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The ‘Times’ runs propaganda about how moral America was till Trump got in charge

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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.

Donald Johnson

Donald Johnson is a regular commenter on this site, as "Donald."

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20 Responses

  1. eljay on March 13, 2017, 12:24 pm

    America has about as much “moral authority” as that other great”moral beacon”, Israel. Which is to say, it’s not as bad as Saudi Arabia, Mali and African “hell-holes”.

  2. on March 13, 2017, 12:39 pm

    “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?”

    Exactly. Or, put another way: whom do they think they’re kidding?

    Across their homepage, this shifting banner ad, all the things truth is, why it’s so hard to get — but the Times gets it!! So subscribe!!

    And I kid you not — if you’ve ever heard him speak, you know: Arthur Sulzberger Jr. is flat-out DUMB — Sulzberger and Baquet being the worst one-two the Times has ever had.

    • RoHa on March 13, 2017, 7:11 pm

      Russia Today does not repeat the NYT fake news, so RT is propaganda.

  3. pabelmont on March 13, 2017, 1:10 pm

    Not to speak well of NYT, but: When NYT says USA was regarded as not against Muslims under Bush, it’s one man’s apparent opinion not far from the dreaded passive voice. (As if to say. “USA was not before Trump regarded as anti-Muslim” w/o saying regarded BY WHOM.)

    What NYT is not saying is that they polled the Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria,. Yemen, Somalia, etc. to see what they thought. Nor did they poll all Europeans, to see what they thought. NYT quotes elites talking to and for elites. And manipulating — or reinforcing — the opinions of NTY readership.

    Guys in think-tanks, even Jordanians, have agendas, and today’s agenda is anti-Trump, not anti destructiveness-toward Muslims. And it is easy (USA’s law is rife with this concept, see current lawsuits against the Trump anti-refugee XOs) to distinguish what is explicit in a statement and what is implicit. As to Trump’s immigration XOs, courts are paying more attention to the implicit anti-Muslim stance than to the actual wording.

    And Bush if not anti-Muslim was extraordinarily careless of Muslim lives (and other lives): these guys are anti-people when BIG-DEFENSE calls for a war.

    Under Bush, the utter carelessness of Muslim lives (or, more exactly, the lives of the people living in Afghanistan and Iraq

  4. Keith on March 13, 2017, 4:19 pm

    “What Happens When You Fight a ‘Deep State’ That Doesn’t Exist” (Max Fisher)

    What happens when you cave-in to a Deep State which obviously exists? It didn’t/doesn’t appear to be much of a fight to me. Empire and militarism are firmly in the driver’s seat. Our only hope is that the buffoon-in-chief will be an inept bull in the imperial china shop. Better to have an incompetent enemy than a highly effective one. Maybe not.

    • on March 13, 2017, 5:34 pm

      China or china?

    • Mooser on March 14, 2017, 6:17 pm

      “Our only hope is that the buffoon-in-chief will be an inept bull in the imperial china shop”

      Well, as long as Trump does what Putin tells him, there shouldn’t be too much broken crockery.

      • Keith on March 15, 2017, 4:09 pm

        MOOSER- “Well, as long as Trump does what Putin tells him, there shouldn’t be too much broken crockery.”

        Trump following advice from Putin? We should be so lucky.

      • Mooser on March 15, 2017, 4:39 pm

        “Trump following advice from Putin? We should be so lucky.”

        Sure. Bannon can install Eurasianism in the US..

        And Trump will certainly follow Putin. After all, Trump owes his soul to the GUM.

      • Keith on March 15, 2017, 6:46 pm

        MOOSER- “Bannon can install Eurasianism in the US..”

        Bannon is copying Brzezinski? As for a Russian 5th column, this liberal cold war insanity is embarrassing to those not ultra Democratic Party loyalists. And how can you compare our buffoon-in-chief to Putin? Trump is turning out to be as big a warmonger as Hillary. The Deep State has won and we are all doomed.

      • Mooser on March 16, 2017, 3:23 pm

        “Trump is turning out to be as big a warmonger as Hillary.”

        Well, what do you know! What a surprise.

      • Keith on March 17, 2017, 2:18 pm

        MOOSER- “Well, what do you know! What a surprise.”

        Yes, it is a surprise that you seem to agree that the buffoon-in-chief has turned out similar to the Princess of Darkness! Trouble is, if you keep making sense you will likely lose your Soros stipend and/or become persona non grata at the Clinton Foundation. In the long run it is well worth it!

      • Mooser on March 17, 2017, 3:24 pm

        Lose my “stipend”? “Or become persona non grata at the Clinton Foundation”?

        I think you may be drinking too much coffee, “Keith”. Makes some people jittery and nervous.

  5. RoHa on March 13, 2017, 7:05 pm

    The headline for this article is false. The Times is not running that propaganda.

    Such propaganda can be found in The New York Times.

    • Donald on March 14, 2017, 11:38 am

      This is a longstanding issue with you. I think you are going to have to face the fact that the sun has set on the British Empire and the new chronicle of empire is the New York Times and as such, it has wrested the title of ” The Times” away from that British rag you keep harping on about.

      • RoHa on March 14, 2017, 6:45 pm

        Serious journalists writing for international readership call newspapers by their real names.

      • Donald on March 15, 2017, 9:18 am

        I was joking and always assumed you mostly were. If you are serious about this, you wii have to thrash out it with someone who cares.

  6. Boo on March 14, 2017, 9:23 am

    Criticism of the NYT and similar content purveyors is more than warranted; anyone who sets up a false pre- and post-Trumpian dichotomy, ignoring America’s far-from-unblemished history, is both a fool and a hypocrite.

    We need not contrast Trump’s character to that of previous presidents — nor his policies and actions to theirs — to judge him. He exemplifies 𝒎𝒂𝒍𝒖𝒎 𝒊𝒏 𝒔𝒆, the worst of American culture and politics wadded up into one greasy, grimy gob of suet. Trumpelthinskin’s already well on his way to making America both the laughingstock and the nemesis of the rest of 21st. century humanity.

  7. Citizen on March 14, 2017, 11:27 am

    NYT is complicit with the deep state, of course.

  8. gamal on March 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

    dear Donald do forgive me but i have been thinking about you, you said some things that struck me, i have two things to offer you

    1st morris


    2nd chris

    i was impressed by both, you just going to have to accept us as we are and honestly: we don’t impress ourselves either, but still we are your equals. (at the very least)

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