Friday, March 24, 2023

The NYT is surprisingly comfortable with fascism, but they draw the line at putting ketchup on your steak


It often seemed like the problem the mainstream press (particularly the New York Times) had with Trump was based less on his far right, borderline fascist positions and more with the general boorishness of the man. This was certainly consistent with the relatively cozy treatment received by Jared and Ivanka. 

With the rise of Ron DeSantis, however, we got something close to a natural experiment for separating the effects of politics and personality. On every major policy issue, the governor was to the right (often far to the right) of the ex-president, but the former was a conventional politician from a conventional background with a conventional style. 

The relief felt by most of the press was palpable. Here was a potential leader of the Republican Party who wouldn't embarrass you (as long as you ignored his politics). Someone who wouldn't constantly give lie to the insistence that both parties were fundamentally the same, that the GOP was still the party of Bob Dole and the Rockefellers. 

DeSantis's treatment by the NYT et al. was, in its way, as positive as what he got from Fox. He was portrayed as a serious figure and a savvy politician. His abuses of power, his persecution of the LGBTQ community, his efforts to scrub the schools of an mention of civil rights, his alliance with anti-vaxxers, and all the other disturbing aspects of his administration were either downplayed or ignored. He might be moving the country closer to fascism, but at least he doesn't put ketchup on his steak.

          Politico: How Ron DeSantis won the Pandemic

 Some journalists have kept things in perspective. Josh Marshall has been characteristically clear-eyed. Jonathan Chait has been loudly banging this drum. Michael Hiltzik and the LA Times have, as usual, pushed back against the bullshit. The New Yorker has done good work here. 

And we should definitely single out Molly Jong-Fast.

DeSantis has his media cheerleaders on the right. Over at Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, columnists have gushed over DeSantis, with one last week dubbing him “the sane choice to revive the US.” Some mainstream news outlets, meanwhile, though not heralding DeSantis, seem to be normalizing his authoritarianism. The New York Times is not alone in this department, but as the paper that most sets the nation’s news agenda, its framing of DeSantis certainly warrants scrutiny.

In one recent problematic headline, the Times, summed up DeSantis’s right-wing assault on education on in Florida, where book bans are on the rise, as the governor building “his brand.” Another recent Times article touted DeSantis’s “preparation and the way it allows him to control his political narrative.” (Sure, you’re able to control the political narrative when you rule like a despot and shut out the press!) That Times piece, as NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen put it, was “almost pure horse race,” with a focus on “either strategy decisions, or the management of postures and appearances.” 

A third recent Times article described DeSantis, along with South Dakota’s Kristi Noem and Virginia’s Glenn Youngkin as having “emphasized making their states family-friendly.” As New York magazine’s Rebecca Traister responded, “Stopped dead reading Times story this am by repetition of claim that DeSantis, Noem & Youngkin want ‘family-friendly’ states w/o acknowledgment of how they define ‘family-friendly:’ anti-trans, forced pregnancy, book bans, curtailed education. Why regurgitate their false frame?”

Jong-Fast left out the memory holing of the anti-vaxx element and the wishful analytics of the NYT data science team, but in her defense, there's just too much to cover in one piece.

1 comment:

  1. I read articles here with some frequency, and am consistently impressed at what almost looks like an unconscious left wing bias. In this piece, descriptions of policy positions are almost rote regurgitation of left wing talking points. No better than the right wing party line you find in conservative outlets. I guess I expected more from this venue.