In case you haven’t heard, there is a big stink permeating the offices of the New York Times. Let me ask the question for you: Why should you care? Let me answer the question for you: We may be entering an era where opposing viewpoints are no longer acceptable. That bothers me. I hope it bothers you, too.
The Times has apologized for running an opinion piece by Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton suggesting that military force be called in to deal with recent riots. The editorial page editor has resigned as a result.
Remember, this was on the editorial pages, not in the news section. That is where opinions belong, even opinions with which you might disagree. But that is not the case at the New York Times. They seem no longer willing to have opinions stated with which they disagree internally or to risk the predictable mobs at their front door. So much for freedom of expression.
Sen. Cotton posited that President Trump could legally invoke something called the Insurrection Act to deal with current protests if he felt it necessary. This act has been on the books since 1807 and has been used on several occasions, including against the Ku Klux Klan, enforcing civil rights laws and helping restore law and order during riots in Detroit in the late 1960s and in Los Angeles in 1992.
Personally, I think the Insurrection Act is a draconian measure that should not be employed at this time but I also think we should all have the opportunity to see why the senator thinks maybe it should be. By the way, for all the snoots out there who think everybody in Arkansas raises pigs and marries their third cousins, Tom Cotton is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University and was on the editorial board of The Crimson newspaper. You would think that would get him some respect from the intellectual weenies at the Times. Not so.
The decision of the paper to apologize for publishing an opinion piece by a conservative senator that in some ways might be considered favorable to Donald Trump further convinces the president’s supporters that anything the national media runs about Trump is fake news. Other fair-minded people wonder about the media’s objectivity. Even though the media’s public approval ratings these days are slightly lower than that of mule skinners, they don’t seem to care. This war of words with Trump is personal with them. Objectivity be damned.
I think fake news to Donald Trump is anything that our thin-skinned president doesn’t like, but it does occur. I can attest to that fact. During the planning for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games, Arizona senator John McCain, a great American war hero but a deceitful and duplicitous politician, began telling the media we were using military personnel to wash the athletes’ uniforms and cook and clean for them — all at taxpayer expense. The tale was preposterous and totally without merit. Let me rephrase that. It was a bold-face lie.
Yet a compliant press loved McCain then as much as they despise Trump today. Nothing we could tell them or show them made a difference. This was a favor to the senator who, in turn, would then owe them a favor.
I lost my last trace of naiveté when legendary New York Times columnist William Safire asked me about McCain’s charges. Finally, I thought a chance to get the truth told. Safire was a hero of mine and I knew he would see through McCain’s falsehoods. I could have better spent my time talking to a fence post. His column was a hatchet job on the Olympics and a paean about McCain. Another suck-up favor for a friend.
But the apology by the New York Times for running a controversial opinion piece by a respected United States senator is on a far more disturbing level. The Poynter Institute, a non-profit journalism school and research organization located in St. Petersburg, Florida, asks, “Will editorial page editors shy away from any touchy topics in the future for fear that it could lead to them losing their jobs if enough people don’t like it?” A good question.
More important for me – and you – in these unprecedented times with political correctness running amok, will I be able to continue to express my honest opinions? I certainly hope so. If not, we will both be the losers, thanks to the unprecedented actions of the New York Times. They owe us all an apology.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb