may have been one of the rare occasions when a NYT statement was both true and sufficiently comprehensive to be the full, rational truth. If so, it is important that everyone look for truth someplace other than the NYT. The truth is obviously just too hard for them.
[6/29/2017 Update: What is Fake News? (Maybe Andrew Klavin read my post.)
* In this regard Obama was like all other presidents.
** See “WikiLeaks Drops Proof That NYTimes Colluded With Hillary Clinton.”