When I first heard that someone was calling for the Biden administration to establish a “reality czar” to weed out “misinformation,” I thought it must have appeared in our paper of record.
I mean, of course, The Babylon Bee, the place where satire meets and then overtakes reality.
I looked, but it wasn’t there.
It appeared, wouldn’t you know it, in our former paper of record, The New York Times. “Experts,” you see, are worried about “conspiracy theories” and “disinformation” about such things as the 2020 presidential election and the best way to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s a “public safety” and “public health” issue, you see, and since it turns out that “the same people and groups are responsible for spreading both types [of supposed misinformation]” we need “a centralized task force” to “coordinate a single, strategic response.”
“Several experts I spoke with,” wrote the author of this wretched column, “recommended that the Biden administration put together a cross-agency task force to tackle disinformation and domestic extremism, which would be led by something like a ‘reality czar.’”
And what would the “reality czar” do? Among other things, our new czar would police social media in order to protect America from “dangerous algorithms.”
It sounds “a little dystopian,” the author admits, but with all these incipient “domestic terrorists” running around the country, spreading opinions that don’t pass muster with The New York Times, something must be done.
Currently, the federal government’s response to such opinions is “haphazard and spread across multiple agencies, and there’s a lot of unnecessary overlap.”
Let’s clean up the mess, establish a super, tech-savvy Stasi, and make it the arbiter of what people can say—“the tip of the spear for the federal government’s response to the reality crisis.”
You see why the author said you might think it sounds “a little dystopian.”
Not for the first time, I found myself wondering why it was that a certain species of progressive regarded books such as “1984” and “Brave New World” as how-to manuals.
The realities they describe sound “a little dystopian,” too.
But consider the Big Brother of “1984” and the Conditioning Centres of “Brave New World.” Were they not the “tip of the spear” of their societies, responding to the “reality crisis” precipitated by their own “domestic extremists”?
“A little dystopian,” indeed.
But the more I thought about it, the more I had to admit that the NY Times might be on to something.
Think about the multiple “reality crises” they have helped promulgate.
Take the case of Brian Sicknick, the police officer at the Capitol who died the day after the Jan. 6 demonstration there.
The NY Times at first rushed into print claiming that “pro-Trump rioters” at the Capitol “overpowered Mr. Sicknick, 42, and struck him in the head with a fire extinguisher,” mortally wounding him.
That claim was instantly picked up and amplified throughout the media, becoming one of the central arguments for impeaching Donald Trump.
But Sicknick wasn’t struck in the head by a fire extinguisher. After the incidents of Jan. 6, he left the Capitol and texted his family that he was “in good spirits” and “in good shape.” Current speculation is that he died of a stroke.
The NY Times quietly dropped the claim that “pro-Trump rioters” bashed him in the head with a fire extinguisher and later tacked on an “update” about “new information” emerging that “questions the initial cause of death provided by officials.”
But as the journalist Julie Kelly noted, the damage had been done. No retraction would change that.
“And once again, reporters who egregiously exploited a man’s untimely death to score political points against a man they revile won’t be held accountable,” she wrote.
It reminds me of that unnamed American newspaper mentioned by the artist Edward Burne-Jones in a letter. “Instead of being arrested, as we stated, for kicking his wife down a flight of stairs and hurling a lighted kerosene lamp after her, the Rev’d. James P. Wellman died unmarried four years ago.”
Sounds like The New York Times, doesn’t it?
Partisan misreporting followed by covert or semi-covert retraction is a pattern with our former paper of record.
We saw it with the paper’s hysterical coverage of the Covington Catholic High School teens, their reporting about Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers, and last year’s biggest fantasy, the 1619 Project.
At first, the NY Times said that the 1619 Project was a “major initiative” to “reframe” the understanding of American history.
America, the authors of the 1619 Project asserted, was founded as a “slavocracy”; the American Revolution was fought principally to preserve the institution of slavery; and 1619, when a ship bearing slaves arrived in Virginia, was “our true founding.”
Virtually every substantive claim in the 1619 Project was refuted by historians. The NY Times silently altered some of the more egregious errors, but again the damage had been done.
So, maybe, the NY Times is right and we do need a “reality czar” and a coordinated task force to police “misinformation.”
But the focus of the efforts shouldn’t be on people expressing differing opinions about the integrity of the 2020 election or the best way to respond to the CCP virus.
It should be on the machinations of that vast engine for the production of politicized misinformation, The New York Times.
Roger Kimball is the editor and publisher of The New Criterion and publisher of Encounter Books. His most recent book is “Who Rules? Sovereignty, Nationalism, and the Fate of Freedom in the 21st Century.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.