October 17, 2000
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In a generally admiring obituary of a genuinely evil person, the New York Times today pays its final respects to Gus Hall, the leader of the American Communist Party. It tells of Hall's "hearty, unpretentious manner." It describes Hall as an "unmistakably American comrade, an authentic product of the working class, nearer in spirit to Joe Sixpack, it seemed, than to Joe Stalin." It describes Hall as "rock-jawed and barrel-chested," as having "the powerful hands of the lumberjack and steelworker he had been in his youth." It says Hall was "simple in his tastes and habits."
The Times lets Hall off way too easily. He was a Soviet Communist agent who took orders directly from Moscow, and the American Communist Party was a front for an enemy regime that allowed no freedom of religion or of the press and that either murdered political dissidents or shipped them off to work camps in Siberia. The Times takes an agnostic position on Hall's ties to the Soviet regime, writing that "Although Mr. Hall insisted that the American Communist Party was an independent organization, in 1992 the Moscow daily Izvestia reported that Mr. Hall had been the recipient of $40 million in Soviet assistance between 1971 and 1990." This is almost comical: The Times relying on Izvestia, rather than on independent American scholars or the Venona papers, for information on the ties between Hall and the Soviet regime.
As for Hall's allegedly simple tastes, the Times omits any reference to the lawsuit against the American Communist Party filed by Angela Davis and Herbert Aptheker seeking part of the Communist party's property in America, which consisted mainly of various summer camps valued at about $60 million. Davis lost because the deeds to the properties were mainly in Hall's name, an astute Smartertimes.com reader recalls, wondering who owns those properties now.
Gays in the Department of Defense: An article in the metro section of today's Times mis-states the Department of Defense's policy on hiring gays. The article reports on a protest of the appearance at New York University Law School of a recruiter from the Army's Judge Advocate General's Corps. The Times article says that "the law school has barred military recruiters because the Defense Department refuses to employ men or women who are openly gay." Similarly, a photo cutline that runs alongside the article reports that "The law school had barred recruiters for 22 years because the Defense Department will not hire openly gay students." In fact, the ban on gays in the military applies only to the uniformed services, of which the Army's Judge Advocate General's Corps are a part. The ban does not apply to civilian employees of the Defense Department. The Navy, which is part of the Defense Department, even has a formal policy prohibiting discrimination against civilian employees on the basis of sexual orientation.
The same Times article reports that at NYU, "If there was any dissension from the protest, it was not visible yesterday." This sets a new low for the Times as far as balance goes. In order to have their views expressed in a news article, opponents of banning representatives of the American military from college campuses must be "visible." Agree or disagree with the ban on gays in the military, refusing to let recruiters on campus seems an extreme response. We're sure that the law school allows in recruiters for law firms who represent all sorts of clients more loathsome than the U.S. military: criminal defendants, foreign dictatorships, corporate polluters, etc. And since when is agreement with a company's policies a requirement for allowing a representative of the company to appear on campus? NYU students are going to live a pretty sheltered existence if this policy is taken to its logical conclusion. Again, you get none of these free-speech arguments or worse-evil arguments from the Times article, just a lot of fulminating from self-righteous law professors and a male law student who is described as wearing "a golden tiara and a black feather boa." Maybe the arguments weren't included because they weren't "visible." Well, certainly they weren't as visible as the guy in the tiara and the black feather boa.
"Everyone Knows": In a news headline today, the Times corrects its editorial of October 13. The October 13 editorial said, "Mr. Barak seems prepared to do what he can to halt the bloodshed. Mr. Arafat has shown no such inclination in recent days, even though everyone knows he can break the cycle of conflict." The Times headline today in the international section is "Can Arafat Turn It Off? That's an Open Question." Oh really, it's an open question. Well, someone ought to get word over to the Times editorial writers, who seem to think it is a question that "everyone knows" the answer to.
Million Family March: A story in the national section of today's Times reports on a rally in Washington held by Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. Which treatment do you think the Times gives to the Farrakhan rally? Was it the treatment it gave last Thursday's pro-Israel rally in New York, in which three paragraphs of the story are reserved for balancing comments from a person with an opposing point of view? Or was it the treatment is gave last Friday's anti-Israel rally in New York, in which no balancing comments were included? You guessed it, today's dispatch from Washington includes no one to suggest that Daniel Ortega, who appeared at the rally, is an evil Communist like Gus Hall, or that the Jews that Rev. Farrakhan trotted out at the rally do not represent the views of the mainstream of the American Jewish community. With the exception of a phrase or two, the Times dispatch could have come from the Nation of Islam's own organ, the Final Call.
Wrong Name: A dispatch from Lebanon that runs in the international section of today's Times misspells the name of an Israeli electronics company. The firm's name is Tadiran, not, as the Times renders it, "Tadrian."
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