Are Billionaires the Problem?

Tara Isabella Burton, a columnist for the Religious News Service, wants to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to attack the free enterprise system that produced billionaires like Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey. (Washington Post, May 17, 2020, B4) She would blame the conditions that created the most productive economic engine the world had ever seen with the lowest unemployment in half a century for requiring assistance of billionaires in fighting the virus.

The price of the freedoms we enjoy in the U.S. Burton asserts is that one in six children grow up in poverty, schools are unequally funded, and poor adults have healthcare issues. Even without pointing out that conditions in countries that value the collective good over individual rights are much, much worse for the majority than in the U.S.––vide Russia, China, Cuba and Venezuela––Burton must ignore the positives our system has provided its citizenry in order to focus on the negatives.

She doesn’t mention that life expectancy in the U.S. has increased steadily and was at 78.87 in 2018 up EIGHT years from 1970. She doesn’t mention that poverty is never an obstacle keeping academically talented young people out of college and on a path to the middle class. She doesn’t mention that senior citizens are healthier by far than their parents’ and grandparents’ generations, or that medical care has enabled cancer patients to live many years longer than just a generation ago.

Instead Burton relies on the language of the old Left. Telling us that we “worship” individual billionaires, and that the “collective good” has been sacrificed on the myth of the bootstrapper, and that “our obsession with freedom leaves behind our most vulnerable.” She also joins the media chorus claiming social conditions and an inept federal government are responsible for making the pandemic “so dire.”

Au contraire, Ms. Burton. Measuring the country’s response to the pandemic is as useful an exercise as the models estimating how many would have died if we did nothing. There’s no standard against which we can compare how we’ve done except to say we weren’t ready, we made mistakes, and yet we rallied and we are winning the battle. A vaccine might not be available by the end of the year, yet in record time the American manufacturing community provided life-saving equipment while the scientific community paved the way to creating a vaccine faster than for any other crisis in human history.

I would venture that in no country on Planet Earth are billionaires less admired than in the U.S. where the owner of a diner, a dairy farm or a bookstore feels just as important to society as the founders of Twitter or PayPal. We accept the existence of billionaires because we know the price we would have to pay of preventing people from rising that far above their inherent individual value would be the loss of the opportunity to rise out of poverty, to be elected to high office, or follow one’s dream career be that ballet dancer, special ed teacher or sports star. It’s a price Americans are not willing to pay because we know society as a whole benefits when each of us is responsible in large part for our successes and our failures. That’s what makes us Americans.

Alert: The Democrat Party is waging war against the private sector workforce!

There’s a war being waged on America’s private sector workforce by the Democrat Party. By keeping schools closed they are making it impossible for parents to go to their jobs. By keeping businesses closed they are causing thousands of small businesses to go bankrupt costing millions jobs. But the public sector is being paid…and now they want even more money to pay the public sector workforce who of course will be happy not just to vote for Sleep Joe, but also to donate and make phone calls on his behalf.

It’s time for parents to fight back. If your schools are not going to open in the fall, you need to take over the school buildings and throw the criminals out! Hire your own teachers and send your kids to school!

Mark my words: Inflation is coming

Mark Levin recently debated Arthur Laffer, the well-known supply side economist, as to whether inflation would be an outcome of the shutdown of the American economy. Laffer didn’t think so; Levin predicted it would be a problem and he’s right. The reasons are simple to understand. In economics, price is a function of supply and demand. Gold is rare; people want it; the price is high.

Why will the American economy suffer from inflation? The answer is simple. Conditions resulting in a supply problem for many products and services are already evident.

* Meat producers are having to destroy both mature and young cattle and pigs because shutting down restaurants and institutional purchasers has depressed demand. The impact will result in higher meat prices when restaurants reopen, as it will take months before producers are able to gear up. Some farmers may go out of business as a result of the lack of a market for their livestock. That too will affect supply.

* Farmers are having to let produce go unharvested due to decreased demand, but more important in the future is likely to be a lack of labor––a function of several factors that will remain in place even after the virus restrictions are lifted. Prices of products from other countries will also go up as they will be battling the same problems we’ll be facing.

* Restaurants are being asked to reduce seating when they reopen. That will result in higher prices as food prices will be higher and restaurants will need to earn more per customer to cover expenses.

* Products sourced from China are very likely to cost more for a variety of reasons including the fact that Chinese factories will need to make up for lost sales during the pandemic.

* The U.S. is looking to move production of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals out of China back to their home countries to prevent a reoccurrence of supply problems that arose at the beginning stages of the crisis. Given the cost of labor is higher in the U.S., products for everything from hand sanitizers to ventilators to pharmaceuticals will be higher than in the past.

* All other products produced overseas, such as clothing, will be higher as a result of the impact on suppliers––some will have been bankrupt, while others will need to raise prices to catch up.

* Labor prices in the U.S. will be higher in many industries as people will be trying to catch up for lost income.

* Governments may have to raise taxes and fees to avoid reducing services.

Higher prices in some cases will be temporary, but high prices has an affect like a tidal wave. When the price of labor, products and services increase, the user of those products must also raise prices. I don’t know what percentage of manufacturing equipment is made in China or other low-wage countries, but if hammers, lithium-ion batteries and robots cost more, those costs will have to be passed along to consumers.

Complicating this is the fact that consumers impacted by the shutdown will have less money to spend. Having lower sales, sellers must raise prices to achieve the income they need to stay in business.

Get ready, folks. Inflation is on its way. Sorry, Mr. Laffer. Your curve won’t solve this problem.

 

Garbage in, garbage out

Many of you might remember the early days of computer programming when the mantra was “garbage in, garbage out.” That needs to be applied to today to computer models predicting the severity of the coronavirus. A few examples should suffice.

The authors of an op-ed in Sunday’s Washington Post admit as much when they quote Anthony Fauci saying “Models are as good as the assumptions you put into them” at the end of an article in which they expose how sketchy the assumptions are that have been put into such models as the one out of University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation that Fauci and others have been relying on.

One of the factors that is not included in any of these models that viruses mutate. A study from China (which of course would need to be replicated) found thirty strains of the virus that causes COVID-19. The author writes, “Sars-CoV-2 has acquired mutations capable of substantially changing its pathogenicity.” The implication of that finding is that the reason some people who are otherwise healthy get very sick and die while others are asymptomatic might be that the strain they came in contact with might be more virulent.

The models are being used today to justify extreme social distancing including shutting of all but “essential” businesses in most states. Suggestions that some states and counties can ease these restrictions have been met with outcries, claiming to do so invites more deaths. The problem with that assertion is that unless one knows FOR CERTAIN the number of people who have been infected by the virus the fear of tens of thousands of additional deaths is not backed by fact.

Some recent evidence suggests more people have had the virus that previously known, including people who had mild cases or who are asymptomatic. But the bottom line is we don’t have sufficient answers to make clear-cut policy decisions. As a result, governors and other elected officials are playing safe––not wanting to be blamed for causing deaths.

Unfortunately, there is a price to pay for being overly cautious in terms of millions of people’s livelihoods. The longer the country is shut down the harder it will be to get back up and the longer it will take. The exact price also cannot be calculated because we don’t have those answers either.

We do know there is a limit to how long the federal government can print money and distribute it to everyone in the country. One factor is that the debt even at zero interest will have been repaid. Another more immediate factor is that printing more money could result in rapid inflation––which coupled with scarcity of certain goods will have its own social cost.

My advice to governors is not to take the entire burden on yourself. With the assistance of your legislature and executive agency personnel, set broad guidelines for when certain types of businesses can reopen in each county of your state. That way when deaths occur you can deflect the blame and justify the policy. Some states are facing bankruptcy. It’s time to fight that war as well as the one brought about by the virus.

Media Negativity Leads to Despair, Violence

The Biden (formerly Washington; formerly Amazon) Post featured recently a story about teenage girls who have become global warming warriors. Motivated to save the planet, they dress in black (for mourning), take off school to demonstrate at the Capitol, and should be put on suicide watch if Donald Trump wins re-election.

This is an example of the news media’s chickens coming home to lay fool’s gold eggs. The girls are parroting what the media has been selling for years––not just that we’re facing an uninhabitable planet in ten or twelve years, but also that corporations, Republicans and white males are responsible for the impending catastrophe.

The Post clues us in: Maddie “can’t remember a time when the news wasn’t full of burning forests, melting glaciers and hurricane-lashed cities.” The Post even connects the coronavirus to Maddie’s angst: “The pandemic has shut down Maddie’s life and offered a taste of the global turmoil that scientists say climate change will bring.” Attributing wild claims to science is the kind of unfounded, politically-motivated indoctrination that leads young people like Maddie to think they personally have to save the world.

Girls like Maddie take their lead from a 17-year old Swedish media star and a first-term congresswoman graduate of a university that gives out M.A.’s in economics like McDonalds gives out big macs––to any and all takers.

A consequence of the media’s symphony of negativity is that millions believe African-Americans, Hispanics and women have it worse off today than fifty years ago, and that socialism is a viable economic model. It is also responsible for the rising suicide rate among young people––especially young white males. The media also deserves some responsibility for acts of personal violence, such as the shooting of Congressman Scalise and mugging of U.S. Senator Rand Paul.

While threats to infect the president with the coronavirus by elected officials are taken down quickly, the poster is not punished and the media forwards the message suggesting a ticket to fame awaits she who would undertake that mission.

The Biden Post and New York We Fit the News to Our Narrative Times may argue they only report the news and hide behind claims of objectivity, but those bromides have been shown to hold less water than a social distancing face mask. The location of stories in each edition, the wording of the headlines, and the perspective taken all color a story’s impact. Further, the impact of coverage of a topic cannot be judged on one story. Rather it is the cacophony of stories on a topic that infiltrate a reader’s consciousness leading her to decide, as in the case of the Post’s subject, that she has no choice but to give up planning for the future in order to save the world today.

When her parents try to reason with Maddie, she replies “But it’s zero hour. Two minutes to midnight.”

I doubt that the media that now promotes these teenager warriors will be around when they discover planet Earth is doing fine without them, but meanwhile Maddie expresses fear and others no doubt feel anger and consider violence. But that too will be reported as if someone else is responsible.

What’s needed in the State of Maryland to get back to normal?

The coronavirus crisis has hit Maryland hard like it has other states––no, not the number of cases which totals only 8,225 as of April 12 or deaths which number only 235, but in terms of the shutdown of the economy. The pain Marylanders feel is in the number of people out of work (more than 125,000 have applied for unemployment), the number of businesses whose existence is threatened and the closure of schools, parks and other public facilities.

Any death due to the illness is sad and unfortunate, but Maryland is not a hot spot and is unlikely to become one. The state’s number of new cases started to decline this past week and only 1,709 people are currently hospitalized due to the virus. The disease is not overly taxing Maryland’s healthcare system.

Assuming the numbers will continue to decline, it is incumbent on state, city and county officials to begin to put in place concrete plans to remove restrictions and allow people to begin to resume normal activities while still exercising caution and common sense.

I’m calling for the governor to set up a bi-partisan body of public officials to put in place guidelines for when restrictions can be lifted. Right now only businesses designated as essential may remain open and these must enforce distancing and other safety measures.

What would resumption recommendations look like? Here’s an example: When the number of new cases in a county drop below 60 for two or three days in a row, there should be a list of businesses that are allowed to re-open. Then when the number drops below 40 a day in that jurisdiction, the list should include other businesses that can re-open. For example, retail establishments where the same safety measures employed now by pharmacies and grocery stores would apply might fall into the first camp. The first list might also include dentists who were forced to close under the assumption their masks would be needed. Restaurants, hair salons and the like might be allowed to reopen after the second milestone is reached.

When number of new cases in a county drops below 25 a day, public parks, golf courses, basketball courts and other sports settings should be allowed to re-open and education officials should be strongly advised to resume normal school activities.

Fourteen Maryland counties have had fewer than 100 cases. All social restrictions should be removed in those counties immediately.

Until a vaccine is developed and distributed widely, it is likely we will continue to see coronavirus cases resulting in hospitalizations and death. There has to be a point, however, when we as a society determine the fear of the disease should not result in the destruction of our economy. Each year tens of thousands of people die from the flu in the U.S. We don’t ask our public officials to restrict our behavior as a result of the flu. We recommend that people get flu shots and act intelligently when ill.

The president has stated that the cure should not be worse than the disease. For Maryland that means public officials need to act now to enable residents to resume normal activities sooner rather than later.

 

Why reporters don’t report contrary data

What should a national newspaper do when there is credible information that doesn’t fit their narrative? They should report that info. Right?! What did the Amazon Post do when publishing, “Trump relies on impulse in push for unproven drug” in today’s issue? They complete ignored conflicting data.

The goal of the article was to blast Trump for going against science. That meant the reporters needed to find a bunch of “experts” saying that there’s no scientific data supporting the use of hydroxychloroquine to combat covid-19. The problem is that there is credible evidence that this drug which has been used to prevent and treat malaria and to treat lupus sufferers can be effective in reducing the severity of covid-19.

Dr. Mehmet Oz reported Monday on the Sean Hannity radio show at 4:00 p.m. EST and again on his TV show that data from a French study moves this drug off the anecdotal status. Here’s what he said on his own show:

“. . . the word ‘anecdote’ is used a lot — that is an incorrect description of where this medication is now. There’s no question it’s not proven to be beneficial in the large clinical trials we expect in America, and certainly the FDA and medical societies would desire. But these have been supported with case studies. I just got off the phone with Didier Raoult, who’s the well-respected French physician who’s done a lot of this work. Thousand series of patients — 1,000 patients in a row he’s treated, and he’s not published yet, he’s going to be published over the next two weeks. But he’s got seven people who have died, they were all older and had other co-morbidities, 20 people have gone to the ICU of that trial. Now, it’s not a randomized trial, but that’s not anecdotal. The data from China we discussed last week for the first time on Fox & Friends also, pretty evident that it’s a randomized trial. That is the opposite, if I had to create an opposite of an anecdote. So when those words get thrown around and I saw us this morning in some of the papers, it’s an error on the part of journalists.”

Not only is there evidence hydroxychloroquine helps covid-19 patients, there also strong evidence that those who are taking it will not contract the virus. Dr. Oz reported that one of the top rheumatoid arthritis doctors in the country reported that none of his 1500 patients have come down with covid-19. A larger study is being done to verify that no one in the country who has been taking the drug for lupus has come down with the virus.

Why didn’t the Amazon Post report those facts? If you press them they’ll probably say the relied on their own experts or some such garbage. The truth is that they weren’t looking for evidence that conflicted with their thesis.

P.S.: What’s wrong with mainstream journalism today? The reporters are sent into the field with a thesis to prove rather than to seek all the news that’s fit to print.

The Media’s War Against Israel: A Review

Stephen Karetzky and Peter E. Goldman, eds., The Media’s War Against Israel (Steimatzky, 1986)

It can be hard in the midst of an international political crisis to evaluate the media’s coverage. Events are happening haphazardly. Reporters are playing catch-up. Opinions may reflect partial information . . . which is why when time goes by it’s desirable to reflect on the media’s job, and to give it a score.

The authors of The Media’s War Against Israel published in 1986 had the benefit of four years after the events being discussed––i.e., Israel’s conflict with the PLO as it impacted neighboring countries. Stephen Karetzky and Peter Goldman took advantage of the time to assemble opinion pieces from several sources to complement Karetzky’s focused analysis of the New York Times and Peter Goodman’s “lessons learned” piece. Their conclusion is an indictment, as the title clearly states. The media didn’t just do a poor job; it engaged in a biased attack on Israel’s role in the events.

What events are we talking about? The primary issue was Israel’s foray in the summer of 1982 into Lebanon to root out the PLO, which had, with the help of the Soviet Union, amassed a huge arsenal of weapons with the intent of stepping up the guerilla war it had been waging against Israel. Complicating the events of that summer was the morass that was Lebanon at that time.

Created in 1943, Lebanon was weakened from the start by being divided almost equally between Christian Maronite and Muslim populations. Adding to that division was the conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims, but the primary disruptor of peace and tranquility was incursion in 1975 into southern Lebanon of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

That mixture erupted in a 7-year civil war, which among other consequences allowed Syria to insert its forces into Lebanon. The result was anarchy, lawlessness and thousands of casualties, a story largely unreported in the Western media. What got Israel involved?

Tired of incursions into Israel by the PLO, the Israeli government allied itself with the Phalangists––a Christian Maronite group––and invaded southern Lebanon in June 1982 with the goal of driving the PLO out of the country.

Israel’s goal was accomplished in four months. The PLO was dispersed after suffering heavy casualties. The PLO, however, won the public relations war by exploiting the Western media’s lack of understanding of the conflicts in the region. The coup de grace was the PLO’s blaming Israel for the massacre of residents of the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee communities by the Phalangists. (The media called these locations “camps,” but they were not tent cities. They were large communities replete with permanent housing and other structures.)

Let’s look at how the media covered these events. In the first paragraph of the foreword to The Media’s War Against Israel, Rael Jean Isaac writes “In reporting the war in Lebanon, the media behaved like a lynch mob, with print and TV reporters, columnists and cartoonists vying with each other in misstatement and calumny.”

Each piece in the book backs up Isaac’s assertion. Stephen Karetzky­––one of the editors––focused his analysis on three months of reporting by the New York Times prior to the war, detailing an anti-Israel bias even before the events of the summer took place. The book also reprints pieces published elsewhere:

  • Norman Podhoretz analyzes the media’s response in general to Israel’s foray into Lebanon.
  • Frank Gervasi adds insights from his first-hand visit to the region.
  • Ze’ev Chaftets examines the problems the Beirut press corps faced trying to provide unbiased reportage.
  • Rael Isaacs singles out Time Magazine’s adversarial approach to Israel, and
  • Edward Alexander dissects NBC’s antagonistic coverage.

A few of the most flagrant examples of bias are worth repeating

  • After his election as prime minister Time Magazine informed its readers that Menachen Begin’s last name “rhymes with Fagin”––the name of the villain of Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist.
  • Time Magazine totally made up a story claiming Ariel Sharon urged the Phalangists to attack Sabra and Shatila, and then refused to disavow the story when the author was proven to have lied.
  • President Reagan berated Prime Minister Begin personally when the caption to a UPI photo claimed a seven-month old child had been severely burned and lost both arms as a result of an Israeli bomb dropped on civilian housing. It turned out the child had not lost either arm nor had she suffered any burns, and her slight injuries were the result of a PLO shell.
  • NBC accepted the Red Crescent’s claim of 10,000 people slaughtered by Israel and 600,000 made homeless. The Red Crescent was hardly an objective organization, however, as it was run by Yasser Arafat’s brother. By the way, the Red Crescent’s homeless number exceeded the region’s total population.
  • Before investigating the cause, CBS accused Israel of intentionally killing two of its cameramen. After investigating it turned out the men were in a combat area and the tank that fired the missile was over a mile away.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of this entire affair, however, is the PLO’s success at neutering the foreign press corps that was stationed in Beirut. The PLO had asserted the authority to determine who would be allowed to report from Beirut and evidence suggests they were responsible for the deaths of eight journalists and explosions that put two independent Lebanese newspapers out of business. Worse, however, was the fact that some of the foreign press corps was decidedly pro-Palestinian and didn’t have to be persuaded to present the PLO as the victims of Israel’s aggression.

Several of the authors in this compendium touch on the subject of why the press corps was hostile to Israel. They point to the impact of the war in Vietnam on the Western media, after which the general narrative of international affairs presented the view that the U.S. and its allies were the oppressors and third world countries its victims. They also point out the practice of the TV networks showing selective footage that backed a biased interpretation of events.

Israel became the “fall guy” for the Western media’s new worldview. It had been viewed positively from 1948 until 1967 when it defeated Soviet backed Egypt and Syria as well as Jordan, which was fooled into joining the battle. After ’67, the media started labeling the PLO as protesters and demonstrators rather than terrorists despite the fact that they were engaged in acts of war against Israel.

The media also bought the PLO’s lie that they represented the oppressed residents the West Bank despite the fact the organization had been formed in 1964 when the West Bank was under Jordan’s control. As The Media’s War Against Israel conclusively documents, the media’s distorted coverage of the Lebanese war was just another sordid chapter in their failure to understand when they were being used and when the information they were being given was propaganda.

A feature of the media’s coverage during this period that deserves attention is the use of Holocaust imagery and terminology to criticize Israel’s role in these events. Both “genocide” and “holocaust” accompanied inflated casualty reports along with quotes from willing European critics such as Mitterrand, Papandreou and Kreisky. China and the Soviet Union both resorted to comparing Israel’s actions to Nazi Germany with regard to Shatila and Sabra, helping to cover up the fact that the USSR had been the primary source of weaponizing the PLO.

The use of Holocaust imagery against Israel is a particularly vile practice. It’s a low blow, akin using the word savage when describing the actions of a Native American or excusing a woman’s behavior due to her menstrual cycle.

Exposure of the media’s biased coverage of Zionism and Israel has been thoroughly documented in other studies. (See my review of Jerold Auerbach’s Print to Fit.) The excuse that coverage of the Holocaust was weak due to the media’s inability to confirm accusations or that a hesitancy to support the formation of a Jewish state by the New York Times was understandable as it threatened the assimilationist aims of some members of the American Jewish community fails to stand up when the record of The Times and other media falls short of their claims of objectivity and impartiality decade after decade. Sadly, biased reporting when contrary views are confined to small opinion journals sways public opinion.

One might ask why should we care about the media’s failures from more than thirty years ago. As one media critic points out in the book, the American people of the 1980s placed a lot of trust in the media. After the deluge of anti-Israeli stories and commentary by The Times, Time, Newsweek, the Networks, polls showed a marked decline in support for Israel. That might explain why some people in the 21st century are prone accept such lies as Israel is an apartheid state and intentionally kills civilians.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fixing Israel’s Broken Electoral System

An Israeli friend asked the other day how Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden could be in the same party. It’s not surprising that this seems odd to him. It reflects the difference between America’s two-party electoral system and Israel’s parliamentary model.

In a multi-party parliamentary system parties tend to be ideological in nature. In other words, they’re strongly committed to a specific set of principles and goals. On the other hand, because there are only two parties with a chance of winning presidential elections in the U.S., both are only moderately ideological. U.S. parties are informal coalitions of interest groups that have come together for a common goal. This system enables each interest group to achieve some of their goals without being able to blackmail their party after the election, which is what happens in Israel.

Israel needs to move to a system where coalitions are built before elections not after. To accomplish this, the percentage a party needs to gain seats in the Knesset should be increased from the current 3.25 percent to as high as 7.5 percent. If that were in place this past September, six of the nine parties that won seats would have been shut out. Knowing in advance that would be the likely result would have forced each of them to negotiate with the two major Jewish parties—Blue and White and Likud––before the election. They would have had to join one or the other or lose all influence in the election’s outcome.

Ideological purity has its pluses. In Israel, it means minority viewpoints are represented, and that’s good, BUT it also means those parties have inordinate power beyond the percentage of the public that supports their positions. Yisrael Beiteinu with only seven percent of public support is blocking the formation of a government the consequences of which can be disastrous.

Ideological purity is the enemy of coalitions. Ideological purity explains why the left-leaning Labor Party would not join in a coalition with Bibi Netanyahu’s right-leaning Likud Party. Their voters would be outraged if they were to do so. To abandon the platform they campaigned on would guarantee their supporters would never vote for those individuals in the future.

The two major parties in the American system are much less ideological than those in Israel or other parliamentary systems. In the American system coalitions are formed before the election not afterward as in Israel. Franklin Delano Roosevelt put together a coalition that lasted decades. It was made up of large city political machines, labor unions, white Southerners, and ethnic minorities including Jews and blacks. Barack Obama imitated F.D.R. and won twice easily.

Because coalitions in the U.S. are built in advance of elections, interest groups are confident of gaining some, but not all, of their goals if and when their party prevails. That keeps their members happy because there’s hope they’ll gain more of their platform if they keep coming out for their party.

The weakness of the American electoral system is the process of choosing presidential candidates. Candidates know primaries attract the most committed voters and thus are motivated to take extreme positions during the primary season, forcing them to move to the center if they win their party’s nomination.

Donald Trump stood out and easily won the nomination in 2016 despite his lack of political experience. This year the field of more than twenty Democrats seeking their party’s nomination is shrinking fast as candidates with moderate views find it hard to gain media attention and support.

Neither electoral system is perfect. In Israel, reforms will need to be passed after the current crisis is over in order to avoid a repeat. I recommend increasing the minimum percentage vote to 7.0 or 7.5 percent in order to reduce the number of parties with a chance to gain seats and gum up the works. This would force parties to form coalitions BEFORE the election instead of afterwards. This would reduce the minor parties to influence groups while still enabling them to gain some, but not all of the platform outcomes they desire. Combining the best of both systems can help Israel avoid future stalemates.

How America’s Mainstream Media Operate

When Adolph Ochs purchased the nearly bankrupt New York Times in 1896, he added a motto that demonstrated his marketing genius. “All the News That’s Fit to Print” became the industry standard and before long the Times became the most trusted newspaper in the country––a status it retains one hundred twenty years later. Yet, the evidence is clear that the Times violated that standard continuously while pretending to engage in objective, unbiased journalism. I will demonstrate my thesis through a review of how newspapers work, which I’ll follow up with by reviewing two books that prove my point.

Every newspaper is the product of a set of procedures whereby an institutional bias determines what stories are covered, how they are covered and what appears on the paper’s editorial pages. In theory, that bias reflects the staff’s professional objectivity and conscientious impartiality, which is the case for a large percentage of the stories each paper generates. Where papers depart from that professional journalistic bias is in the coverage of issues that owners and their top editors view as especially important.

Ironically, the notion that ownership influences a paper’s coverage is accepted when talking about papers owned by conservatives, but not when referencing papers such as the L.A. Times, Washington Post or New York Times. Yet as I shall demonstrate, ownership influence is just as strong at those papers as in the others.

The owners of major newspapers rarely provide direct instructions on how to cover a topic. They don’t have to. Their influence is more subtle and is the result of long-standing policies that determine who is hired and who is promoted to decision-making editorial positions. As a result, their views influence how issue-critical stories are covered, editorial positions, and who is invited to contribute columns on editorial pages.

The Selection of Reporters Re-enforces a Paper’s Bias

Reporters who get jobs at large daily newspapers have proven themselves to be worthy of that responsibility. For the most part, they have graduated from highly rated colleges and held positions where they’ve demonstrated that they hold the kind of values the hiring newspaper requires. Those values include an understanding that they must stay within the boundaries of the views expressed in that paper in the past.

Reporters who get promoted to editorial positions have demonstrated an advanced degree of loyalty to a paper’s traditional practices and outlooks. If, for example, the top editors of a paper have determined that climate change is a threat to civilization, a reporter who has expressed doubts about that theory will not advance professionally––even if s/he has only expressed that viewpoint in private.

This all sounds very conspiratorial except two recent close examinations of the coverage of the New York Times of critical news stories demonstrate the validity of my thesis. In his 2019 study “Print to Fit,”[i] Jerold S. Auerbach details the Times’ coverage of Zionism and the state of Israel from Ochs’ purchase of the Times through the present day.

Auerbach documents how the Times consistently engaged in coverage decisions that conveyed opposition to the founding of a Jewish state and then, after the state of Israel came into existence in 1948, the Times has consistently blamed Israel for its problems with the region’s Arab population while minimizing the responsibility of Israel’s enemies.

Auerbach had the unenviable task of reading through more than one hundred years of the Times’ news stories and editorials. He documents story by story how the Times’ coverage reflected the view of its owners. Although the Times occasionally publishes the views of those who disagree with its coverage and has retained columnists who voiced other opinions, those exceptions have been rare.

How Owners’ Views Get Implemented

The Times’ owners’ antipathy to the notion of a “Jewish state,”[ii] was reflected in the selection of reporters and bureau chiefs sent to the Middle East. Each followed the party line, which they demonstrated in their coverage of decades of attacks on Israeli civilians by Arab nationalists. Again and again, post-killing stories featured the murderer and his family, suggesting the bombings, knifings and other methods of shedding Israeli’s blood were justified by the conditions they were living under and/or by Israel’s refusal to give the “Palestinians” a state of their own. In contrast, the stories of the Jewish victims are minimized or ignored.

On the other hand, actions by the Israeli government to counteract this violence were criticized by the Times’ columnists as a departure from adherence to democratic values while the support by the leaders of the Palestinian organizations for suicide bombings was “understandable.” Never did the Times’ admit to this double standard––asking Israelis to turn the other cheek while not expecting Arabs to be capable of restraint.

You might ask why the Times was opposed to Zionism and why it has been antagonistic to Israel for the past seven decades. Their attitude can be explained by the fact that the Times’ Jewish owners did not want to appear that their ownership resulted in undue positive coverage Jews, Judaism or Israel. But the truth is more complicated. It began with Ochs’ connection to the Reform Movement in Judaism.

Why The Times Is Hostile to Israel

The Reform Movement in the U.S. gave Jews permission to see Judaism as a religion divorced from the history of the Jewish people and from the notion of Jews as God’s chosen people. As a result, during the first half of the 20th century Reform Jews opposed the movement that sought to return to the land from which the Jewish people were exiled two thousand years ago. Even today, many Reform Jews prioritize being comfortable as Americans free from the accusation of divided loyalties, which Israel’s existence threatens.

That outlook was carried over in the personage of Ochs’ son-in-law and successor, Arthur Hays Sulzberger. Sulzberger was even more hostile than his father-in-law to the notion of Jews as a distinct people to whom other Jews owed an allegiance. Sulzberger demonstrated his rejection of that allegiance in his relations with top officials in the Roosevelt administration during World War Two giving them cover for their failure to offer sanctuary to Europe’s Jews or to engage in efforts to stop the Nazis’ slaughter. His editors reflected his view in terms of their news coverage or lack thereof of what we today know as the Holocaust.

Laurel Leff analyzed the Times’ WWII coverage in great detail in her 2005 expose “Buried by the Times.”[iii] While, like Auerbach, Leff carefully read through the pages of the Times to justify her thesis, she also had access to correspondence and other sources. Studying the Times from1933 through the end of World War Two, she documents the Times’ downplaying the dehumanizing policies of the Nazi government towards Jews and the paper’s failure to recognize evidence that those policies had metastasized after 1942 into the Final Solution and the death of six million.

Sulzberger did not instruct his editors how to cover the crisis facing Europe’s Jews. He didn’t need to do so. He made his feelings known in hiring and promotion decisions, and by his refusal to bow to pressure from Jewish groups to tell the story of the Jews’ plight. Sulzberger also conveyed his outlook by the organizations he belonged to, such as the anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism, which received coverage in the Times beyond its import in terms of size and influence.

Perhaps the Times is clean except for its coverage of Zionism and Israel? Believe that and I’ve a bridge in Brooklyn . . . The Times and the rest of the mainstream press decided early on that it wanted Barack Obama to be America’s first “Black” president and it covered his campaign and presidency from that outlook. It subsequently decided Donald Trump was unworthy of being president and has done everything it could to reverse the 2016 election and make sure he doesn’t serve a second term.

Expressing editorial opinions on one’s editorial pages is not a problem because readers understand there is a difference between news stories and editorials. Yet, today a paper’s

editorial outlook leaks into the selection and placement of stories on sports and life pages as well as in the news section. Adding editorial columns to those pages is a relatively new phenomenon that I’m not certain readers have caught on to. What is clear is that you won’t have a pro-Trump lifestyle page columnist writing for the Washington Post, New York Times, et al. Rather, what those papers are saying is the more angles from which Trump can be attacked the better.

From the days when news of Jews being slaughtered in Europe were buried at the bottom of news stories on inside pages to the present, papers like the Times have not been neutral, objective or unbiased in their coverage of the major topics of the day. You may agree with their bias, but if so, know facts and opinions in opposition to their views will not be featured despite the occasional guest columnist whose presence satisfies the papers’ need to appear fair.

It is incumbent upon Americans who are concerned about being led by the nose by media giants like the New York Times to get their news from a variety of sources. The Internet, though subject to ‘fake news,’ offers contrasting opinions and researched coverage. Those sources are also biased, but readers willing to put in the time can find sufficient information to make their own decisions about the issues of the day. In sum, we must recognize no source can be trusted––particularly the New York Times.

 

[i] Jerold S. Auerbach, “Print to Fit.The New York Times, Zionism and Israel, 1896-2006,” Academic Studies Press, 2019.

[ii] Deborah Lipstadt points out in her review of Auerbach’s book that as late as 1986––nearly forty years after the founding of the state of Israel, the Times would still not allow Israel to be described on its pages as a “Jewish state.” See Deborah E. Lipstadt, “The Gray Lady and the Jewish State,” Jewish Review of Books, Fall, 2019, P. 22.

[iii] Laurel Leff, “Buried by the Times. The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper,” Cambridge University Press, 2005.