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New York Times: Walter Duranty Syndrome



James Risen writes for this paper. Bari Weiss resigned from it. Risen told the Times what he thinks, and it is not pretty. More recently, Sarah Palin sued this paper for libel.

How does one diagnose Walter Duranty Syndrome? A news organ publishes a report at wild variance with the facts as others understand them. When those others challenge that report, the editors hiss back, “We s-s-stand by our s-s-story!” Such an organ suffers from Walter Duranty Syndrome. That disease afflicts The New York Times. How appropriate! After all, Walter Duranty worked for The New York Times. And today, the Times has another Walter Duranty as a bureau chief.

The New York Times then and now

The New York Times has preferred leftist politics at least since Franklin D. Roosevelt. That is how Walter Duranty could write thirteen articles extolling Josef Stalin, and the Times would publish them without question. (I could say the same for the Pulitzer Prize Board, but that’s beyond scope here.)

On December 28, David Kirkpatrick, Cairo bureau chief for The New York Times, wrote this piece on the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. In it Kirkpatrick reprised two narratives that no one believes anymore:

  1. Local militia members attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, over a fifteen-minute trailer for a movie no one produced, and
  2. Those local militias have nothing to do with Al Qaeda.

Naturally those who had been closest to Ambassador Stevens, and others who talked to them, disputed this report. And for good reason.

So how did The New York Times answer their critics?

By saying they stood by their story, and anyone who dared criticize it was insane.

The New York Times: suffused with Walter Duranty Syndrome

The New York Times, November 11, 1918. Photo: New York Times Archive.

Their official editorial repeated Kirkpatrick’s main points. In so doing they revealed their bias. They spoke of “an American-made video denigrating Islam.” (The producer is a Copt who happens to live in America.) That choice of words suggests The New York Times has already decided that:

  1. The video truly does blacken the name of Islam, and
  2. The producer shouldn’t have done that.

The New York Times tells the world it is an objective news organ. That is not an objective statement. It is a normative one.

But the Times goes further. They imply all their critics are Republicans. At least one Democratic Member of Congress also found fault with the Kirkpatrick report. Never mind. The Times wants to keep it simple. And what’s wrong with Republicans? They:

  1. Are irrational, and
  2. Are obsessed and compelled to destroy their present and likely opponents.

Andrew M. Rosenthal is the head of the New York Times editorial board. He couldn’t leave it alone. In this rant, he says Republicans “ran screaming to television studios” and adds this:

The Republicans hope to tarnish Democratic candidates by making it seem as though Mr. Obama doesn’t take Al Qaeda seriously. They also want to throw mud at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who they fear will run for president in 2016.

He ends on this note:

I knew nothing about the Benghazi article until I read it in the paper on Sunday.

So now, in addition to standing by a modern Walter Duranty, Rosenthal imitates Hillary Clinton, famous for her convenient memory lapses.


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So let us psycho-analyze The New York Times. Is that proper? Well, Andrew Rosenthal is The New York Times, in this context at least. He probably wrote their December 30 editorial. But the other editors signed off on it.

Your editor has a medical degree. To get it he served a core clinical clerkship in psychiatry. And so can recognize psychopathology when he sees it.

So what are the hallmarks of The New York Times‘ institutional psychopathology?


Projection means throwing off on someone. (From the Latin pro- ahead, before and jacio, jacere, jexi, jectum to throw.) That’s exactly what The New York Times does. Those who accuse others of neurotic behavior often do it themselves. So it is here. “Ran screaming”? “Obsessive”? “Throw mud”? Who is really screaming, except A. M. Rosenthal and others at The New York Times? And aren’t they throwing mud at those who oppose their favorite politicians? In fact they’ve been doing that for decades.

Paranoid ideation

Sometimes an angry person gets the idea that others are “out to get him,” or to “get” someone close to him. Such an idea is a paranoid idea. (From the ancient Greek words para- you’re out of, and noia your mind.) And we see that in Rosenthal’s assessment of Republican motives.

And why so quick to deny having made an endorsement? Why emphasize “knowing nothing”?


And so we come to the last symptom of the Walter Duranty Syndrome: mendacity. (From the French verb meaning “to lie.”) Whoever David Kirkpatrick talked to, no one seems to agree with them, outside of The New York Times and its allies. Adam Housley at Fox News tells a clear and convincing story from eyewitness testimony. That story, and the New York Times report, cannot both be correct. They contradict each other completely.

So someone is lying.

So whom should one believe? Career foreign-service and military officers? Or someone who never could remember what happened to certain business records the last time she lived in the White House, and more recently asked “what difference does it make” why four people are dead?

Anyone choosing to believe the latter, needs a lot of corroborating evidence. Which David Kirkpatrick does not have and did not show.

Reporting failure

All anyone really said about The New York Times and its bureau chief, at least at first, was that they got the story wrong.

And instead of backing up the story with evidence, A. M. Rosenthal and his fellow editors picked obvious targets and inveighed at them.

Because they have no evidence.

Invective is not reportage. But that’s all The New York Times seems to have.

Conservatives have long suspected them of being the house organ of the Democratic Party. After this episode that will be extremely difficult to refute.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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