August 14, 2000
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The business section of this morning's New York Times carries a front page story attacking John Stossel, a correspondent for ABC News who dares to question the big-government view that is otherwise dominant in the mainstream press. The story claims that Mr. Stossel "is given the sort of freedom no other ABC reporter has: though not labeled a commentator, he is allowed to take a point of view and report stories based on that point of view." This is, of course, ridiculous: plenty of other stories on ABC News express a point of view.
But since the Times has raised the subject of "point of view," let's have a look at the Times' own story and see if we can detect a point of view there. Take this sentence describing Mr. Stossel, for example: "An unabashed libertarian, he has argued that greed is good for the economy; that environmentalists are 'scaremongers' with vastly overblown fears of global warming and pollution, and, even, that seat belts in school buses are a waste of money." The use of the word "unabashed" is a classic, reminiscent of the Times story a few weeks ago that described a rent-raising Park Slope landlord as "unrepentant." The use of the word unabashed suggests that, from the point of view of those writing the article, Mr. Stossel should be abashed. Then there is the phrase "he has argued that greed is good for the economy." This is like saying a geography professor "has argued that the Earth is round." Of course greed is good for the economy; the whole capitalist system is based on the idea that people want to make more money. Then there is the use of the word "even" before the phrase about seat belts and school buses. "Even" is almost always a word that reporters use to nudge readers with the effect of saying "wow, catch this, this guy is really an extremist." Smartertimes.com rode to school and even summer camp in buses without seat belts -- even without lap belts, let alone shoulder harnesses -- and we even emerged into adulthood unscathed.
And there's even more evidence of the Times's point of view on this story. Here's additional description of Mr. Stossel: "He evolved into a true believer in the free market and came to believe that advocates and the media were unnecessarily scaring consumers." There you have it: not just a believer in the free market, but a "true believer," in the words of Eric Hoffer, author of the 1951 book by that name -- a fanatic.
Mr. Stossel's great crime is to have made a mistake on the air, a mistake he has since corrected. Of course, the Times makes mistakes, too. Like, back in June, it misspelled Walter Olson's name, and had to run a correction in the June 7 issue of the newspaper. The correction said: "An article on Sunday about Fred Baron, the incoming president of the Association of Trial Lawyers and a fund-raiser for Vice President Al Gore, misspelled the surname of Gov. George W. Bush's adviser on tort reform, who has criticized Mr. Baron. He is Walter Olson, not Olsen."
Yet today's Times article about Mr. Stossel's allegedly careless reporting makes the same spelling error that the Times already corrected once in June, referring to "Walter Olsen, of the libertarian-oriented Manhattan Institute." And while Mr. Olson has a libertarian streak, it would be an overstatement to call the Manhattan Institute "libertarian-oriented." While the Institute has a healthy respect for civil liberties, it has been an engine behind and supporter of the sorts of police order-maintenance activities -- such as crackdowns on fireworks, gangs and people sleeping on sidewalks -- that drive libertarians crazy.
Wrong on California: A New York Times editorial this morning about California is so wrong in so many ways that it's hard to know where to start. "Along with other Republican-backed measures aimed at overturning bilingual education and affirmative action, Proposition 187 drove a whole generation of Hispanics into the Democratic fold," the editorial claims. Yet grassroots Hispanics -- not the education and civil rights industry -- overwhelmingly opposed bilingual education the way it was being implemented in California before the referendum to change the system was passed. As Ron Unz wrote in his November 1999 Commentary article, the anti-bilingual education ballot measure started in Los Angeles when a small group of Latino parents began a public boycott of their local elementary school because they wanted their children to learn English. Polls showed overwhelming Hispanic support for having their children learn in English, and the ballot measure was supported by teacher Jaime Escalante of "Stand and Deliver" fame.
The editorial also blames the Republicans for allegedly "anti-immigrant" sentiments: "Where once Ronald Reagan rhapsodized about America being a shining city on a hill, Pete Wilson now wanted to build a moat around it." As the Unz article points out, the California Democrats have had just as bad a record on immigration issues: Senator Boxer called for the construction of a border fence between America and Mexico, to be patrolled by the California National Guard, while Senator Feinstein called for massive cuts in legal immigration, along with annual fingerprinting of American citizens and mandatory national identity cards.
Rockland's Identity Crisis: A feature in the metro section of today's New York Times discusses the "identity crisis" of Rockland County, New York. "Upstate New Yorkers think of Rockland County as downstate, while downstate New Yorkers think about it as upstate, if they think about it at all. Many know it simply as the first rest stop after crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge: Rockland, New Jersey." Well, in that last camp, put the New York Times company. While today's article doesn't mention it, the Times on Sundays delivers to its Rockland County subscribers its weekly New Jersey section, even though the county is situated in New York state.
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