Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Don Feder, a Boston Herald opinion writer and syndicated columnist for 19 years. He's currently a media consultant, free-lance writer and editor of Boycott The New York Times (www.boycottnyt.com)
FP: Don Feder, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Feder: Thank you.
FP: I’d like to talk to you today about your campaign to boycott the New York Times.
Of all the biased, mainstream media -- ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Washington Post, AP, etc. -- why are you boycotting the Times?
Feder: The New York Times is arguably the most biased media outlet in the country. It’s also the most prestigious. The Times sets the tone for the rest of the mainstream media. It’s read every day by editors and publishers of papers (large and small), network news departments, radio stations and news magazines.
Not only does it tell them what to cover, but also how to cover it. Referring to a Times story as “above the page-one fold” (on the top half of front page) means: “This is important. Pay attention.” The reverse is also true. If something isn’t reported in The New York Times, many in the media don’t consider it newsworthy.
Thus, the damage The New York Times does, by purveying bias throughout the mainstream media, goes far beyond it subscription base.
FP: How does The Times push its agenda in the guise of covering the news?
Feder: How do I count the ways? It does it through labeling. Conservatives are always “conservatives;” but leftists usually aren’t identified as such, or they’re called “progressives” or another euphemism. Words like “extremist” are regularly applied to groups and individuals on the right, but rarely, if ever, on the left.
In a recent “news” story (with The Times, one must use the term “news” advisedly), those supporting gay marriage were referred to as “equality advocates” – thus ceding the movement’s main point -- that same-sex marriage is a matter of equality (justice), rather than an assault on the institution of marriage to the detriment of children.
The Times refuses to call Hamas a “terrorist” group. Its excuse is that Hamas was elected to govern the Palestinian Authority. Does it murder civilians, including women and children? Yes. It’s its objective to spread terror? Yes. Neither carries much weight with The Times.
In a March story on a series of bombings in Iraq (again, civilians were targeted), the gangs responsible for these atrocities were referred to as “Islamic extremists” and “insurgent groups,” not terrorists. Who elected Al Qaeda?
In a December 14 story, New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt tried to rationalize this moral relativism.
“What you call someone matters,” Hoyt wrote. “If he is a terrorist, he is an enemy of all civilized people, and less worthy of consideration.” Does that mean some of those who engage in indiscriminate slaughter – to spread terror – are more worthy of consideration? Of which “civilized people” are they not the enemies?
In a story on Obama relaxing the Cuba embargo, Raul Castro was described as the “leader” of Cuba. It also noted that Fidel Castro “came to power” in 1959 -- try, seized power. In a half-century of totalitarian rule, the Castro boys have never had a popular mandate. Yet The Times describes Fidel and Raul as if they were the elected leaders of a democracy. BTW, the paper had no difficulty calling Pinochet a “dictator,” when he was in power in Chile.
What The Times covers, or chooses not to cover, is often based on ideological considerations.
On April 7, the Department Homeland Security smeared servicemen returning from Iraq, gun owners, tax protestors, immigration reform advocates and others as “right-wing extremists” and potential terrorists.
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano was took heavy fire from the moment the report was issued. The American Legion National Commander and the House Minority Leader both blasted it. There were calls in Congress for the DHS Secretary’s resignation. Eventually, the report was withdrawn. The story was covered by The Washington Post, ABC News and MSNBC, among other mainstream Media outlets. But not The New York Times.
The Times wouldn’t touch it, because it suggested that the Obama administration was turning into a leftist version of the Nixon White House. As far as The Times was concerned, it never happened.
The Times also advances its agenda by deliberately withholding certain information from readers.
For instance, in an April 1 story on the debate over repeal of the military’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy, The Times mentioned an open letter signed by “some 1,000 retired officers” opposed to repeal of don’t-ask-don’t tell. In fact, the letter was signed by over 1,100 retired generals and admirals – including 47 who wore four stars and a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Times, which ardently supports gays serving openly in the military, omitted those significant details for one reason only – to have included them would have given the anti-repeal position more credibility.
FP: What is the agenda of The New York Times? Why is it un-American?
Feder: The New York Times is committed to collectivism – including higher taxes, more federal spending and the further expansion of federal power over the economy.
It’s un-American because the Founding Fathers envisioned a federal government of limited powers. They wrote the Constitution specifically to achieve that end – through separation of powers and the delegation of powers to the states and the people, as well providing for impeachment and setting up a complex mechanism for amendment (which the left has bypassed by judges changing the Constitution practically at will).
The Times supports gargantuan government, unlimited taxation and regulation (to the point of driving certain businesses out of business), racial justice – in direct contravention of the 14th, Amendment -- domestic disarmament, and an activist judiciary. Since all of this is the opposite of the American ideal, as articulated by the nation’s Founders and subsequent generations of patriots, it’s fair to say that The Times agenda is anti-American.
FP: What do you hope to achieve with your boycott? Are you trying to put The Times out of business?
Feder: Of course not, though we’d be thrilled if that happened. Despite its ongoing financial woes and loss of readers and advertising revenue, The New York Times will probably continue to exist, in some form, for the foreseeable future.
However successful our campaign becomes (in terms of collecting signatures on out boycott petition), we don’t expect the paper to suddenly begin reporting the news fairly and objectively, instead of its current modus operandi.
Rather, our goals are to expose The Times’ bias, publicize the fact that certain of us are so fed-up with its deceit that we are pledging to stop reading the paper, to educate the public on the ways The Times advances the left’s agenda in the guise of news coverage, and to progressively limit its influence by undermining its credibility.
FP: For conservatives, boycotts have a bad connotation? Is that warranted?
Feder: Starting in the late 1960s, boycotts were generally a tool of the left -- examples: the United Farm Workers’ boycott of California grapes and the recent disinvestment campaign (a species of boycott) aimed at Israel.
But boycotts also have a long and honorable history. The spark that ignited the American Revolution was the colonists’ boycott of British tea. The Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s used boycotts – like the Montgomery bus boycott and the boycott of segregated lunch counters -- to apply economic pressure and highlight the injustice of segregation. Whether or not a boycott is justified depends on the justice of the cause in whose behalf it is employed.
When a company manufactures a defective and dangerous product, consumers have a right and a duty to boycott it. The New York Times is manufacturing a defective product (in the form of biased news coverage), which – by swaying public opinion – is dangerous. That’s why we launched our boycott.
FP: Doesn't The Times management have a right to do whatever it wants with the paper?
Feder: Yes and no. Does it have a legal right to distort the news? Absent libel, yes. Does it have a moral right? Absolutely not.
The New York Times puts itself forth as a “news” outlet. Its motto is “All the news that’s fit to print, “which appears in the masthead of every issue. If The Times admitted it was an opinion journal – presenting or shaping the news to advance its cause – no argument. But if it’s going to call itself a newspaper, it should maintain a high degree of integrity. In the case of The Times, some integrity would be nice.
We have less of a problem with opinion labeled as such (a column by perennial knee-jerk Frank Rich or one of The Times reliably leftist editorials). While we can, and usually do, disagree strenuously with these, at lease they’re opinion labeled as such. It’s opinion masquerading as news coverage that’s unethical – hence, deserving of exposure and censure.
FP: What does advocacy journalism mean? What are its origins? Is it ethical?
Feder: As the name implies, advocacy journalism advocates a point of view. Instead of reporting the news, it spins the news in such a way as to advance various political causes.
The expression originated during the Vietnam War era, when the mainstream media decided it was their duty to uncover “the truth” about what was happening in Southeast Asia. Often, that consisted of reporting one side of the debate (that of anti-war protestors), the side the media was advocating for.
During and after Watergate, this really got out of hand. By its relentless pursuit of Richard Nixon, eventually forcing him from office, the media decided it had saved the republic. Egos were commensurately inflated, and journalistic ethics ignored even more.
The result is the media’s alleged coverage of the past presidential contest, particularly The New York Times, which became an adjunct of the Obama campaign to the extent that even many establishment journalists were embarrassed. Mark Halperin, a Time magazine writer, castigated his colleagues for “extreme pro-Obama coverage” and singled out two Times’ stories as prime examples.
FP: How does The New York Times damage national security and make America less safe?
Feder: By pushing a supine foreign policy, advocating civil liberties fetishism in response to terrorism, demanding that we negotiate with terrorist states, and its contempt for our allies, including Israel.
The Times believes that America’s foreign enemies are either imaginary or created by our “imperialist policies.” It rationalizes the moves of monstrous and potentially cataclysmic regimes, such as those in power in Syria, Iran, Lebanon, the Sudan and the West Bank and Gaza.
It believes in butter (social spending) over guns (military preparedness).
By attacking traditional American values and keeping faith out of the public square, it weakens us morally, which will eventually make it harder for us to confront foreign foes. By its knee-jerk environmentalism, it increases our energy dependence on hostile states. By wrecking our economy, it destroys our capacity to finance the military we need.
FP: Don Feder, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.