How can the New York Times print a piece about Russia Today as propaganda on March 9 — “RT is unquestionably a case study in the complexity of modern propaganda” — and two days later publish a piece like this and keep a straight face? “Allies Fear Trump Is Eroding America’s Moral Authority.”
The only foreigners actually cited re America’s “moral authority” say things which are all very disputable, to say the least. Like how good George Bush was for Muslims:
“Even in the days of George W. Bush, there was no feeling that Bush was against Muslims,” said Marwan Muasher, a former foreign minister of Jordan and now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Or there are the German leaders who are dismayed by Trump’s blunt defense of Vladimir Putin to Bill O’Reilly: “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?”
The comment alarmed many because it underscored an approach by Mr. Trump, like the rejection of migrants from certain predominantly Muslim countries, that has stripped much of the moral component from American foreign relations and left him being lectured by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and others about his duties under international law.
Her foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, has gone one step further, reminding America of its moral duty as the most powerful Western country and one founded by Christian refugees…
Other voices pushing this “moral authority” claim in the article are not allies, but American establishment figures. They include Joseph Nye, a former senior State Department official now at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government– “The Berlin Wall didn’t come down because people were responding to American howitzers” — and Michèle Flournoy, the liberal-interventionist who was seen as Hillary Clinton’s choice to be secretary of defense. “The most burning question overseas is, ‘Can we rely on the United States to keep its commitments, can we rely on you to lead in the way we expect,'” she reports.
Reporter Alissa J. Rubin asserts that the idea of “a moral component in American identity dates back to the pilgrims” and barely even begins to touch on the sorts of things a critic of US policy would say. There is a token vague mention (“Guantánamo Bay, the use of torture on suspected terrorists and the civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, to name a few”) but the reader is meant to assume that overall the US had some sort of moral authority before Trump.
This is propaganda as sure as anything you might criticize in Russia Today and it is exactly the sort of thing one expects from the New York Times. The interesting thing is, who do they think their audience is? There seems to be a depressingly-large number of liberal NYT readers who swallow this nonsense. It’s the same at MSNBC, which has become an upscale Fox News for liberals.
A similar criticism can be made of this piece by Max Fisher that the Times published today: “What Happens When You Fight a ‘Deep State’ That Doesn’t Exist.” What makes this propaganda is that it is couched in simple good vs evil terms.
Mr. Trump has put institutions under enormous stress. He has attacked them publicly, implied he would reject intelligence findings that cast his election in a poor light, hobbled agencies by failing to fill critical positions and cut off bodies like the National Security Council from shaping policy.
That has forced civil servants into an impossible dilemma: acquiesce, allowing their institution to be sidelined, or mount a defense, for example through leaks that counter Mr. Trump’s accusations or pressure him into restoring normal policy-maker practices…
So if you oppose Trump you are automatically a noble public servant just trying to do your job. In many areas this is surely true, such as environmental protection, where Trump will be a complete disaster, but notice how Fisher lumps judges and people working at the EPA in with the “intelligence community”.
Polarizing supporters against intelligence agencies — which, in response to leaks, he has called “un-American” and has said echo “Nazi Germany” — makes it easier to reject their policy recommendations, freeing up Mr. Trump to pursue policies at home or abroad that those agencies might oppose.
One of these things is not like the other. I could well believe that people who favor a harsher more confrontational approach to Russia would try to undermine Trump there. I would expect people in DC would be motivated by all the usual mixture of good and bad reasons and some would see opposition to Trump as a way to make it seem like support for the CIA or their favorite policies is part of the struggle against incipient fascism. But just a few years ago the CIA was fighting tooth and nail to suppress investigation into their record on torture.
That’s all gone down the memory hole. This is not a newspaper trying to present what’s going on in all its complexity. It is a newspaper writing to a script of good vs evil. It is possible to distrust both Trump and some of his opponents within the bureaucracy, but the way people write in the New York Times, it is all so simple.
Yes, Trump deserves to be criticized almost nonstop on almost everything. But you could criticize Trump without this oversimplification. The oversimplification is actually part of what the Times want to convey. They don’t want to admit that the system was rotten in many respects and this opened the way for a demagogue like Trump. No, everything was fine.