Tuesday, August 07, 2018



This year, as you may recall, a firestorm of indignation exploded over the Tweets of a new hire at The New York Times.

As a result of the backlash, The New York Times and the new hire decided to go their separate ways - just hours later.

That person is, of course, Quinn Norton.

At the time, Norton was a journalist and an essayist at Wired magazine and was their editorial board’s lead opinion writer on technology.

photo
Quinn Norton. Public Domain
One reason given for her leaving was Norton's friendship with Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer, a white supremacist who helps run the Daily Stormer website. The other issue was that she had used derogatory slurs against gay people.

The editor of the editorial page of The New York Times, James Bennet, came out with a statement:
Despite our review of Quinn Norton’s work and our conversations with her previous employers, this was new information to us. Based on it, we’ve decided to go our separate ways.
And that was that.

Until last week.

On August 1, The New York Times announced they were hiring Sara Jeong to join their Editorial Board. In the press release, they praised Jeong's book:
She also authored the book, “The Internet of Garbage,” which examines the many forms of online harassment, free speech, and the challenges of moderating platforms and social media networks. [emphasis added]
photo
Sarah Jeong. Credit: Brandt Luke Zorn.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

As it turned out, Jeong is actually quite experienced in online harassment:

So what was The New York Times response this time?
We hired Sarah Jeong because of the exceptional work she has done covering the internet and technology at a range of respected publications.

Her journalism and the fact that she is a young Asian woman have made her a subject of frequent online harassment. For a period of time she responded to that harassment by imitating the rhetoric of her harassers. She sees now that this approach only served to feed the vitriol that we too often see on social media. She regrets it, and The Times does not condone it.

We had candid conversations with Sarah as part of our thorough vetting process, which included a review of her social media history. She understands that this type of rhetoric is not acceptable at The Times and we are confident that she will be an important voice for the editorial board moving forward.
Some have pointed out the apparent double standard at play here: the different attitude taken by The Times when a white woman makes derogatory remarks about a minority as opposed to an Asian woman making derogatory remarks about whites.

The New York Times held Norton to a different standard while shielding Jeong from criticism for her many racist rants attacking white people.

The New York Times stuck to their guns and kept Jeong. That decision does not say much about their objectivity, thoroughness or evenhandedness. It reeks of a double standard, regardless of the excuses they use to justify hiring Jeong.

It is reminiscent of another kind of double standard at The New York Times - their reporting on Israel and Jews, where The Times reserves a level of criticism it does not apply equally to others.

Doing a quick search through articles written by media critic Ira Stoll for the Algemeiner, there is no shortage of examples.

photo
Ira Stoll. YouTube screenshot


In one article alone, Stoll notes that:

o  The New York Times criticized the idea of accommodating Orthodox Jewish swimmers with women-only hours at a public swimming pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The Times complained of  the “strong odor of religious intrusion into a secular space.” However, The Times felt very differently when separate swimming was established in order to accommodate Muslims in Toronto. In that case, The Times praised it as a “model of inclusion.”

o  When The New York Times wrote about an exhibit at the New York Historical Society entitled “The First Jewish Americans: Freedom and Culture in the New World,” the article concluded with a warning about “the kind of religious fervor that promotes a kind of violence against certain groups.” On the other hand, a review of “The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts,” instead of a warning got a rave review: “It’s a glorious show… art of a beauty that takes us straight to heaven. And it reminds us of how much we don’t know — but, given a chance like this, will love to learn — about a religion and a culture lived by, and treasured by, a quarter of the world’s population… everything seems to glow and float, gravity-free… miraculously beautiful things.”

o  A review of one book faulted it for being too Jewish while a book about African Americans is praised precisely because it focuses on them:
To insist that stories about poor, oppressed or otherwise marginal groups of people are really about everyone can be a way of denying their specificity.
The New York Times has nothing in its archives about the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv, but it did cover the new Yasser Arafat museum in Ramallah.

In another article Stoll points out The Times' chicken bias:

An article about kaporos entitled “A Raw Deal for Chickens, as Jews Atone for Sins,” focused on how the custom was not good for the chickens. But when describing caged birds being kept and sold in Senegal for a custom "to whisper prayers to the bird and then let it fly away, taking your problems with it” there is no comment on the treatment of the birds.

Another double standard is a story entitled “Railway Work in Israel on the Sabbath Threatens to Unravel Netanyahu’s Coalition” which rated 700 words, but a story about Polish lawmakers voting, at the request of Catholic bishops, to eliminate Sunday shopping in the country by the year 2020 gets only 200, and no pictures.

When Abbas this year called the US Ambassador to Israel a "son of a dog," The New York Times ignored the story -- but you can be sure that if instead, it had been the Israeli leader who insulted a US diplomat, The Times would have been all over the story. 

When the NRA's magazine had a picture on its cover of Mayor Michael Bloomberg as an octopus, the Times described it as “an Anti-Semitic Symbol,” and that “the image has been used in anti-Semitic propaganda, from the Nazis to the modern Arab world.” Yet when it ran a story about the West Bank settlement Beit El, The Times reported:
The yeshiva complex is a multitentacled enterprise.
The New York Times condemned Netanyahu for criticizing Obama, saying he interfered in US politics - yet it ran a headline: “As Trump Offers Neo-Nazis Muted Criticism, Netanyahu Is Largely Silent,” criticizing Netanyahu for not getting involved.

When it comes to demographic counting, or blaming Israel for what happens in the “occupied territories,” the Times is all too happy to impute Israeli control over land...Yet when Jews are getting attacked by terrorists in Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel, the Times goes falling all over itself rushing to remind people with a correction that “the status of East Jerusalem is disputed” so somehow therefore it doesn’t really count as an attack in Israel.
When Russia apparently meddles in American presidential politics, the outraged Times call it “unconscionable” and a “threat.” But when European governments - some of which participated in murdering millions of Jews and some with large Muslim populations - try to meddle in Israeli politics, the Times objects to the idea of a requirement that the funding be made transparent.

The New York Times hailed the election of 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, known for a history of antisemitism as prime minister, calling the election “the greatest show of democracy” in Malaysian history. Yet when there is a hint of antisemitism by an American supporter of Trump, or a commenter on the Breitbart website, The Times goes on the attack.

The bias of The New York Times goes beyond their reporting and now impairs their judgment in other areas as well.

But in this case, The Times may yet realize their mistake...







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