Adam Johnson

Maybe rich liberals don’t hate Sanders because they fear he can’t win — but because they’re rich

NYT: Stop Sanders Democrats Are Agonizing Over His Momentum

Why does the New York Times take rich liberals at their word that their concern with Bernie Sanders is that he would lose to Trump, rather than the obvious, glaring fact that his election would run counter to their interests?

The New York Times (4/16/19) profiled a network of “wealthy liberal donors” who, shockingly, are not fans of Bernie Sanders, who according to the same report has rejected their big-bundler funding and instead opted for small donations. (The Timesreported the same day that 84 percent of Sanders’ donations are less than $200; by contrast, only 37 percent of Kamala Harris’ donations are.)

That a network of multi-millionaire and billionaire donors would dislike a candidate who not only rejects their funding, but is actively trying to tax them at rates not seen since 1960, would surely be enough reason to explain why these wealthy elites would want to “stop” his nomination. But not to the credulous New York Times, which takes at face value rich donors’ claim to oppose Sanders because they believe he simply can’t defeat Trump:

Mainstream Democrats are increasingly worried that their effort to defeat President Trump in 2020 could be complicated by Mr. Sanders….

“Some in the party still harbor anger over the 2016 race, when he ran against Hillary Clinton, and his ongoing resistance to becoming a Democrat. But his critics are chiefly motivated by a fear that nominating an avowed socialist would all but ensure Mr. Trump a second term.”

For the wealthy, ideology simply doesn’t exist. No, they’re just Very Concerned about fielding the Best Candidate.

Because it would be unseemly to suggest a group of super-rich hedge fund managers, Hollywood producers and CEOs would dislike a candidate who has made a career out of promising to expropriate the bulk of their wealth, we get a faux pragmatism argument. But polls show Sanders defeating Trump with numbers comparable to any other declared candidate—a fact the New York Times never bothers to mention, letting the idea go unchallenged that “socialist” (!!) Sanders is an electoral liability. The simpler, less altruistic motive is simply never entertained.

It’s a variation on the Inexplicable Republican Best Friend trope FAIR previously documented (2/26/19): Instead of assuming that lifelong conservatives may just prefer more conservative politicians, progressive-bashing GOP pundits are propped up as neutral observers simply looking out for the Democratic Party. Just the same, super-wealthy Democratic donors can’t oppose Sanders because they simply prefer more centrist, pro-Wall Street candidates; they must have a sincere, pragmatic concern he would lose the general election.

Throughout the article, the TimesJonathan Martin bizarrely used “mainstream Democrats” and “Democrats” to refer to what is little more than a clique of wealthy donors. “Mainstream Democrats are increasingly worried” he tells us.  “Stopping Mr. Sanders,” he added, “or at least preventing a contentious convention, could prove difficult for Democrats.”

But why would “Democrats” want to “stop Mr. Sanders”? Sanders has a 78 percent favorability rating among Democrats and leads every poll among declared candidates. Martin is, of course, not talking about “Democrats” or “mainstream Democrats”; he’s talking about rich donors. But because it would be vulgar to mention their obvious class interests, they morph into simply “Democrats” without explanation.

Rufus Gifford

Oddly, the New York Times article about the “stop Sanders” movement has three photos, none of which show anyone from the Stop Sanders movement. This is Rufus Gifford’s Twitter image.

The idea that the interests of millionaire film producer Rufus Gifford—who’s heavily quoted in the article as a stand-in for “Democrats”—would run counter to those of the average voter is glossed over entirely. Why would guy who made Daddy Day Care and Doctor Dolittle 2 be given a voice by the Times instead of, say, literally any random person picked off the street?

Martin then advances the curious construction that super-wealthy donors blatantly conspiring to prevent Sanders from winning the nomination––and even resorting to undemocratic superdelegates at the Democratic National Convention to do so—“plays into the hands” of Sanders:

Mr. Gifford, who has gone public in recent days with his dismay over major Democratic fundraisers remaining on the sidelines, said of Mr. Sanders, “I feel like everything we are doing is playing into his hands.”

But doing out in the open the thing Sanders says Democrats do isn’t “playing into his hands”; it’s true that it affirms his core ideological proposition, that the wealthy have too much political power, but what it mainly is is the wealthy using that power against him.

A similar gambit is used when liberal publications hand-wring that Trump and Rubio openly threatening and planning to invade Venezuela “plays into Maduro’s hands,” and that’s why it’s bad. In fact, it’s bad because the things being discussed, invasion and coup-mongering, are bad things—and they’re not “playing into Maduro’s hands,” they’re actual threats to the sovereignty and lives of those in Venezuela.

Trying to distract attention from the sinister thing happening before everyone’s eyes by commenting that it has some meta, second-order effect of increasing left-wing paranoia is an attempt to smear the left for correctly calling the sky blue.

Rich donor broker and Clinton-hatchet man David Brock, in the very last line of the article, attempts this sleight-of-hand again:

“You can see him reading the headlines now,” Mr. Brock mused: “‘Rich people don’t like me.’”

Simply drawing attention to the fact that a bunch of wealthy donors affirms Sanders primary argument for running doesn’t make it go away. It’s a writer’s trick, and one the New York Times passes off without criticism: LOL Isn’t it ironic we’re doing that bad, evil thing Sanders says rich donors do?

Wait, what? No, it’s just bad, in and of itself. The piece is openly floating a conspiracy of wealthy donors seeking to undermine a democratic process, then laughing it off something that could be mistaken for the actual bad thing it is. Meanwhile, the self-evident fact that rich donors dislike Sanders because he runs counter to their interests is ignored in favor of a child-like fantasy that they oppose him simply because they’re looking out for the best interests of the party.

To the Times, the rich have no ideology, no beliefs, no self interest; this is reserved instead for Sanders “embolden[ed],” “fervent supporters,” whose desire to defeat Trump is presented as at best incidental.

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‘Renouncing violence’ is a demand made almost exclusively of Muslims in the New York Times

Adam Johnson

NYT: Israel Needs to Protect Its Borders By Whatever Means Necessary

A FAIR survey of the phrase “renounce violence” in the New York Times over the past 10 years shows that 95 percent of the time the demand is made of Muslim organizations, people or political parties, the most prominent being the Taliban and Hamas. There are zero instances of anyone in the Times—whether reporters quoting officials or columnists—from March 28, 2009, to March 28, 2019, insisting or suggesting that the United States, Israel or any white-majority country “renounce violence.”

Almost half—48 percent—of the instances of “renounce violence” in the New York Times during the time period asserted that Palestinians “refused” to “renounce violence.” This was typically signaled with an umbrella label of “Hamas,” with varying degrees of specificity. Roughly a third of those said to not “renounce” violence were either Afghan or Iraqi insurgency groups fighting American military occupation. Thus, roughly 80 percent of the time, the term was evoked to describe people under military control of Israel or the US.

Of the 58 examples found of the phrase in the Times from 2009 to present day, only three instances expressed a demand that non-Muslims “renounce violence”: The Czech government (12/22/09) threatening to ban the Communist Party; Turkish criticism (7/29/10) of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a secular Communist party, though Kurds are mostly Muslim; and a report (2/5/17) on Obama’s commutation of Oscar López Rivera that noted the longtime Puerto Rican independence advocate “refused to renounce violence.”

The complete list can be viewed here. The New York Times was selected as the focus of the study due to its position as the US’s most influential newspaper.

It’s not clear why no reporters, columnists or experts quoted ever felt the need to ask the White House or the Pentagon, or any of their friendly allies in Britain, Israel, Saudi Arabia or Turkey, if they would “renounce violence.” The expectation that a party should refuse to engage in armed activity as a means of exerting political influence was almost exclusively reserved for those under military occupation from Western forces or their Middle Eastern allies.

NYT: Why Won't Mandela Renounce Violence?

“In sharp contrast to Dr. King, Mr. Mandela continues to call for an ‘armed struggle,'” a 1990 New York Times op-ed (6/21/90) complained.

Before the time frame of the survey, South African leader Nelson Mandela was often scolded in the Times opinion pages for refusing to unilaterally reject violence. “Why Won’t Mandela Renounce Violence?” asked a June 21, 1990, op-ed by congressional aide David G. Sanders. There’s no evidence in the Times archives that South Africa’s apartheid government was ever asked the same question.

For decades, Amnesty International infamously refused to label Mandela a Prisoner of Conscience because he wouldn’t formally pledge to refrain from violence—a rather precious, morally boutique demand Amnesty requires of all of its Third World causes. In the Western liberal mind, we can name oppressors, but never support those actually fighting them, instead demanding the oppressed unilaterally refuse the single most ubiquitous political tool in history—that of violence.

There are also instances prior to the survey period of the phrase being applied to white people—when they were also under Western occupation. From the 1970s to the 1990s, the Times made several mentions of Irish resistance fighters under the British occupation of Northern Ireland “refusing to renounce violence.” In this context, as well, there was no mention of Britain’s refusal to do so.

NYT: Britain Debates Riots and Fears They Set a Pattern

Vows by Muslim and Sikh groups to “fight  back” against anyone who threatened their neighborhoods prompted the New York Times (8/10/11) to highlight a call to “renounce violence.”

During the 10-year survey period, other than Czech Communists and López Rivera, the only people in the West needing to “renounce violence” were Muslims—in a bit of editorializing during the 2011 London riots from Times reporters John Burns and Ravi Somaiya (8/10/11), suggesting the father of a person who had died during the unrest was appealing “for all in the community to renounce violence.” The community in question, according to the Times? London’s “Muslim populations.”

Hamas is regularly said, almost like it’s required by the Times style guide, to be failing this arbitrary moral test. Pro-Israel columnist Roger Cohen has evoked the phrase three times since 2009. The “refusal to denounce violence” box-checking was especially popular with Times Jerusalem chief Jodi Rudoren, who used the cliche five times in 2014 alone in reference to Hamas—the same year Israel’s violence killed 1,500 Palestinian civilians, including 523 children. During that same conflict, “Hamas violence” claimed the lives of six Israeli civilians. At no point in her coverage during this time did Rudoren mention that the IDF had, like Hamas, refused to “renounce violence”—and were exceedingly more efficient at carrying it out.

Demanding Iraqi or Afghan insurgents or Hamas “renounce violence” is, of course, a defensible moral stance. One could argue that their religious-infused militancy is reactionary or counter-productive. (Just this month, thousands of Palestinians protested Hamas in Gaza.)

But that’s not really the issue here. The issue is the wholly selective and loaded manner in which this burden is applied. Why should only these groups—Muslim 95 percent of the time—“renounce violence,” but the US and its allies never have to? What makes the West’s arbitrary, violent occupations per se justified, while less sophisticated counter-occupations who refuse to go full Gandhi are committing a profound moral transgression? There is no sense to it, other than serving a lazy, racist rhetorical tic. Ask Muslims to “renounce violence,” by all means, but maybe, at least every now and then, ask non-Muslim militants to do so as well.

Featured image: New York Times depiction (5/14/18) of the Great Return March in Gaza, which the Times reported “turned violent” when Israeli forces killed 28 demonstrators.

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NYT Trumpwashes 70 Years of U.S. Crimes

The New York Times reports that Donald Trump “holds a radically different view of the United States’ role in the world than most of his predecessors,” citing his lack of interest in “the rules-based postwar international order.”

Trumpwashing—defined as whitewashing, obscuring or rewriting the broader US record by presenting Donald Trump as an aberration (FAIR.org, 6/3/16)—was on full display Thursday in a nominally straight news report from the New York Times’ Mark Landler (12/28/17) on how Trump has reshaped US foreign policy. Buried in the otherwise banal analysis was this gem of US imperial agitprop:

Above all, Mr. Trump has transformed the world’s view of the United States from a reliable anchor of the liberal, rules-based international order into something more inward-looking and unpredictable. That is a seminal change from the role the country has played for 70 years, under presidents from both parties, and it has lasting implications for how other countries chart their futures.

There’s lots of ideology to unpack here, but let’s start with the empirically false assertion that the “world” viewed the United States as a “reliable anchor of the liberal, rules-based international order.” Poll (Guardian, 6/15/06) after poll (Pew, 3/14/07) after poll (PRI, 1/3/14) throughout the years has shown that much of the world views the United States as threat to peace, often taking the top spot as the single greatest threat. What evidence Landler has for the world viewing the US as a sort of good-natured global babysitter is unclear, as he cites nothing to support this hugely important claim (since if Trump’s cynical disregard for “human rights” is nothing new, then there’s no real story here). It’s just thrown out with the assumption the Times readership is sufficiently nationalistic and/or amnesiac to either not notice or not care. It’s designed to flatter, not to elucidate.

The US invasion of Iraq in defiance of international rules.

The second dubious assertion is the idea that the US is “viewed” as being (or, by implication, objectively is) concerned with “liberal, rules-based international order.” Perhaps Landler missed the part where the US runs offshore penal colonies for untried political prisoners, and a decade-long drone war that’s killed thousands—both entirely outside the scope of international law. Or the time the US invaded and destroyed Iraq without any international authorization, killing hundreds of thousands. Or perhaps he missed the part where the United States refuses to sign “liberal, rules-based international order” treaties such as the International Criminal Court or the ban on bombs and or a prohibition on nuclear weapons. Or the part where the US not only doesn’t recognize the International Criminal Court, but has a law on its books (dubbed “the Hague Invasion Act,” passed in 2002) that if an American is ever held by the ICC for committing war crimes, the US is obligated to literally invade the Hague and free them.

And this is just in the past 15 years. Landler starts the clock in 1947, which would include dozens of non-“liberal,” non-“rules-based” coups, invasions, bombing campaigns, assassinations, extrajudicial murders and so forth. The number of actions carried out by the US not sanctioned by even the thinnest pretext of “international order” is too long to list.

What exactly is this “liberal, rules-based international order,” and when did the world view the United States as its most reliable anchor? Landler doesn’t say, he simply asserts this highly contestable and ideological claim, and moves on to pearl-clutch about Trump ruining the US’s hard-won moral authority. He has some 100 percent uncut pro-US ideology to push under the guise of criticizing Trump, and no amount of basic historical facts will get in his way.

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