The Totalitarian Times

The New York Times Should Not Be The "Newspaper of Record"

In 1932 the western world was in crisis, as the capitalist economies were shrinking rapidly while the Great Depression spread misery and hopelessness.  According to the intellectuals, however, there was one shining beacon, one place that provided hope: the Soviet Union under the “enlightened” leadership of Josef Stalin.

Stalin, the intellectuals claimed, had created a country and an economy that was impervious to the internal collapses that were endemic to capitalism, an economy that provided jobs and food for everyone.  However, there were nasty rumors from the Land of Plenty that there was famine in Ukraine.

One influential newspaper, however, openly and authoritatively denied there was any famine at all.  This was the “Newspaper of Record,” the most important newspaper in the United States and perhaps the world.  The newspaper was the New York Times, and it said there was no famine and that any reports to the contrary were lies from Trotskyites and disgruntled capitalists.

Later that decade, Stalin proceeded with his now-infamous “show trials” in which he claimed that a number of the original Bolsheviks that put him into power actually had plotted with Leon Trotsky to overthrow the “Man of Steel” and re-impose capitalism.  While some people expressed doubts, the New York Times, led by its man in Moscow, Walter Duranty, insisted that Stalin had uncovered massive plots against him.

We now know that the “Newspaper of Record” engaged in suppression of the truth, and the man most responsible, Duranty, still has his picture hanging in the lobby of the Times building as one of the paper’s many winners of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize.  That his stories were lies apparently does not bother either the Times management or the committee that hands out the prizes.

When the Hitler regime was slaughtering Jews in Europe, the Times also suppressed or played down those reports.  The reason, according to the publisher, was that the paper did not want to be seen overly emphasizing “Jewish causes.”

I make these points because the Times recently championed the legislation placing tobacco products under the regulation of the Food and Drug Administration, and the editorial praising the government had a number of howlers, but none bigger than this statement:

It has now been proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that cigarette makers have spent decades making false statements, suppressing evidence of harm, and manipulating the design of cigarettes to increase their addictiveness.

I cannot recall any time in the near-56 years of my life in which I have not been told in the media and elsewhere that tobacco can cause cancer.  Yes, tobacco executives wanted Americans to have a different picture of smoking than the cancer ward, but in a country with a free press, the word was spread far and wide.

The idea that the tobacco industry could keep health information out of the news is laughable, given the unrelenting hostility to the industry, which has been forbidden by law to advertise on television for the past 40 years.  There is a huge difference between executives making claims and “suppressing the news.”

But there’s more.  The editorial also said:

The bill is not perfect. It will not allow the F.D.A. to ban cigarettes or nicotine — a concession made years ago to avoid drawing intense opposition from smokers and free-market advocates.

Yes, we have the newspaper that was against prohibition of alcohol now endorsing prohibition against tobacco, and blaming “free-market advocates” for that omission of even more government control of our lives.

So, the newspaper that actively suppressed news of millions of people in Europe being slaughtered by totalitarian governments now blames individuals who believe the authorities should not be interfering with peaceful private exchange for keeping a “perfect bill” off the books.  And that “perfect” bill would impose yet another round of prohibition and all the destructiveness we know it would bring.

The Newspaper of Duranty, Jayson Blair, and the most skewed and dishonest coverage in the country of the infamous Duke lacrosse case now declares prohibition to be “perfect.”  Even for the totalitarian Times, this is a new low.