None of us likes to think too much when we are reading the paper in the morning. Most of us just want to scan a trusted source of information  like the NY Times before we begin our day. Unfortunately, whenever we read the news unconsciously, we are also taking in somebody else’s view of the world. In this country that means usually means we are absorbing the worldviews of the rich elite.

Edward S. Herman has written an essay for Z-Net magazine on the New York Times that may raise some interesting conversations. Herman praises the NY Times for its wide scope and wonderfully entertaining style. He then argues that the paper can also be understood as our nation’s most important arm of propaganda.


“>In fact, a case can be made that the NYT is the world’s greatest—or at least most important—organ of state propaganda. Because of its great prestige, its being pegged as a “liberal” newspaper, and the paper’s allowing just enough dissent to give the appearance of balance and to make its most serious apologetics seem credible, the general public is not aware of how often and how effectively the paper serves the imperial state, normalizing U.S. imperial ventures and putting them in a favorable light—and providing systematic apologetics for abuses by it favored clients. The editors even belatedly admitted their war-supportive bias in the run-up to the UN Charter-violating and lie-based Iraq war. They are clearly doing the same in the case of Iran, where the paper has had almost daily accounts of Iran’s alleged moves toward nuclear weapons capability, while working on the premise that Israel’s (and the U.S.’s) actual nuclear weapons, and almost daily and credible threats, are perfectly acceptable and understandable and don’t even constitute essential context in discussing the Iran menace.

On June 18, 1988 the paper did a confessional piece called “The Lie that Wasn’t Shot Down.” In 1983 the paper had done an editorial call to arms over reports that the Soviets had knowingly shot down a civilian Korean airliner. When part of the story turned out to be US propaganda to make it look like the Soviets were actually the “Evil Empire” of the American narrative, the newspaper was left holding the bag.

 “On Aug. 31, 1983, the Soviet Union shot down a Boeing 747 with the loss of 269 lives, having failed to identify it as a civilian airliner. Moscow deserved the universal obloquy it incurred. But the Reagan Administration added a savage twist, sometimes implying and sometimes saying outright that the Soviet Union knew it was attacking a civilian plane. Now, in an intelligence analysis released last week by Representative Lee Hamilton, the Administration in effect acknowledges, grudgingly, that it misled the American people and the world. Though diplomacy may at times require stretching the truth, the Administration had no need to paint the Soviet action blacker than it already was.

In his 1986 book, ”The Target Is Destroyed,” Seymour Hersh reported that American intelligence agencies, with their remarkable ability to intercept Soviet military communications, concluded within a few hours of the shoot-down that the Russian pilots were genuinely confused. They believed that Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was an American RC-135 reconnaissance plane, one of which had been in the area that night.


Herman goes on to cite other, more recent examples of such questionable coverage from Pinochet to Pussy Riot. Hugo Chavez has long been a target of the Times and of US propaganda. When the US moved to covertly undermine the democratically elected leader of Venezuela and replace him with a corporate puppet, the times covered the story as follows:

“Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chavez, a ruinous demagogue, [who] stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona” (ed., “Hugo Chavez Departs,” April 13, 2002).

The paper went on to apologize for that incident as well, but that’s how propaganda usually works. If I hysterically shout “fire” several times in the same theater and then calmly explains each time that I was a mistaken, people will eventually come to feel unsafe in that theater.