Sunday, January 16, 2011

I Know I Am, But What Are You?

What would I do without RWA1, my right-wing acquaintance who enlivens Facebook with the most amazing-yet-predictable outbursts against Teh Left and Teh Liberal Media? Tonight he linked to a commentary by P. J. O'Rourke at The Weekly Standard, announcing that The New York Times has "lost it." RWA1 commented: "The NY Times has become a partisan rag in its political coverage of this country, the equal of William Loeb's Manchester Union Leader or Pulliam's Indianapolis Star." Like he considers that a bad thing?

The Times has always been partisan, though not in the way that RWA1 means. It has always represented the political "center," and spoken for the ruling elites. When Ronald Reagan was turning Central America into a charnel house in the 1980s, the Times dutifully passed along the party line. (Ironically, it was right-wing publications like U.S. News & World Report and The Wall Street Journal that exposed Reaganite lies.) When Nicaraguans voted out the Sandinistas after a decade of US-sponsored and managed terrorism, the Times printed a banner headline on their front page, "AMERICANS UNITED IN JOY," which as Noam Chomsky said was "the kind of headline you'd see in some weird, exotic, totalitarian state, like Albania." When it came time to make war on Iraq again, the Times not only went along with Bush, its reporter Judith Miller helped invent the propaganda.

Of course there were occasional lapses, like the publication of the Pentagon Papers almost forty years ago; we don't have a controlled press in the US, so adherence to the party line is not complete. This causes fury among folks like RWA1, to whom I once recommended Mark Hertsgaard's fine book On Bended Knee (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1988), which documented how the mainstream American media knowingly and deliberately collaborated with the Reagan administration from the start; RWA1 was nonplussed, because media submission had not been total, and all he could see were the deviations from perfect discipline. Happily, the Moonie Washington Times became the Reagan administration's house journal, setting a standard of partisanship that the New York Times couldn't hope to match.

Now we also have The Weekly Standard, an overtly right-wing rag that is nothing if not partisan; but that doesn't bother RWA1, nor does the equally blatant partisanship of the Washington Examiner, the Daily Caller, or National Review Online, or Commentary, or the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, which are his main sources on Facebook. Is it that he expects better of the New York Times and the Washington Post? I find that hard to believe. He clearly thinks that P. J. O'Rourke, Joe Rehyansky, George Will, Jennifer Rubin, and the other modern Demosthenes whose work he cites are sensible, sober commentators, speaking truth to power. It's great to have these constant reminders that the "sober" Right (as opposed to the flamingly deranged Right, the regular beat of Roy Edroso) is still so completely dishonest, as to make even the Obama Administration look halfway sane by comparison.