This week the New York Times did something very smart when it ran an op-ed by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton urging the use of the military to quell looting and violence in the streets of America. This is a position that at least one poll found is supported by 58 percent of the population, though quite possibly held by only a small number of regular Times readers.
But that’s the job of an editorial page at a newspaper that purports to be the one of record, right? To give readers an understanding of a wide swath of mainstream opinion. This time though, progressive backlash ensued, prompting a simpering Twitter explanation from James Bennet, the page’s editor.
It all began with Cotton’s piece, a straightforward defense of using the military as a force multiplier to help police contain riots that have led to multiple deaths, including of police. No sooner had the bundles of papers dropped with a thud outside bodegas than the left started an epic freak-out about how inappropriate the piece is. Reader pushback is to be expected though.
What isn’t to be expected, except maybe at the Times, is for the writers in their own newsroom to denounce the publishing of the essay as racist, or offensive, or whatever the ism de jour is. Per multiple reports, the Times staff had yet another freak-out over the idea that a meanie conservative was given space in their precious paper.
Bennet dutifully took to Twitter to explain in a thread, and an insult to Cotton, why he sullied himself and the paper with this fascistic take on using the military in America’s cities. A position, by the way, that was endorsed by Democratic Congressman Max Rose. Rather than stand by the work, Bennet folded.
I want to explain why we published the piece today by Senator Tom Cotton. https://t.co/GvWwf7i0Wu
— James Bennet (@JBennet) June 3, 2020
A few years ago, I attended a speech by former police commissioner Ray Kelley in which he described being invited to give a speech on a college campus, having the speech loudly protested and then watching the guy who invited him apologize to the crowd with Kelley standing right there. You could hear his anger long after the event. You don’t have to be an Irish guy from the neighborhood to know that isn’t how you treat a guest.
But this is no surprise to most writers on the right, even those of us who have graced the Gray Lady’s pages. There is all but a “conservatives need not apply” sign strapped to their shingle. Oh, its fine if a conservative wants to trash the excesses of his own side, but if they want to actually defend conservatism they either get a dial tone, or if, like Cotton, they manage to get it past the goalie, outrage from staff, readers, and eventual rebuke.
It is extremely tiresome. In recent days, there have been dystopic videos of white people en masse kneeling before black people and chanting confessions for their race. It seems like a metaphor for meetings between Times staff and the editorial board, the latter always begging forgiveness. It’s sad and pathetic. And it absolutely belies the notion that the Times is doing anything even remotely like giving a fair hearing to all sides.
If the New York Times wants to become the journal of contemporary Cultural Marxism (the 1619 Project was a great start), that’s fine, but tell us. Make it clear. I mean, it’s clear anyway, but don’t insult us and your readers by pretending otherwise.
There was nothing wrong with Tom Cotton’s op-ed. A justification for running it did not need to be given. The fact that one was is an insult not only to the author but to the millions of Americans who share his views. There is no place it seems for those views in the New York Times, at least not without an asterisk of disapproval tweeted by the editor who asked for the piece in the first place.