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Friday
October 30, 2020

Diary of April 17, 2020

Many a time and oft have I written in days of old of the media’s lack of self-awareness, their apparent blindness to their own dishonesty and corruption. Like King Lear, they have ever but slenderly known themselves; and, like King Lear, they have finally been brought to the point of self-destruction through the want of self-knowledge. The latest example comes with the very different treatment given by the media in general and The New York Times in particular of allegations of sexual misconduct against Joe Biden compared with their treatment of such allegations against Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. The Times, at least, had enough of a conscience about the disparity to feel that some accounting had to be made for the fact that it delayed for more than two weeks any reporting of the allegation by Tara Reade, a former Biden staffer from his days in the senate, that he sexually assaulted her in 1993. So it sent its crack media reporter, Ben Smith, to interview the editor, Dean Baquet, about it.

The result, published under the heading: “The Times Took 19 Days to Report an Accusation Against Biden. Here’s Why,”  is good for a laugh by anyone less invested than the Times itself in its ongoing efforts to promote Democrats while ruining Republicans with stories mislabeled as “news.” To his credit, Mr Smith asks Mr Baquet not only about the delay and the contrast with the paper’s treatment of Justice Kavanaugh but also about numerous indications in the story itself of skepticism on the part of the reporters’ (Lisa Lerer and Sydney Ember)  about the truthfulness of Ms Reade’s claims (including a gratuitous mention of the fact that “filing a false police report may be punishable by a fine and imprisonment”) and the fact that the Times had removed a reference to other claims of sexually inappropriate behavior against the former vice president at the request of the Biden campaign.

All of Mr Baquet’s answers to these questions are so disingenuous as to be obvious, you would think, to a child, though of course they are not treated as such by Mr Smith. But the money-question comes when he asks: “Do you think that, in your heart, you’re reluctant to promote a story that would hurt Joe Biden and get Donald Trump re-elected?” Hm. Maybe just a hint of a scruple of a dram of a soupçon of such reluctance? Go on, admit it, Dean! Your fanatically anti-Trump readers won’t care, and who needs any others? But Dean Tightlips ain’t admittin’ to nothin’, see?

I can’t make that calculation. I won’t. I won’t let my head or my heart go there. I think once you start making those kinds of calculations, you are not a journalist anymore. You’re some sort of political actor.

Bingo! The exact reverse of the truth is there for all to see. It’s by not making those kinds of calculations and so allowing for your own bias that, like Mr Baquet, you cease being a journalist and become “some sort of political actor” instead. How anyone can take seriously anything this man or his paper says after this is beyond me.

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The Tara Reade story prompted several other agonized reflections by opinion columnists who were particularly vehement against Justice Kavanaugh and who couldn’t but notice their own very different feelings when similar charges were lodged against Mr Biden. But the one by Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post  takes the biscuit:

What to make of former Joe Biden staffer Tara Reade’s allegations that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee sexually assaulted her in 1993? This is a difficult and important question — not least for those who were persuaded by Christine Blasey Ford’s assertion that then-Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were high school students in the 1980s. Indeed, it’s a difficult and important question for me, as someone who not only expressed alarm about Ford’s allegations at the time but also wrote a book that concluded she was telling the truth, and that the flawed, rushed investigation meant Kavanaugh’s tenure “will forever have an asterisk attached.” This column represents a good-faith effort to grapple with the seriousness of, and flaws in, the Reade allegations. My conclusion is that while Ford’s allegations are on balance stronger, those who took Ford’s complaints seriously cannot simply dismiss Reade’s claims out of hand. I don’t think what Reade claimed happened, yet the evidence is murky.

Bet no one could have seen that one coming. It seems that, just as calling someone a liar is often a “tell” that you are lying yourself, so calling something “a good-faith effort” is likely to be the prelude to a whitewash. So it seems that a man shall have his life and reputation ruined, or not, on the balance of probabilities as assessed by the “good-faith efforts” of one R. Marcus? How can she pretend that there is the slightest equity or justice about such a doctrine? Only because the rest of the media can rely on these and similar “good-faith efforts” coming out the right way: anti-Kavanaugh and pro-Biden.



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