Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
October 12, 2020

Not News But A Juicy Collection Of Narratives - How The New York Times Failed Its Readers

The New York Times star reporter Rukmini Callimachi had been widely criticized for her exaggerated reporting about the Islamic State and terrorism. But her editors kept supporting and promoting her stories. That finally ended when Canada recently indicted one Shehroze Chaudhry, also known as Abu Huzaifa, for falsely claiming to have been an ISIS member. Chaudhry had made up his blood dripping stories. He had never been with ISIS and had never been to Syria or Iraq.

But the unverified stories of Abu Huzaifa al-Kanadi had been the central element of the NYT's ten part Caliphate podcast by Rukmini Callimachi.

The failure of her reporting finally was so evident that the NYT had to allow its media columnist Ben Smith to write about the issue. Remarkably his reporting was published in the Business section of the paper.

An Arrest in Canada Casts a Shadow on a New York Times Star, and The Times

It is a pretty devastating report about the support Callimachi got from her editors even as an ever growing number of her colleagues criticized her over-sensationalized reporting. The root cause of the problem is the way in which the Times, as well as other news media, try to change from news providers to narrative creators:

The crisis now surrounding the podcast is as much about The Times as it is about Ms. Callimachi. She is, in many ways, the new model of a New York Times reporter. She combines the old school bravado of the parachuting, big foot reporter of the past, with a more modern savvy for surfing Twitter’s narrative waves and spotting the sorts of stories that will explode on the internet.
Ms. Callimachi’s approach and her stories won her the support of some of the most powerful figures at The Times: early on, from Joe Kahn, who was foreign editor when Ms. Callimachi arrived and is now managing editor and viewed internally as the likely successor to the executive editor, Dean Baquet; and later, an assistant managing editor, Sam Dolnick, who oversees the paper’s successful audio team and is a member of the family that controls The Times.
Ms. Callimachi’s approach to storytelling aligned with a more profound shift underway at The Times. The paper is in the midst of an evolution from the stodgy paper of record into a juicy collection of great narratives, on the web and streaming services. And Ms. Callimachi’s success has been due, in part, to her ability to turn distant conflicts in Africa and the Middle East into irresistibly accessible stories.

The highlighted sentence is the essence of the piece. It was even repeated in the caption of a picture accompanying it.

The striving for 'juicy narratives' is the biggest mistake of current news media. Their attempt to copy the success of Hollywood dramas by creating narratives has destroyed their credibility. It has put incentives on the wrong aspect of a reporter's work. Instead of requiring well checked facts the editors are now asking for confirmations of preconceived tales:
What is clear is that The Times should have been alert to the possibility that, in its signature audio documentary, it was listening too hard for the story it wanted to hear — “rooting for the story,” as The Post’s Erik Wemple put it on Friday.

Callimachi is far from the only one guilty of creating fake news to fulfill her editors demand of narratives. The four year long coverage of 'Russiagate', the fairytale collection of made up connections between Donald Trump and Russia, was full of such. The editorial push towards narratives is rooted in the desire to create clickbait and to generate a social media echo around the reporting. That may be profitable in the short term but it is also a guarantee for a long term failure.

False or hyped narratives will over time get debunked. People then lose trust in the media that provided them with the fake news. That again will cause a long term loss of readership.

A similar case of falling for 'narratives' happened to German magazine Der Spiegel. Its star author Claas Relotius wrote fake stories on a large scale. Whether he wrote about Trump voters in Arizona or about a little girl in Syria, Relotius invented the witnesses to the 'news' he provided. He made up 'facts' and described himself visiting places he had never been to. For years there had been warnings that many of the detail Relotius provided were wrong. But his editors promoted him because the slick 'narratives' he delivered were exactly what they wanted. Der Spiegel, a once universally trusted source of news, is now joked about as 'the former news magazine'.

The media trend towards providing narratives instead of verified facts also increases the danger of falling for manipulation. Governments as well as political marketing campaigns love to provide ready made tales. It is easier and cheaper for media to pick these up and repeat them instead of digging into the facts and their logic. We thus get false tales about chemical weapon use in Syria and a Skripal poisoning 'narrative' that does not stand up to the slightest scrutiny.

Can we please have real news? Just the new facts, with no 'narrative' or moral tales attached to them? Facts that are verified and described in the context of the issue they relate to? Do they fit the logic of already known ones? Do they make sense? How may they influence further developments?

To provide the above can easily fill a reporter's day of work. It is usually enough material to write an 800 words report. Its sufficient for the reader to create his own narrative from it.

Dear news media. Please go back to providing real news. If you do so you will eventually regain my trust. That will be, in the long run, a much more valuable asset than the social media chatter you are currently trying to generate.

Posted by b on October 12, 2020 at 16:14 UTC | Permalink



Caitlin Johnstone often rails against the 'narrative managers'.

NakedCapitalism rails against the "crapification" of all sorts of things.


Posted by: Jackrabbit | Oct 12 2020 16:43 utc | 1

False of hyped narratives will over time get debunked.


People then lose trust in the media that provided them with the fake news.


That again will cause a long term loss of readership.


These are correct and very important observations, even as they are obvious truisms. The media themselves should be the first to know, but in reality they are the last to learn it.

Can we please have real news? Just the new facts, with no 'narrative' or moral tales attached to them?

We know the answer to that.

Posted by: Norwegian | Oct 12 2020 16:46 utc | 2

The ‘paper of record’ (aka NYT) along with the Washington Post and other corporate media outlets serve as the ministry of propaganda for the ruling elite. Their role is to supply a continuous stream of stories glorifying the military and promoting policies which increase corporate power and profits and US global hegemony.

Posted by: Paul | Oct 12 2020 16:53 utc | 3

The ‘paper of record’ (aka NYT) along with the Washington Post and other corporate media outlets serve as the ministry of propaganda for the ruling elite. Their role is to supply a continuous stream of stories glorifying the military and promoting policies which increase corporate power and profits and US global hegemony.

Posted by: Paul | Oct 12 2020 16:53 utc | 4

"The paper is in the midst of an evolution from the stodgy paper of record into a juicy collection of great narratives." In other words, it aspires to be (just) another tabloid rag. Which it pretty much what it is already. Needing government - read CIA - approval prior to publishing, means that The Times is prohibited from reporting truth, which would bring in multitudes of readers. Instead, it must rely on sensationalism to grab the readers attention. So. Heartrending stories, mostly false narratives rule the day. It will not be that terribly long before Times headliners will be all about Elvis being kept alive by aliens in a secret government installation. As a tabloid, it will survive, as people simply cannot get enough of the True Story of Kirsty Allies Divorce.

Posted by: rgl | Oct 12 2020 16:56 utc | 5

The MSM of the West is paid to provide eyeballs for the advertisers.

And just like the geo-political narratives, consumerist narratives are created and pushed along by the MSM at the request of their advertisers.

I would also posit that control of the social narratives has always been part of the MSM. To say or write that there was once unbiased media is delusional but the internet has brought the bias of news sources out into the open where it can't be hidden as well as before.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Oct 12 2020 16:57 utc | 6

'b', sadly these Liberal media organs have all been ruined for good. It will take a counterrevolution to cleanse them of the ideology that has destroyed Journalism.

The process of destruction has been long. Well before WWII broke out, the newspapers and advertising industries were penetrated and weaponized in the nascent InfoWar used to manipulate opinion, manufacture consent and demonize enemies of the State.

Right wing, Fascists, Left wing, Globalists, all have used media for their ideological agenda and power to rule the country.

The Fourth Estate is totally corrupted. Not worth considering as a reliable source of factual information.

Social Media has inspired even more corrupted information.

The Media used to be considered a pipeline for the government or powerful interest groups. Today it is the spigot itself. No illusions about who manufactured the headline, the buzz, the alleged facts.

What exists on the margins are blogs like MOA, the Saker, and perhaps a few others.
And thank God for these few heroic efforts. They wedge open the heavy door that would shut out the light completely.

Posted by: Red Ryder | Oct 12 2020 17:03 utc | 7

My most highly valued aspect of MoA is b's media watchdog reports like this one. The fact that BigLie Media has delivered Big Lies for decades is in fact Big News for many millions. Sensationalism has always existed to aid sales and viewership, and such Tabloidism is usually easy to detect. But in an age when critical thinking, reasoning and debate are no longer part of hoi polloi education, lurid sensationalism finds an easy purchase in the minds of many thus greatly dumbing down the citizenry and diminishing both government and economic vitality. Everything succumbs to the diktat of the Financial Parasites who have captured essential control of many nation's vital organs--perhaps the most important news of all.

Posted by: karlof1 | Oct 12 2020 17:04 utc | 8

The notion of news provided free/cheap as a public service by disinterested NGO-type entities has always been an illusion, media have always been the province of the elites, it is only in the last 200 years of so that the underclasses have been allowed any voice at all. PBS was supposed to be that sort of thing but had no immunity from politics and has been turned into a contribution-racket, like many of our "charities". Heck, even our schools have been suborned by the need to keep cash flow up and market like mad.

Posted by: Bemildred | Oct 12 2020 17:13 utc | 9

After having been coached for years by the DoS and the CIA to provide narratives instead of news, the American media now turns inward and provides a narrative about the murderous riots all over the country, the facts be damned. After years spewing state propaganda about foreign affairs and wars without any critical acceptance by an ignorant populace, the current misinformation peddling suits both well.

Posted by: Augustine | Oct 12 2020 17:13 utc | 10

The failure of her reporting finally was so evident that the NYT had to allow its media columnist Ben Smith to write about the issue. Remarkably his reporting was published in the Business section of the paper.

This is a cool rule of thumb I recommend all readers of this blog to follow: in a capitalist nation, always pay more attention to the Business Section of a given newspaper.

The Business Section is usually directed toward the capitalist class or the upper middle class. As such, they are more prone to "tell it like it is", because, as its readership is the dominant classes, they don't have the time to deal with bullshit, and need trustworthy information to rule the nation. And, as such, they are much less dependent on "click bait" or "selling numbers" to survive, as their function is more strictly political than economic.

Of course, Business Sections and Business Newspapers are not immune to fake news or narrative building. Stay away from those "gurus", as their function is to weed out the smaller fish to benefit the sharks. For a more "genuine" information on a capitalist nation, you should still hunt for private reports, usually by the big banks (Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse etc. etc.).

But even those private reports won't be the real deal, as those reports are always telling the story from the point of view of the capitalist class, which uses bourgeois economics as its tool of analysis. Bourgeois Economics - a.k.a. vulgar economics - is not a real science, as is already theoretically proven by a plethora or studies and books by scientific economists (Marxists). But you'll still at least get raw data, over which you can critically think for yourself.

Posted by: vk | Oct 12 2020 17:14 utc | 11

Read The Global Media by Ed Herman and Robert McChesney.

The entire first chapter is focused on the spread of global corporations in order to fully understand modern global media. The global media is merely the public relations/advertisement shadow of this global corporate structure, which has seen the evolution of media from being mostly political in its inception to then evolving along with capitalism to reflect and wholly support those capitalist ideals at the expense of some form of media that benefits or informs society.

Once you understand this concept, you can sort of track the erosion of news over time, culminating in what we see today with the paragons of journalism now being the largest disseminators of disinformation, which is the natural end of product of advertisement, a lie to sell you something.

Because all the major media is owned by this same class of elite businesspersons, you will never get real news again without breaking the political economic structure that gave rise to it and any media that attempts to carve out an existence in this structure while not behaving in accordance with the wishes of the owner class will be quashed with huge financial barriers and other methods to silence their independent ideas.

Any true independent media is likely to be short-lived and meagerly funded.

Posted by: Rutherford82 | Oct 12 2020 17:42 utc | 12

Next time I will try to italicize just the book title.

Posted by: Rutherford82 | Oct 12 2020 17:43 utc | 13

Der Spiegel, a once universally trusted source of news, is now joked about as 'the former news magazine'.

LoL. It's happening everywhere in The (pseudo-Christian) West.
Winning Candidate Trump hit the nail on the head when he pointed to the Media Circus and said "You are Fake News" 4 words which rang like a bell in the ears of exasperated "consumers." runs a 15 minute Media Watch program on Monday evenings highlighting the laziness and sluttiness of the MSM's me-too thrill-seekers. The fun starts when the 'editors' start 'explaining' their blunders...

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Oct 12 2020 18:01 utc | 14

>joked about as 'the former news magazine'
b is reading Fefes Blog... [thumbs up]

Posted by: michael | Oct 12 2020 18:02 utc | 15

I remember when Der Spiegel posted hi-def pics of the Cheonan in dry dock, blowing the ridiculous Yankee tosh about North Korea clean out of the water.
That was 2010 aka The Good Old Days.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Oct 12 2020 18:11 utc | 16

Can we strip media, or at least "journalists" of their credentials and protection under "freedom of the press", when they willingly report bullshit and fakes? If they're open to a host of lawsuits, maybe this will be an incentive for them to stop with the bullshit.

Posted by: Clueless Joe | Oct 12 2020 18:12 utc | 17

The change from news as a *service* to a commodity. The news *services* now participate in this. On the other hand there has always been propaganda embedded in the pages of these newspapers - most generally regarding foreign policy - in an effort to shape public opinion.

Currently the NYT's Michael Barbaro's podcast "The Daily" is a particularly odious example of narrative pushing delivered as if we plebs are being allowed to get a view inside the smoky room and eavesdrop on the conversations of our betters.

Posted by: the pessimist | Oct 12 2020 18:23 utc | 18

Iran-Contra was the last real foreign policy exposè I can recall to run in the US national media, after which Dick Cheney and co realized they needed better control of congress and the media in order to have a free hand with foreign policy.

Posted by: the pessimist | Oct 12 2020 18:36 utc | 19

The NY Times destroyed its already imperfect credibility with its advocacy reporting in the run up to the Iraq invasion of 2003. Furthermore over the last 17+ years, it has repeated various lies about that invasion--example, reporting specifically, and repeatedly, that the 2003 US invasion came about because of faulty intelligence.

Then in January 2015, the NY Times destroyed its tiny bit of remaining credibility when in claimed, in a long detailed "article", not opinion column, that the early 2014 coup in Ukraine had not been a coup. So this is before Russiagate.

I'm sure others can cite other massive NY Times failures regards easily checked facts over the last 20 years--the purported "chlorine gas attack" in Syria would be a good one. Bernie Sanders winning the 2016 Democratic Party primary is another--yes winning.

To be clear, I treat the NY Times Magazine as separate publication, not edited for fact, but treating that as The New York Times: Much of the "1619 Project" is based on claims known to be lies, and then, as you know B, there was the "blame the pilots" for the massive failures of the Boeing 737-MAX software/sensor system.

Posted by: Jay | Oct 12 2020 18:38 utc | 20

The Times’s Ben Smith already earlier this year wrote a (very good) piece eviscerating an erstwhile media darling: #MeToo hero journalist Ronan Farrow. That, however, was done on the Times’s own initiative, apparently signaling the passing of the #MeToo narrative’s place in the unassailable corporate media firmament, while this one was forced on them by some pesky Canadians.

A media critic at the Times, especially one with some native ability like Smith, must feel like a hungry tiger bound by a strong chain, with a whole flock of fat sheep just out of reach, having to wait for the owner of the enclosure (the Times hierarchy) to occasionally throw one at him to devour.

Still, I think it’s not optimal to focus critiques of the news media, such as Smith’s and MoA’s, entirely on the concept of “narrative” as something to be avoided.

There’s some value to the approach, but storytelling is so inextricable from human consciousness that eschewing narrative in the news is not only unattainable, but really can’t even meaningfully be an aspiration.

Talking just about narrative is a way of skirting the real core of the problem: lying.

The NY Times shouldn’t tell lies as news. Rukmini Callimachi shouldn’t have given her wannabe head-chopper jihadi source a platform to transmit his lies without checking them or him. Doing so under color of reporting the news makes her a liar too, and if she thinks otherwise (which is very likely), then she is a liar beyond help.

I haven’t seen it stated precisely in so many words, but I fear that in the ascendancy of racialized, polygender wokeness, telling the truth is becoming just another outdated white, patriarchal blah blah blah, along with obsolete concepts like objectivity, tolerance, and open-mindedness.

Other than on Jonathan Swift’s island of talking horses, lies always have been and always will be with us, but a culture that abandons the ideal of telling the truth (except as yet another lie) is bound for hell.

(I’m going to tiptoe past the irony of this post appearing on a blog so devoted to furthering the global capitalist, ahem, narrative that it has become necessary to destroy civilization in the name of “saving lives”.)

Posted by: David G | Oct 12 2020 18:39 utc | 21

@David G | Oct 12 2020 18:39 utc | 21

(I’m going to tiptoe past the irony of this post appearing on a blog so devoted to furthering the global capitalist, ahem, narrative that it has become necessary to destroy civilization in the name of “saving lives”.)

Better not mention that, for the irony is quite strong all by itself.

Posted by: Norwegian | Oct 12 2020 18:50 utc | 22

Which newspaper critic was it who said "There is a reason that they call them stories"?

Posted by: bevin | Oct 12 2020 18:56 utc | 23

the pessimist | Oct 12 2020 18:36 utc | 19:

I agree that Iran-Contra was a turning point, but already then the punches were being pulled. I believe I once read an account of someone high up at the Washington Post, either Katherine Graham or Ben Bradlee, explicitly saying they weren’t going to take down another president. The late Robert Parry may be where I got this story; his has a lot archived on Iran-Contra.

Posted by: David G | Oct 12 2020 18:57 utc | 24

Norwegian | Oct 12 2020 18:50 utc | 22:

That’s why I didn’t! ;-)

Posted by: David G | Oct 12 2020 18:59 utc | 25

David G and Norwegian , better to put it this way
"a blog so devoted to saving civilisation that it recognises the necessity of destroying the global capitalist, ahem, system which is founded on the principle that the saving of lives is a trivial objective compared with the necessity of accumulating capital”.

What you cannibals do not seem to understand is how clear it is that, underneath your trivialising of this pandemic (a million dead and counting faster daily), is an obvious contempt for the lives of the vulnerable: what you write, sniggering with sophomoric contempt for the 'swinish multitude', advertises your sociopathy.

Posted by: bevin | Oct 12 2020 19:10 utc | 26

"That my be profitable in the short term, but it is also a guarantee of a long term failure."

I hope that is true but I'm not so sure that it is. Readers seek out publications that present narratives that they want to believe. The Times is finding its' niche of believers. When I present Times readers who are close to me facts which obliterate the narratives the Times is propounding, they don't reevaluate the information the Times provides. It is the Times, after all. They simply dismiss me as a conspiracy theorist or find some other rationale for clinging to the Times version of reality.

Posted by: David | Oct 12 2020 19:18 utc | 27

A major problem with newspapers like the New York Times is that they have gutted their editorial staff who would check journalists' work, verify their sources and ensure everything they wrote could be traced to original sources accurately. Media organisations built an entire culture around sourcing. They had their own libraries and archives with specialist staff. Now this culture and the entire store of knowledge, talent and experience associated with it are gone.

The current obsession with telling stories rather than telling facts is part and parcel of a shallow culture driven by emotion. It serves an agenda that promotes a particular kind of propaganda based on clickbait that generates profit and keeps people on edge. Critical thinking is discouraged.

Posted by: Jen | Oct 12 2020 19:19 utc | 28

All the ads that are fit to print.

Posted by: bjd | Oct 12 2020 19:31 utc | 29

A former editor and correspondent of the The New York Times, Michael Cieply describes how the newspaper works: (I have posted this before, but this article may never loses its relevancy.)

Stunned By Trump, The New York Times Finds Time For Some Soul-Searching - Deadline, November 10, 2016

It was a shock on arriving at the New York Times in 2004, as the paper’s movie editor, to realize that its editorial dynamic was essentially the reverse. By and large, talented reporters scrambled to match stories with what internally was often called “the narrative.” We were occasionally asked to map a narrative for our various beats a year in advance, square the plan with editors, then generate stories that fit the pre-designated line.

Reality usually had a way of intervening. But I knew one senior reporter who would play solitaire on his computer in the mornings, waiting for his editors to come through with marching orders. Once, in the Los Angeles bureau, I listened to a visiting National staff reporter tell a contact, more or less: “My editor needs someone to say such-and-such, could you say that?”

The bigger shock came on being told, at least twice, by Times editors who were describing the paper’s daily Page One meeting: “We set the agenda for the country in that room.”

Posted by: Petri Krohn | Oct 12 2020 19:39 utc | 30

nice one b!

"Der Spiegel, a once universally trusted source of news, is now joked about as 'the former news magazine'...."

I am remembering the little gem you've passed along about 'former news magazines' LOL and applying that to the Times, MSNBC/Maddow, WA Post/emptywheel and many many others for all their hype and outright lies and fabrications with close to 4 years of russiagate nonsense

Posted by: michaelj72 | Oct 12 2020 19:41 utc | 31

David | Oct 12 2020 19:18 utc | 27:

"That may be profitable in the short term, but it is also a guarantee of a long term failure."

I hope that is true but I'm not so sure that it is.

That occurred to me as well, reading the post. Snark directed at Der Spiegel post-Relotius notwithstanding, are there examples of news organizations going under because they lost their credibility? There’s always demand from people who want their preconceptions reinforced more than they care about hard facts. And, as Jen alludes to above @28, getting things right costs money, in staffing and time.

There’s plenty of carrot for taking the easy route, and as for the stick journalists can face for holding onto their integrity, just ask Julian Assange about that.

Posted by: David G | Oct 12 2020 19:43 utc | 32

Yeah, they aim those damned plasma digital signal projectors (t.v.s) right at the intersection of your main auditory and optic nerve bundles as they tie into and communicate with the rest of your brain.
It's kinda fucked up really. Especially when you factor in the stupid shit they say...

Posted by: Josh | Oct 12 2020 19:47 utc | 33

Online psy-op broadcasters are no better though (ny times, wapo, cbs news, msnbc, bbc, etc, anadolu, etc, rt (after management, er, 'changed course').
Same type of tech, btw (smartphones, tablets, etc...).

Posted by: Josh | Oct 12 2020 19:50 utc | 34

you mean like the Covid-19 apocalypse narrative? :-O

Posted by: Enzo | Oct 12 2020 19:56 utc | 35

Just to make myself really popular here, I’ll note that while b. took what I thought was a gratuitous shot at The Grayzone in the “MoA Week in Review” on Sept. 27 for their allegedly having not given him credit for something he wrote (Sept. 18) about recent leaks on British propaganda on Syria in their piece on the topic (Sept. 23) – though it’s not clear to me what work of his he thought they were free-riding on – he has not seen fit to mention here that The Grayzone ran a good, thorough piece by Ben Norton on the NY Times/Caliphate affair on that same Sept. 27:

Posted by: David G | Oct 12 2020 20:09 utc | 36

A historical look at the conduct of war and the role of the press during the Crimean War of 1853-1856:

Perhaps the beginning point for the current subject.

Posted by: the pessimist | Oct 12 2020 20:35 utc | 37

You can't have a discussion about the media's dishonest storytelling without mentioning The Guardian. The hit job they did on Assange was astounding.

Posted by: Roy G | Oct 12 2020 20:35 utc | 38

thanks b... the newspapers are becoming irrelevant....

i guess it is dirty laundry airing day for David G and Norwegian.. at moa it now seems like this day is every day with Norwegian...

Posted by: james | Oct 12 2020 20:42 utc | 39

b wrote:

"The crisis now surrounding the podcast is as much about The Times as it is about Ms. Callimachi. She is, in many ways, the new model of a New York Times reporter.....".

Yup! That's the new media norm today in the world of MAGA. I suspect NYT and Ms. Callimachi don't even see what all the hoopla is all about that they are being criticized. They sincerely don't know what they have done wrong. Ain't this what media reporting is supposed to be, to push your side's points By Hood Or By Crook ? NYT and Callimachi are dealing with America's enemy, and the demonization tactics they employed have proven to be effective with the west's zombified readership. So, what the hell is wrong with you guys???

It's just sad that western journalism has come to this nadir. Actually, not just journalistic standards. The west has reached the points not too far away from Hade in politics, religion, ethics of commerce, legal/judicial matters, and even sports/entertainment. The motto: Do whatever you can get away with. And when you can't, bitch your way through 'til they leave you alone.

Posted by: Oriental Voice | Oct 12 2020 20:48 utc | 40

We can be fairly certain that ad hominem attacks do not generally bring us any closer to the truth.

Has anyone noticed that most of the emotional ad hominem attacks in the comments are making unwarranted (and usually demonstrably false) assumptions about what their targets are thinking and their motivations?

A mere word or phrase is sometimes enough to set off a tirade. So many strawmen are being shredded, the floor is like a stable in here. I'm sure that discussions on the blog used to be more respectful and fact-filled.

If you want to attack something you have to be clear what it is. Covid19 is not a binary issue. There are several aspects and people's views differ on several of them.

A suggested spectrum of possible opinions on the past of covid19:
1. Covid19 was a horrendous pandemic, worse than 1918 flu
2. Covid19 was a horrendous pandemic, worse than flu, but not as bad as 1918
3. Covid19 was a serious pandemic, like a bad flu
4. Covid19 was a pandemic, we initially did not know much and it looked severe
5. Covid19 was a pandemic, we should have known it was like other SARS
6. Covid19 was not even real and is a narrative made of whole cloth

If someone holds opinion 4 and you assume they hold opinion 6, do you see how you will fail to convince them of anything? Any argument that "its real, you idiot!" fails to convince someone who already accepts that its real.
Does anyone here actually hold opinion 6? I doubt it. Its unsupported by objective facts (excess mortality shows that the death rate was 1.5 to 2.0 normal during April, May and June in many countries).
Does anyone here hold opinion 1? Maybe, but it is also unsupported by objective facts (excess mortality dropped to zero for many countries since July, so while some people still die of Covid and that is as regrettable as people dying of anything, covid is not a cause of death significant enough to raise the total mortality above the average of previous years).
Excess mortality stats alone support opinions 2,3,4,5 but other facts may falsify those opinions.

We have not covered other aspects: the spectrum of views on the reaction to covid19, or the spectrum of views on the effect of covid19 on the future, or the spectrum of views on the politicisation of the reaction to covid19. None of those are binary issues either.

Posted by: Deltaeus | Oct 12 2020 20:53 utc | 41

james | Oct 12 2020 20:42 utc | 39:

I’ve tried to make some substantive comments on this thread. If you choose to ignore everything except for one that brief aside, the preoccupation with the topic is yours, not mine.

Posted by: David G | Oct 12 2020 20:54 utc | 42

@ David G | Oct 12 2020 20:54 utc | 42.. it's the shit that stands out david... same deal your post @ David G | Oct 12 2020 20:09 utc | 36... moa has an open thread area, but apparently that isn't good enough for you...

Posted by: james | Oct 12 2020 21:05 utc | 43

congrats to david g and norwegian for turning this into another covid rant... see @ 41 and etc...

Posted by: james | Oct 12 2020 21:08 utc | 44

Narrative reporting has always been the heart and soul of great journalism-- these are the stories that manage to capture the attention of readers, and perhaps convince them to consider new angles. Take, for instance, John Hersey's 1946 article, Hiroshima (, which was instrumental in getting Americans to understand the horrors inflicted by our military when they dropped a nuclear bomb on Japan. Or Seymour Hersh's story which exposed the massacre of Vietnamese civilians by U.S. soldiers in 1968 (

So to the extent that B might be suggesting that narrative reporting is a new phenomenon, or harmful to accurate reporting, I very much disagree. The issue is not the style of reporting. It is the fact that Callimachi heavily relied on a source she could not verify, and misled her listeners about the veracity of her reporting.

Posted by: Syl | Oct 12 2020 21:31 utc | 45

> The paper is in the midst of an evolution from the stodgy paper of record into a juicy collection of great narratives

when a news agency gives new meaning to the term content creators ... clicks matter for the income ... and they get to hit another bird ... they can twist the facts.

Posted by: R | Oct 12 2020 22:22 utc | 46

The NYT generally does not open up comments on stories about Syria anymore as commenters would completely thrash the spin they were trying to sell.

Posted by: Schmoe | Oct 12 2020 22:25 utc | 47

Syl @Oct12 21:31 #45

I think b means narrative reporting that distort or ignore facts in favor of furthering propaganda narratives.

Hersey's and Hersh's reporting, even if told as a story, went against official narratives.


Posted by: Jackrabbit | Oct 12 2020 22:30 utc | 48

Did I hear mention of the Grauniad?
They ran another story today which reveals the self appointed arbiters of morality and fact as hypocrites unable to subjectively inform about any issue because they are so tangled up in assorted webs of deceit caused by their previous fake news campaigns it has become impossible for them to take a stand and remain credible.

China, Russia and Saudi Arabia set to join UN human rights council .
A classic tale of the graun's inability to tell a simple yarn objectively, should have focussed on the issue of Saudi Arabia going for a spot on this council while it proudly murders, rapes, whips & lynches any critics, anywhere.

But no, the graun cannot do that, it has run too many nonsense yarns about the Skirpal's & Navalny to waste the opportunity for one more libel about Russia's unsuitability. That's nothing though, the graun has now sunk so low it is taking quotes from the former terrorist now amerikan intelligence assets, the Payá family who have been milking amerikan taxpayers and credulous xtians for 40 years. Incidentally not content with taking dollars for Cuban lies, Rosa Maria Paya is now carrying water for the stooges amerika has installed after their Bolivian coup - all the usual nonsense front organisations with titles chocka with words like 'freedom' & 'democracy' that will be milked to the max - life got so tough after the old man got pissed at lunchtime then crashed his car killing himself & another.

Why call in such low lifes with zero credibility? A certain to fail attempt to keep Cuba, one of the few states on this old rock that does considerable heavy lifting among the poorest and most disadvantaged living on it, off the UN Human Rights Council that's why.

But the best comes last after China is excoriated for imprisoning terrorists rather than just murdering them, their families and any innocent bystanders who may be in the vicinity, the graun has the gall to print:

" In the Latin American and Caribbean group, Mexico, Cuba and Bolivia are running unopposed for three seats. In the western European section, France and Britain will take the two available seats."
(the emphasis is mine).

So no worries graun, no doubt that as the abductor, torturer and willing lackey to amerika's insistence that Julian Assange be persecuted for having the sheer gall to tell the truth, that england should have the unquestioned right to sit on a 'human rights' panel.
The allegations graun makes about many of the other states are just that unsubstantiated allegations, but the facts about Mr Assange are proven, there is no doubt about them.
What sort of a low life works at the graun?

Posted by: Debsisdead | Oct 12 2020 22:38 utc | 49

Judith Miller may have lost her luster but her legacy lives on!

Posted by: defaultcitizen | Oct 12 2020 23:42 utc | 50

Debsisdead @ 49 asks rhetorically: "What sort of a low life works at the graun?"

We can take our pick of such lowlife individuals: Luke Harding (plagiarist / possible intel asset), Marina Hyde (astounding ability to write loads of tosh about ... nothing), Polly Toynbee, Jonathan Freedland, Nick Cohen ...

And then of course there was Paul Johnson who joined the D-Notice Committee run by the UK Ministry of Defence in the wake of Edward Snowden's revelations some years ago.

There are so many lowlife individuals at The Guardian, it resembles an asylum run by its inmates.

Posted by: Jen | Oct 12 2020 23:43 utc | 51

NakedCapitalism rails against the "crapification" of all sorts of things.

Yeah except itself

Posted by: Mr. House | Oct 13 2020 0:05 utc | 52

"Dear news media. Please go back to providing real news."

To quote Percival Rose yet again, "That ain't gonna happen."

We can rail all we want against the MSM. "Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one." And everyone else can go suck eggs. It's an example of the Golden Rule: "Those who have the gold make the rules."

Posted by: Deltaeus | Oct 12 2020 20:53 utc | 41 Does anyone here actually hold opinion 6? I doubt it. Its unsupported by objective facts (excess mortality shows that the death rate was 1.5 to 2.0 normal during April, May and June in many countries).

Then you haven't looked hard enough. Yes, people here have actually said the entire pandemic is simply a "hoax" and the virus is just a "normal flu". And the fact that none of their opinions is supported by any evidence whatsoever has made absolutely zero impact on them, no matter how many times they've been debunked.

You're wasting your time trying to nuance morons.

Posted by: Richard Steven Hack | Oct 13 2020 3:14 utc | 53

Got some kind of demonstration going on near me a lot of chanting, shouting, etc. Wasn't aware of any demonstrations going on, although a quick Google indicates Oakland is having a third night of demonstrations. Just found this:

10/12 – SF – SFPD Murdered Someone Yesterday: March to Demand Justice & Abolish The Police – Otis St & Gough St – 7:30pm

That's probably it, since the time matches, and I'm just several blocks away from that area. It appears related to this news story because the march is being held at the site of the shooting.

SF officer kills suspect in attempted carjacking

This is San Francisco’s second officer-involved shooting of the year, and the first fatal one. Another incident occurred in the Tenderloin in April, when police opened fire at a man wielding a knife. The man ran into a building on Jones Street and barricaded himself there for 15 hours until officials from the departments hostage team finally coaxed him out. That incident ended with the suspect in custody, and no serious injuries.

Heh, that could have been my building, but it wasn't (I'm not on Jones Street). Oh, the joys of living in a San Francisco SRO in the Tenderloin. Could be worse, though - I could be living in Hunter's Point where they shoot at the Muni buses or the Mission District where they shoot each other regularly. Or I could live in New York or Chicago or Los Angeles. LOL

Posted by: Richard Steven Hack | Oct 13 2020 3:59 utc | 54

I’ve had a chance to read Ben Smith’s column in the NY Times.

First, regarding both b.’s looking a bit askance (as I took it) at it appearing in the Business section, and my insinuation @21 that this was sort of an official emanation from on high at the Times, I can now see this was actually an authentic initiative by Smith himself, and is probably seen on Eighth Avenue as him going a bit rogue. It appeared in the Business section because that is where Smith’s column runs, and no one higher up was pleased enough about it to put it on the front page. So kudos to Ben Smith.

Second, this is the type of work that makes the Times still worth reading, though with the heavy dollop of irony that the topic is the devolution of the Times at large into something no one should bother reading – or listening to or watching, as they move into multimedia.

Third, while Smith may have run ahead on his own, it looks like the Times will eventually be giving a verdict on the intrepid Rukmini Callimachi that may not be to her liking. If she is less of a pathological fabulist than Jayson Blair, she makes up for it by covering vastly more important territory than he ever did. She may well yet be appearing on Page 1 in a headline rather than a by-line.

Posted by: David G | Oct 13 2020 5:17 utc | 55

b, — it would be great if you would post a fresh assessment of the situation in Afghanistan and where things are headed. Cheers, T

Posted by: Tuck | Oct 13 2020 5:26 utc | 56

@ Jackrabbit | Oct 12 2020 22:30 utc | 48

I really appreciate that you've responded to my comment, especially because I've been reading from this site for a while, and you're one of a few forum participants who I've particularly enjoyed reading comments from.

This has been the first time I've commented myself, and I have to say that I still stand by my statement, but I'm open to be convinced otherwise by other commenters or the original author.

When B writes:

"Can we please have real news? Just the new facts, with no 'narrative' or moral tales attached to them? Facts that are verified and described in the context of the issue they relate to? Do they fit the logic of already known ones? Do they make sense? How may they influence further developments?

To provide the above can easily fill a reporter's day of work. It is usually enough material to write an 800 words report. It's sufficient for the reader to create his own narrative from it."

To me this obviously suggests that B is implying that news stories should be solely based on facts, and include no narrative reporting. Yet narrative reporting is what pulls on the hearts and strings of the majority of readers-- it is SO important.

And yet narrative reporting is not present in this news blog, and that's okay!!-- that's not why I visit this site.

I visit this site for an anti-imperialist perspective, with an abundance of links to support these views, which I can then share with my friends when I try to explain why the Democrat and Republican parties are one and the same, suppressing us all and constricting our choices-- from my conservative aunt who believes Trump is some weird ass Q savior of the people, to my 100% democrat cousin who believes only sexism blocked Hillary Clinton from the presidency. I read this news blog for a fact-based perspective, and I evaluate the links provided, and I evaluate the tone of the comments, and I consider the history that I understand of the U.S., and then I decide from there if these perspectives are trustworthy.

I visit this site to get more access to anti-imperialist news sources, which have been suppressed by Google since 2017. I've personally seen this suppression as a news reporter myself, on issues related to fossil fuels. It used to be so much easier to find news on mountaintop removal coal mining and fracking in Appalachia, yet now it's only a blase list of mainstream media sources that appear whenever you look for news on these issues. It's obvious that something has gone wrong with Google as a search engine.

So here I am, reading this news site that I only found through Gibiru while searching censored content on the coup attempt in Venezuela. I feel some kinship here. Yet I also see so much... maybe Q supporters? Like, those folks who believe Trump is just trying to vanquish evil and Republicans are perfectly great, it's just Democrats who are messed up? These folks who don't see that neither party is on our side and-- hell no, Trump is not on our side, he ripped off so many union construction workers, including my dad and his coworkers.

So going back a bit, overall, I know this is a sort of weird hill to hold my place on, but I stand by it. B seems to be suggesting that narrative reporting is incompatible with "real news," but on this hill I will remain-- I strongly disagree. The quote from B's article was obviously opposed to narrative reporting, yet I feel that narrative reporting is some of the most convincing reporting we can share with one another (As Long As It's True!!)

Posted by: Syl | Oct 13 2020 5:46 utc | 57

I also think another problem is, as someone in the age range of 25-35, I get too wrapped up in these issues.

Here I am, reading this site, when I used to live in a community with folks who actually ~knew others~ who took action. Action is so....distant. Now, I don't take action myself. I know no one who takes real action. And I don't even know anyone who KNOWS someone who takes action these days.

So what I do is read, and re-read, and re-tell what I've read to others... Is there any point? Why am I reading this website about news in Syria, in Iran, in Russia, in Venezuela, when I can hardly even manage my own life and my basic goals of achieving an advanced degree to earn a higher salary than I've had before??

Should I really be so overwhelmed with how other countries are doing when I can't even manage myself?? When I would love to help, yet I'm still trying to work out the best pathway to balance helping others and helping my community? When I could do nothing to help my own terribly racist, discriminatory and discriminated against, impoverished, shit-for-nothing family who has suffered from environmental pollution, poverty, and heroin addiction here in the eastern U.S., and now they're dead?

I'm just so freakin frustrated. It's a question that I struggle with, and that I'm sure other readers (who maybe are not currently writing-- just watching), are also struggling with.

Why bother caring about all this shitty stuff our government does, when there is so much shit that has happened to our loved ones as a result of this terrible system? Who do you save first?

Posted by: Syl | Oct 13 2020 6:24 utc | 58

Overall, I find that if I express my far-left conspiratorial views to my friends, it is awkward, and then unsettling if I press it further. I feel like maybe... I should let it all go. And pretend that I don't see these problems with our media and political structure in the U.S.

It would just be so much easier. What are we really living for after all? The fulfillment of love and community, or the satisfaction of helping our community evolve? I'm just not sure I'm cut out for the latter, and if that's the case, why keep reading this really shitty (and likely true) news here on moonofalabama?? Is there a place for folks like me, who aren't actionably revolutionary, but help spread the ideology? Does it even make a difference?

Posted by: Syl | Oct 13 2020 6:40 utc | 59

It goes beyond mere readership. The media - the "fourth power" as they are sometimes refered to - are social institution and absolutely necessary in order for a liberal democracy (="democracy") to work. If the media collectively loose trust then this leads not only to a shrinking readership but also to social and political instability.

This might be good on a certain level since it enables social and political change but it is still a very dangerous development.

Posted by: m | Oct 13 2020 6:56 utc | 60

Syl, sorry to interrupt but oh well here goes. Over the course of my existence I've come to believe that the best way to show others is to take action. Unless things are really screwy & oppressive, violent action almost never works, the only more ineffective action is marching while holding a sign and chanting.
In this horrow show time, if a human chooses to look around they will discover all sorts of needs in their community which are not being met.
Anything from picking up the groceries for elderly people to helping people to get to where they need to be, quickly builds a base of others in the immediate community around you, who will listen to what you say, as long as you're gentle and not too bombastic, and that message will get out there to their friends.

I appreciate that younger people who usually communicate virtually or whatever, can find this a little daunting at first but the great advantage is that it builds a community in your immediate neighborhood.
It is great to talk to people thousands of kilometers distant, but useless when it comes to putting together acts of resistance, as talking bizness virtually can bring more spooks than genuine resistors.

When I think of something I believe needs doing, I stick a message up on the board at one of the supermarkets in town. Just put in my first name & the number of a burner phone and if there are people who need a hand they contact. Obviously if you live in a community where poverty rates are high you should make sure two of you visit people initially, because poverty can make a few desperate, but you will meet far more decent well meaning people than desperates where ever you are.
I began doing the supermarket thing during the first covid lockdown as messages on blogs etc didn't make many connections. Now we have a solid base of people all working as well as they can to help each other.

If we do resist the arseholes successfully it will be because we the people have built up networks of resistance in our communities and that can only be achieved by getting out there among the people.

Posted by: Debsisdead | Oct 13 2020 7:31 utc | 61

All the media transgress the Ninth Commandment :"Thou shalt not give false testimony" for starters.
Further I am of the opinion that we should be hanging "journalists" on lampposts,setting fire to redactional rooms instead of complaining about them to ourselves on the internet.

Posted by: willie | Oct 13 2020 7:59 utc | 62

Lately I've been reading a lot on Der Spiegel website.I actually read the comments more closely now than the articles themselves,because now I can almost predict the latter's contents.Fr Navalnychok and Belarus they were on an average of three articles a day.I'm sure that a big part of commentators are NATO-paid,European Union paid,and now we have 4000 Lithuanian that work for the narrative,besides the 20000 britains that were reported to be part of British internet warfare.It is all over the media.

Le Monde is always on the exact editorial line as NYT,comment section is only available to subscribers on a lot of articles.

The Figaro moderates heavily at times,on certain subjects,but they let go often.In the beginning of Navalnychok I witnessed threehundred comments reduced to seven in a jiffy,and that several times.The french general public is not really anti-russian.Figaro's owner is now on trial (post mortem) for bribing citizens of his city Corbeil-Essonnes to vote for him.He bought votes on a massive scale in mayor elections,handing out what could be millions of euros to the poor people living in the outskirts of his city,to secure his mayorship,and thereby his long time senatorship in the french Senate.Did I mention his name?Serge Dassault (real name :Bloch)owner of the airplane factory that produced Mirages,Rafales and other military stuff that subsequent french governments try to sell all over the world.His corruption process is not very much reported about.

Where I live there are exercises with combat choppers going with real ammunition,and nightly we can watch air combat that may last one hour ,just above our heads.They are preparing something,we had the same thing in the uptick to the destruction of Muammar Khadafi's Libya...

I have difficulty at convincing even close friends and family that within twenty years western europe will be the poor appendix of Eurasia,where barbarians will mob-rule on local scale and nothing will be left of the once wellfare-state.Everything goes down in Europe,and nobody wants to admit.

Posted by: willie | Oct 13 2020 8:26 utc | 63

you guys calling for censoring journalists are really truly misguided. There is nothing worse than some non defined power that decides what is true and what is not.

please step back and ponder the consequences of a truth commission.

Posted by: dan of steele | Oct 13 2020 9:06 utc | 64

Dear news media. Please go back to providing real news. If you do so you will eventually regain my trust.

Such a request (correct in its essence) would make sense and perspective if the media were some kind of "independent actor" who himself determines his own policy and decides what to do. But this is not the case. The media (we're talking about MSM, right?) are pursuing the policies that their sponsors/curators dictate to them.

The situation in the world has changed dramatically. Maybe in the 90s or early 2000s, the Western MSM were more or less engaged in real journalism. But then Russia became significantly stronger (thereby becoming a "threat to the West", according to Western political elites), China entered the world in all its economic power (also becoming a "threat" to the West). The purpose of using the media has changed accordingly. Political objectives dictate how information is presented. Fictions, fakes, disinformation, intentional lies, slander were used. In general, journalism has almost completely given way to propaganda. The MSM have transformed into one of the means of information warfare (primarily against Russia and China).

This is unlikely to change if you urge the media to come to their senses. They cannot do it even if they want to. This can only change if Western political elites who control the media change their attitude towards global politics - if they voluntarily decide to end the information war, or lose it (as a consequence of losing a hot war). Neither one nor the other is foreseen. Therefore, your appeal to the media is doomed, unfortunately.

Posted by: alaff | Oct 13 2020 9:10 utc | 65

@61 Debsisdead


So why you then push the narrative of Trump better than the other is beyond me when Trump is so toxic for evolving community spirit? My point is that no one is as bad as Trump (except maybe Hillary for her hawkishness), and now is just a moment to get rid of him. He was useful to get rid of her, and now it's gone way too far. He is dangerous so it's time to deprive him of power. That's all this moment is. Why make more of it?

Trump is not purging society of what ails it; or destroying a corrupt system he is part of. He is dangerous, shallow, self-centered and stingy with his humanity and is polluting minds with his example therefore he is making community intolerable. Whatever Trump does that appears human he turns into a political prop!

You can't think Trump is the lesser of all evils and be for improving community. Your wrong-headed perception of Trump defeats your goal of community spirit.

Posted by: Circe | Oct 13 2020 10:13 utc | 66

The two headed political parties are not part of the public Government. They are private parties, whose sole purpose it is to help the OLIGARCHS to use the USA (government) to <="CONTROL THE MASSES".
private__Layer1: Global Oligarchs, control entire nation state franchise system.
private__Layer2: Local Oligarchs, own+control local "named" nation state franchise
public___Layer3: Functional Government structured in accord w\founding documents.
private__Layer 4:Two party system:function to <=TO CONTROL THE MASSES
private__Layer 5:The Electoral College: function <=CONTROL ACCESS TO RESIDENCY.
public___Layer 6: the 340,000,000 who constitute the governed masses.
private__Layer 7: 92% privately owned, main stream media.


The USA is the only public part of that "private party control of the masses "schema. The NYT is a private publication with massive access to the public information place.. but the interest of the governed is quite different than the interest of the Oligarch owned and controlled Governed.
The media is oligarch private..

we need one constitution with a dual set of governments. One to govern the nation state and the other to govern those who govern.

Thanks for the expose' ..

Posted by: snake | Oct 13 2020 10:56 utc | 67

We in the West live in a post-truth world.

This isn't just snide criticism of an emotionally and cognitively stunted population clinging to ridiculous and infantile fairy tales into advanced chronological ages, but rather an encapsulation of a profound philosophical shift occurring in western culture.

It starts off innocently enough with an argument like "What's wrong with letting Johnnie believe that he has a gender of mountain panda? How is this any harm to you, or even any of your concern?", but this develops over time into "Ridiculing imaginary genders is harmful to people with imaginary genders!" This further develops to "Saying anything that could call into question Johnnie's belief that his gender is mountain panda is a horrible attack on Johnnie and safe spaces need to be provided where Johnnie's beliefs are prohibited from any challenge". These "safe spaces" grow to encompass entire universities, which paradoxically are places that exist specifically for beliefs to be challenged. Ultimately we arrive at "Anything that might cause Johnnie to question his gender being mountain panda is proscribed by law".

This isn't just a problem with how society views gender. All "identity" issues result in the same degeneration of discourse and rejection of reason and rationality. Gender identity is simply one of many issues eroding the Enlightenment tradition of reason and evidence. It is just part of a broader rejection of philosophical Materialism and embrace of a rather crude and primitive Idealism. The consequence of this philosophical shift in the West is a rather full-throated pursuit of what I like to refer to as "Tinkerbell dynamics".

"Tinkerbell dynamics": In the vulgar Idealism of our current period, reality is thought to be formed out of our (society's) collective beliefs about that reality. In its simplest terms, if a critical mass of the population truly believes that Johnnie's gender is mountain panda, then reality will reconfigure itself so that Johnnie has the gender of mountain panda, whatever that should happen to actually be. This dynamic is clearly evident in the current partisan politics in the United States, and can frequently be seen in posts in this very forum by presumably intelligent individuals. Take the crazy drug witch's endless tirades about Trump as an example. The poster clearly doesn't even believe much of what she posts about the opponent of her current political champion, and the truth of the charges she makes are irrelevant to her. This is because in her understanding of how reality works the truth of the charges are dependent entirely upon whether sufficient people believe them or not and have nothing to do with evidence found in physical reality. If one is to reference evidence found in physical reality to call her claims into question, then she sees that as a direct attack on her efforts to create a reality that she perceives as better. Within this vulgar version of philosophical Idealism appeals to emotion are equivalent to appeals to reason and evidence. They are interchangeable. Bringing evidence into the discussion is thus seen not as a pursuit of greater truths, but rather as support for a competing narrative in which Trump is the victor over her current champion.

But this embrace by the West of vulgar Idealism goes much deeper than partisan politics. It is a significant part of why the US population supports continued occupation of Iraq, and continued military interventions elsewhere. If the US stops its killing at a time when the preponderance of opinion is that America is doing something bad, then the reality will become that America (and by extension Americans) have done something bad. If the conflict can be continued until opinion shifts, even if that requires murdering almost everyone with an opposing opinion as was done in Indonesia, Columbia, Philippines, Honduras, South Korea, etc., then Americans will support continuing the killing so that the resulting reality can be one in which Americans are the heroes.

Now consider the role of "journalists" in this post-truth world. If our world is created by our beliefs about that world, then they will see themselves as the front line troops in bringing that world into being.

"We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality." --Rove

This isn't just seen as some colorful metaphor in the West. This is perceived as literal truth. Sure, it is delusion; mass delusion, but it is how Americans view the world, and it is a consequence of parting with a Materialist conception of reality.

Posted by: William Gruff | Oct 13 2020 11:54 utc | 68

Washington post. Fauci

Posted by: snake | Oct 13 2020 11:55 utc | 69

@David G | Oct 12 2020 18:39 utc | 21

a blog so devoted to furthering the global capitalist, ahem, narrative
Well thanks for showing your true colors, according to which it's all capitalism's fault
Capitalism is a system (that guarantees competiton), not a philosophy nor a religion.
Anybody who takes capitalism as a solution-for-everything needs to get their head examined, and you're free to criticize those.
However I don't see in the least how this would apply to this blog, so stop spewing BS here.

Posted by: michael | Oct 13 2020 12:16 utc | 70

Posted by: William Gruff | Oct 13 2020 11:54 utc | 68

Well, it makes me think of ghost dancers and cargo cults. Societies under stress or under attack invent various theories to keep them going, and ruling elites always try to maintain their position in the sinking ship (the high ground!) rather than really reform and try to save the ship. You only see that sort of adaptation in new vigorous societies not yet set in their ways. We aren't particularly special in that regard either.

Posted by: Bemildred | Oct 13 2020 12:20 utc | 71

This isn't just a problem with how society views gender. All "identity" issues result in the same degeneration of discourse and rejection of reason and rationality.


When somebody changes their name from Bradly to Chelsea. I say OK while you become unreasonable and irrational and try to blame/project your response on the rest of the world.

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 13 2020 12:31 utc | 74

Bemildred @71

Yes, it seems clear that the loss of economic vitality has left the US susceptible to this kind of deterioration in its culture.

Posted by: William Gruff | Oct 13 2020 12:44 utc | 75

Manning was tortured. People respond to torture in different ways, but rarely do they survive the experience without some kind of damage to their minds. If Manning's escape from that trauma involved convincing himself that he was someone different, then I'll not criticize that choice. I will not, however, agree that reality has changed because it was important for Manning to believe that reality had changed.

Posted by: William Gruff | Oct 13 2020 12:58 utc | 76

Eva Bartlett posted yesterday that the BBC was preparing a major smear piece against her, Vanessa Beeley, and others. That's the particularly damnable aspect of the MSM--not only does it merrily publish its own fanciful stories to push whatever agenda is paying the highest, but they are pretty fanatical about going after the few genuine journalists who dare to challenge them by publishing the truth. Same for the poor whistleblowers like Manning and Assange. They are no longer lauded, they are vilified (unless, of course, it's someone supplying dirt on a MSM target.

Posted by: J Swift | Oct 13 2020 13:00 utc | 77

@J Swift | Oct 13 2020 13:00 utc | 77

Eva Bartlett posted yesterday that the BBC was preparing a major smear piece against her, Vanessa Beeley, and others.

When media presstitutes are not content with posting their own lying propaganda, but have to smear real journalists as well, the situation has gone from bad to worse. It is especially bad when such activities are 'state financed' like the BBC.

Posted by: Norwegian | Oct 13 2020 13:31 utc | 78

The NYT does not normally print corrections when readers point them out. Back in the 1990's someone was working on publishing a book of letters the NYT had refused to print. They are corrupt to the core and comfortable with their deceptions, as long as they don't get caught. I know this from an unimpeachable source-- a cab driver; Thomas Friedman is not the only person they talk to.

Posted by: Edward | Oct 13 2020 14:02 utc | 79

Syl @Oct13 6:40 #59

Overall, I find that if I express my far-left conspiratorial views to my friends, it is awkward, and then unsettling if I press it further. I feel like maybe... I should let it all go. And pretend that I don't see these problems with our media and political structure in the U.S.

... Is there a place for folks like me, who aren't actionably revolutionary, but help spread the ideology? Does it even make a difference?

You have to realize that it's very difficult for people to break free from what Caitlin Johnstone calls the "narrative matrix". Very much like how people see the problems with Facebook but can't stop using it.

Most people simply want to categorize you. To put you into a "box". They will see you as partisan. Friend or foe.

IMO to connect with people requires more than just complaining (I'm not saying that's all you do, but that is what many will see it as). Complaining only elicits a counter response that is generally some whataboutism or personal defensiveness ("What do you want me to do about it?!?").

I think its best to start at the fundamental ideologies of the Empire: neoconservativism (a form of aristocracy), neoliberalism (a form of fascism), and zionism (a form of colonialism). This is the supremacist thinking of the Western power-elite.

I suggest that you learn as much as you can about these ideologies and how they are translated into policy.

PS I appreciate your kind words and I'm glad that you find what I write to be useful.


Posted by: Jackrabbit | Oct 13 2020 14:22 utc | 80

@J Swift | Oct 13 2020 13:00 utc | 77

Eva Bartlett posted yesterday that the BBC was preparing a major smear piece against her, Vanessa Beeley, and others.

Oh, goodie!
I noticed last night that BBC has re-opened the Anchor slot in BBC World TV News for their charming Antiques Roadshow antique, Fiona Bruce, part-time authenticator of 'newly discovered' dodgy works of art with convoluted "Looks like" provenance.

It'll be fun watching her (sincerely) smearing the authenticity of Vanessa Beeley et al. Let's hope she'll be tasked with putting in a plug for London's Syrian Observatory for sub-Human Rights, the OPCW, Navanii-Skripal-chok and Russia-meddling artiste, Peter Sztrock...

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Oct 13 2020 14:25 utc | 81

pessimist @18 - I would agree - although that half hour a day is hardly the only one put out by NPR. There is also and in many ways even more Orwellian/Goebbelsian: Marco Werman's World, a five day a week hour long broadcast on NPR also. It is made in conjunction with the Beeb World Service - notorious (surely???) for its propagandist reality.

Indeed I can't think of one program on NPR (well, perhaps Francis Lam's The Splendid Table...) that doesn't push the present, ongoing ruling elite (US-UK), MIC, secret agency line on everything. They - just like their sister PBS and relatives, CNN, MSDNC etc etc use, guess what, retired Generals (?!?), ex-whatever acronymic agency persona to lay it on thick for the slant of the story of the moment. Of course, that slant always, always avoids looking at, let alone scrutinizing, the abuses committed by the US-UK while megaphoning, repeatedly, what the powers that be have decided should be laid at Russia, China, Iran's door....

Altogether nauseating beyond belief. And as I've written before, if my late husband's former students and work colleagues are owt to go by, well (!!) believed by the expensively, well ed bourgeois Americans....

Posted by: Anne | Oct 13 2020 14:53 utc | 82

Thanks bigly for the pic of NYT HQ, b!
Couldn't help chuckling about the fact that the NYT tosses its truthiness stones from the lofty sanctuary of a Glass House.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Oct 13 2020 15:03 utc | 83

B's plea for real news as antidote to juicy stories seems to harken back to pre-post-modernist times when journalists regarded truth as objective and facts as quarry to be hunted- preferably in situ. Journalists like Seymour Hersch seem an anachronism today. The "individualist" style (and rugged at that!) does not carry contemporary cache.
Now it's all "story", possibly the most frequently used four letter noun in all media. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation loves this word "story"-so benevolent, so intimate, so empowering- and so versatile! With "stories" the ABC has a popular formula for manufacturing consent. The whole spectrum of Identity politics (I note David Brooks' further division-by generation) and "international community" values (like regime change and refugees) find their cultural validation, and neoliberal hegemony wears a smiley face. (The ABC wants you, dear listener/reader/viewer, to see a "reflection").
Personally, I think the story obsession is a product of the successful marketing of creative writing courses by western universities, whereby "creativity" has been anointed with a bona fides status which can then be applied to journalism.
Also culpable are humanities departments which promulgate "critical theory" but cannot teach it reflexively.
The nexus of the political and the ideological is a contested area. Gramsci developed his Marxist theories around this tension, and the nimble mind of Alistair Crooke has produced some pretty startling hypotheticals based on Gramscian Marxism in his recent essays.
I can't help thinking that Classical Marxism remains too attached to the scientific method and thus permanently elitist, while Trotskyism and its neocon and neolib avatars fight ideological battles on behalf of the western establishment across a wide "cultural war" front. (Jewish intelligentsia forming the vanguard). Gramsci's concept of state apparatuses has been subverted - or inverted, and despite the massive distrust, there doesn't seem to be any authentic proletarian voice in this struggle.

Posted by: Australian lady | Oct 13 2020 15:31 utc | 84

I understand where b is coming from as he overcomes our difficulties in the world at large by actually compiling 'all the news that's fit to print' and has done this week after week. I would disagree with some and say the rest of this blog is totally narrative, speaking of comments. b gives us the facts with a dash of opinion always slightly nuanced (like the sibyl) and we then run with it.

I am hoping this post comes because b senses the time is right to speak directly to all the mainstream media who have in these past months, years, days been swerved out of their usual paths into something resembling the early days of news operations, shallow propaganda at best - a huge effort still but under new masters. I like others used to respect the Times though I couldn't afford to take it regularly, both for its factual reporting and for its distinguishably fine in depth narration. This was back in the 20th century, a time fast fading from memory.

b is building a readership, and I hope that is a sign of better things to come for a despondent world. We are longer at this covid than we want to be, but we are getting through it. Stay safe everyone; we need you.

I get my news from this blog and the links provided here, better than anywhere else. Great respect for all who post even those with whom I differ. The variety of opinions in a world of black and white, pro and con,is appreciated greatly. And b's greatest attribute among many fine ones is his forbearance. Thank you, b.

Posted by: juliania | Oct 13 2020 15:50 utc | 85

"Dear news media. Please go back to providing real news."

Are you serious? When did the news media provide real news instead of bought and paid for propaganda? From Hearst's yellow press to the manufacture of consent for entry to WWI to selling the invasion of Iraq, please tell me when the news media did anything but lie.

Posted by: Biswapriya Purkayast | Oct 13 2020 15:56 utc | 86

Thanks, William Gruff @ 68. Your narrative could be broadened, and ought to be, to encompass other mainstream narratives as well. There have been times, for instance when - I'll call it a fetish - so fetish has been promoted as a cause celebre and folk have suddenly appeared out of the woodwork convinced in themselves that they are that and were victimized on this or that occasion in their childhood. They truly believe it and they are totally convincing to others. Media has such a power, or it had, hopefully less so these days. It takes a big shock, if one is habituated to finding truth in the accustomed place, for the mind to tell us 'hold on, better check that out.'

I'll make a broad statement and say that fewer people today haven't grown up with access to modern news outlets. Some of us older ones like me remember the days before television. I didn't see it till I was a teenager arriving in the US. My home country hadn't had it. When I returned there to visit ten years later they did, and the difference was like coming to a strange place. Family relationships had changed enormously in ways I no longer understood. Not just from being away ten years, but because of television. It's that powerful. And it's why I prefer to read news and narrative here more than to watch it. Because I remember when that was what you did.

A beautiful example, though, of what William Gruff is saying is something I watched some episodes of on television, PBS, that I felt was very fine - 'Last Tango in Halifax'*. At first I didn't like it,made me feel uncomfortable, so many episodes not watched, just the final few. Very glad I did watch those, as it caused me to think. We humans are a pitiable lot, but very lovable.
*final episode repeats tonight on PBS second channel

Posted by: juliania | Oct 13 2020 16:29 utc | 87

psychohistorian @6: I would also posit that control of the social narratives has always been part of the MSM.

I don't think it a coincidence that "democracy" with universal suffrage became the norm in Western nations after mass media had been established. With mass media as a means to condition and steer the population, universal suffrage became the most efficient form of governance. It is more efficient to print the newspapers yourself than to censor what some malcontent prints in his.

With the advent of the internet, enabling just about anyone with very little capital to reach a large audience, democracy seems to have become burdensome to our rulers, and I think it is bound to be phased out soon.

Posted by: Zweckpessimist | Oct 13 2020 16:29 utc | 88

The NYT lost its way in Florida c. 2000. It then proceeded to die a prolonged and horrible death in the forlorn wastes of Iraq. They were "proved fucking wrong" and really never recovered.

Posted by: Geoffrey Dewan | Oct 13 2020 17:31 utc | 89

@ syl... i hope you keep posting.. i enjoyed your few posts here today...

@ @J Swift | Oct 13 2020 13:00 utc | 77... thanks for that update... so true what you say as well... up is down and down is up in the present day msm...

Posted by: james | Oct 13 2020 17:56 utc | 90

Anne@82 PBS's funding was threatened repeatedly starting in the Regan era and especially in the '90s, mainly by Republicans, for being too critical of government policies. Under Bush II they completely retreated into a safe shell, eliminating any critical commentary or tone from their news operations. "The World" is indeed a propaganda show. All their international reporters are captured serfs that owe their jobs to State and the CIA. A shame, but that's how it is.

Posted by: the pessimist | Oct 13 2020 18:12 utc | 91

"The root cause of the problem is the way in which the Times, as well as other news media, try to change from news providers to narrative creators"

That horse left the stable many, many decades ago.

'Frederic Remington, an artist hired by Hearst to provide illustrations to accompany a series of articles on the Cuban Revolution, soon became bored with seemingly peaceful Cuba and wired Hearst in January 1897:

"Everything is quiet. There is no trouble. There will be no war. I wish to return." To which Hearst's alleged reply was: "Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war."'

And lo, it came to pass that war occurred - via the conventiently timed explosion on the USS Maine.

Posted by: Ken Garoo | Oct 13 2020 18:39 utc | 92

Dear b,
I would recommend following Matt Taibbi's many talks on the subject of the changing economics of news.
His point is that having a small number of fanatic readers via ever more picayune focus is more reliable revenue than attempting widespread factual reporting.
The numbers I've seen support this.
As Rob Lowe noted in an interview with Joe Rogan: Lowe's break was as a teenager/child star in the worst rated TV program on the air - but that this program had far more audience than the top rated show today.
This type of audience fracture is irreversible and its economic consequences cannot be reversed by something simplistic like factual reporting.

Posted by: c1ue | Oct 13 2020 19:00 utc | 93

@the pessimist #94
It is naive to think that PBS is any better than other entertainment channels or shows.
NPR, for example, has been bought for just $17.5 million into providing seamlessly positive coverage for the Gates foundation: Columbia Journalism Review on NPR and Gates foundation
Republicans have a valid point: NPR, PBS and similar government supported shows are universally supportive of views that aren't shared by even both mainstream political parties, rather just one.
Nor is the argument that these shows are "objective", particularly convincing given both their audience profiles and their content.
Not that I advocate elimination of government funding of these institutions - but rather highlighting that politics is very much a part of that discussion.

Posted by: c1ue | Oct 13 2020 19:05 utc | 94

c1ue@97 you completely misunderstand my post and I was including NPR under the PBS umbrella. Too busy now to fuss about it.

Posted by: the pessimist | Oct 13 2020 19:20 utc | 95

In the 1930s, the Pecora report on corporations and economic collapse pointed uot that newspapers were basically full of lies except for the business and sports sections because people took action based on their reporting.

Posted by: Kaleberg | Oct 13 2020 22:36 utc | 96

It is also significant that recently the former chief whatever of that US imperial megaphone, VOA, became the chief whatever of NPR.

Mind - I'm not saying that NPR or its sister PBS have only recently become propaganda arms of the DC politicos and their chums (both meanings) the money bags, and the MIC in their imperialist, we are the exceptionals, endeavors. I seriously doubt that however nicely varnished the Newspeak was before I began listening to/watching them in the late 1980s, the reality is that they have rarely been other than propagandist. And that propaganda definitely takes more pro-Blue Face line than Red-Face, certainly over the past twenty years. But at bottom it is always: the US is a "force for world good," "we have a (right) to dominate the world, tell others what to do," "it's countries like Russia, China, Iran, Cuba etc., etc., that are human rights' abusers."

Indeed on Fresh Air yesterday Davies interviewed Fareed Zakaria about his new book. I initially turned to the classical music station but didn't like what was broadcast so turned back. Of course, to give the impression that Zakaria (and NPR) are neutral, objective, he did make some criticisms of the US (mostly concerning domestic realities). But he said - word for word - that Russia was a dictatorship, that China was becoming very aggressive with a large military da da da da. And Davies did NOT ask Zakaria to explain why he said any of that. No. And absolutely NO mention, nary a hint that the USA is aggressive on the world stage (let alone THE most aggressive nation).

All taken as a given. As much of the audience would as well.

Posted by: Anne | Oct 14 2020 12:40 utc | 97

No. You can't have the news without a narrative. Even the most rigorously fact-checked reporting exists within a narrative. We may wish for rigorous fact-checking, but we should not imagine that rigorous fact-checking avoids the narrative.

Providing the "real news" you imagine is not going back. Yellow journalism is as old as journalism. Narrative-weaving is the original journalism. Before the 19th century, how much "fact-checking" could a journalist do when reporting facts from the other side of an ocean or even a hundred miles away? The facts were always sparse, and the narrative was always most of the story.

Posted by: Martin Brock | Oct 26 2020 13:52 utc | 98

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