Crazy, they call him

Dean Baquet

Recently, in what, in other times, would have been considered a sensational development, news media published a leaked account of an editorial meeting at the New York Times at which that newspaper’s top editor, Dean Baquet, essentially explained to his colleagues that since the Gray Lady’s all-out effort over the past couple of years to paint President Trump as a tool of Vladimir Putin had failed ignominiously, the paper’s new approach would be to intensify efforts to smear Trump as a racist. The account of the meeting underscored the already obvious fact that in the age of Trump, actual journalism, in many of the nation’s formerly most respected news media, has increasingly given way to the systematic distortion, suppression, and invention of facts in pursuit of a partisan agenda.

Brian Stelter

If the Times and the Washington Post, under the ownership of Silicon Valley mega-billionaire Jeff Bezos, have both been accused in recent years of choosing this kind of radical activism over reportage, so has CNN. In what may well be the most egregious example yet of CNN’s over-the-top approach to the Trump presidency, Brian Stelter, on last Sunday’s edition of his laughably named program Reliable Sources, had as his guests two psychiatrists who had been invited on to discuss the supposed problems with Trump’s psychiatric health. This topic seemed a particularly curious choice, especially at a time when 76-year-old Joe Biden, at present the leading candidate to challenge Trump for the presidency on behalf of the Democratic Party, seems daily to be showing signs of possible senile dementia, giving speeches in which, among much else, he has stated his preference for “facts over truth,” placed the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy in the “late 1970s,” and misidentified New Hampshire as Vermont. Admittedly, Biden has always been a gaffe machine (and a serial plagiarist of other hack politicians’ speeches), but the frequency and weirdness of his misstatements seems to have undergone a serious uptick during his current campaign. But the psychiatrists weren’t there to discuss Biden, of course; they were there to talk Trump. And to bury him, not praise him.

Bandy X. Lee

Both headshrinkers were highly credentialed. Dr. Bandy X. Lee, a psychiatry professor at Yale School of Medicine, complained sourly that “concerns” expressed by her and other psychiatrists about the mental state of President Trump had been routinely ignored by the news media and charged that the American Psychiatric Association, in its refusal to entertain diagnoses of Trump by professionals who had never met him – a violation of the so-called “Goldwater rule” – had become more or less a tool of the state. You would think that the news media had been walking on eggshells to avoid criticizing Trump’s often bumptious conduct, rather than highlighting it at every opportunity.

Dr. Allen Frances

What was stunning was that the other psychiatrist, Dr. Allen Frances, former chair of psychiatry at Duke University, who had been brought on purportedly to provide “balance” to Lee’s readiness to psychoanalyze the president, turned out to have an even more outrageous take on the issue. His line was that we shouldn’t call Trump crazy, because “medicalizing politics…stigmatizes the mentally ill.” Frances said that he had known thousands of such patients, and that most of them had been “well-behaved, well-mannered, good people. Trump is none of these. Lumping the mentally ill in with Trump is a terrible insult to the mentally ill.” A couple of points. First, to say that most people with serious psychiatric issues are “well-behaved” and “well-mannered” is to sentimentalize mental illness: a full-blown psychotic, for example, is rarely either “well-behaved” or “well-mannered.” Second, has Frances ever met Trump? If not, what business does he have pronouncing on his virtues or lack thereof?

Donald J. Trump

But Frances had more to say. “Calling Trump crazy hides the fact that we’re crazy for having elected him and even crazier for allowing his crazy policies to persist.” Some psychiatrist! We thought the word “crazy” was a no-no in the psychiatric game. But not, apparently, when you’re describing the millions of deplorables across the United States who put this reprehensible creature in office. Apparently in Frances’s view, actually calling actual crazy people crazy is insensitive, but calling people whose politics you disapprove of is not.

Josef Stalin

But Frances’s most extraordinary assertion was yet to come: “Trump is as destructive a person in this century as Hitler, Stalin and Mao were in the last century. He may be responsible for many more million deaths than they were. He needs to be contained, but needs to be contained by attacking his policies and not his person.” To call this hyperbole is to realize that sometimes even the word hyperbole isn’t strong enough. All told, Hitler, Stalin, Mao took over a hundred million lives. You can like or dislike Trump’s politics or his personal style, but to compare him to these three is, in a word, crazy. And to follow this flagrant personal attack by saying that we should attack Trump’s “policies and not his person” sounds, if we may join the club and start handing out diagnoses, like a contradiction that only some kind of schizoid wacko would be capable of.

Adolf Hitler

But insulting though all this nonsense is to the president of the U.S., we’re not offended on his behalf. He’s a big boy and this sort of thing rolls off his back like water off the back of a duck. No, what appalls us about Frances’s comparison of Trump to the three most murderous creatures of the twentieth century immeasurably diminishes the scale of their evil and destructiveness. At a time when so many Americans, especially younger Americans, know little about Hitler except that he was a bad guy who killed Jews, who know nothing about Mao, and who have perhaps been told by their history teachers and professors that the Soviet Union was a good idea and Stalin a well-meaning socialist who perhaps got a bit too carried away, nothing could be more irresponsible than Frances’s glib equation of Trump with this villainous trio.

Mao Zedong

To top it all off, Brian Stelter, who is, frankly, a buffoon, sat through Frances’s whole nutty rant without so much as offering up a mild challenge to Frances’s kooky claims. Later, when attacked widely for sitting there with his mouth shut, Stelter blamed his silence on some technical goof. Whatever. The mistake was inviting these two shrinks on in the first place to discuss such a topic. The whole thing was yet another a black mark on CNN’s record, and it must have caused many discerning viewers to wonder, and worry, about the kind of “education” in matters psychiatric being provided to med students at Yale and, especially, Duke.

Cuban defectors? Who cares?

Castro with Jesse Jackson

We’ve spent plenty of time on this website discussing celebrities from the US and other free countries who have gotten a big kick out of going slumming in Cuba, chumming around with Fidel Castro, and the like. We’ve written about how current New York Mayor (and presidential hopeful) Bill de Blasio honeymooned in Havana. About how another one of the current crop of presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders, has praised Castro and visited Cuba. About how the mayor of New Orleans went to Havana for tips on economic development. About Barbara Walters’s cozy relationship with Fidel. About the quasi-romance between Fidel and another American TV “journalist,” Lisa Howard. About a UCLA art professor’s fascination with Che Guevara. About a fun trip made by Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, to the island prison. About how Karl Lagerfeld used rundown Havana as a backdrop for a fashion show. About the movie that director Bob Yari filmed in Cuba. About celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain’s admiration for the Castro regime. And about heroic whitewashes of Cuban Communism by Time Magazine and other media.

Castro with director Oliver Stone

The point has consistently been the same: that it’s easy for people living in democratic countries to romanticize tyranny. It seems especially easy, somehow, for rich and privileged folks who like to make the most of their wealth and their ability to travel at will to any spot on earth. There’s something about visiting a dictatorship and consorting with a dictator that just tickles their fancy. Somehow they’re able to take in the terrible spectacle of fellow human beings living under economic and political conditions that they themselves would chafe under and yet praise the system, and the thugs, that forces these conditions upon them. The whole business is an eternal reality and an eternal puzzle.

Members of Cuba’s youth soccer team

Yet however blinkered so many people in the West may be about the reality of a place like Cuba, the Cubans themselves have no illusions. They know what it is to live every of their lives without liberty. So it is that last month, six members of Cuba’s youth soccer team who were in New York on their way from Cuba to the U.S. Virgin Islands – where they were scheduled to play a game on July 17 against the team representing that possession – defected. Six! This was, of course, hardly a unique event: only a month earlier, four Cuban soccer players defected while in the U.S. for a tournament.

Castro with Angela Davis

This report first appeared in the official Cuban government daily Granma. It was picked up by the news service Agence France-Presse. We read about it at the reliable Babalu Blog, which had found the story at the website of a Pakistani newspaper. A roundabout way, don’t you think, for a story from Cuba to reach American readers? (Even more roundabout, in fact, than the idea of having to go through New York to get from Havana to the U.S. Virgin Islands.) But this is what happens when major Western newspapers simply aren’t interested in such stories – such, alas, is their admiration for, or at very least readiness to cover for, the Cuban system. We checked: even though the defection took place in New York, none of that city’s major dailies appears to have reported on it. Well, disgraceful enough for them. But whether covered in the media or not, there were six Cubans who freer when they went to bed that evening than when they’d woken up that morning – and that’s what matters.

More praise for the USSR at the Times

Walter Duranty

On this site, where our task is to record the antics and inanities of those who have taken it upon themselves to defend the indefensible, all roads, or at least so it can sometimes seem, lead back to the New York Times. It was the Times, after all, that gave us our mascot, the world-class lickspittle (and Pulitzer Prize winner!) Walter Duranty, who while serving as the Gray Lady’s Moscow correspondent during the Stalin era shamelessly defended Uncle Joe’s evil Gulag, his brutal policy of farm collectivization, and his outrageous show trials – and, not least, covered up his deliberately engineered Ukrainian famine, the Holodomor. Millions died; Duranty lied. And what makes things all the worse is that, far from being an exception to the rule at the Times, which countless low-information readers continue to view as a newspaper of record, Duranty was a proud and consistent exponent of an ignoble and longstanding Times tradition: the reflexive whitewashing of totalitarian regimes.

Herbert L. Matthews and friend

The Nazis, too, benefited from the Times’s weird compulsion to sugarcoat monstrous tyranny – reports on the Third Reich’s treatment of Jews were routinely suppressed, softened, and relegated to short articles in the newspaper’s back pages. Decades later, similarly, Times correspondent Herbert L. Matthews gave so much positive coverage to Fidel Castro’s Communist revolution that the National Review, borrowing a familiar classified-ad tag of the day – “I got my job through the New York Times” – ran a parody ad featuring El Comandante himself; in 2007, Reason ran a piece about Matthews headlined “Fidel’s Favorite Propagandist.”

Vivian Gornick

Three decades after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the Times hasn’t stopped looking for aspects of Soviet life to hold up for praise. A couple of years ago we took note of a sickening Times piece by Vivian Gornick entitled “When Communism Inspired Americans” – a serious effort on Gornick’s part to paint American Stalinists as heroic believers in noble ideals, rather than as the unquestioning toadies of (and lying apologists for) a mass-murdering dictator. Also in 2017, we commented on an instant classic entitled “Why Women Had Better Sex under Socialism.” In this masterpiece of buffoonery, Kristen R. Ghodsee, a professor (what else?) at the University of Pennsylvania, maintained that women in the Soviet Union not only had more rights than women in the democratic West but also had more orgasms.

Sophie Pinkham

Gornick’s and Ghodsee’s pieces were part of a Times series commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Now, to celebrate the fiftieth year since Apollo 11, the ever-reliable Times has run a piece by one Sophie Pinkham arguing that, even though America beat Russia in the race to put a man on the moon, the U.S.S.R. won what she calls “the Space Race for Equality.” Meaning what? Quite simply, that the Soviets “sent women and people of color to space years before the U.S.” As Pinkham explains: “The Cold War was fought as much on an ideological front as a military one, and the Soviet Union often emphasized the sexism and racism of its capitalist opponents — particularly the segregated United States. And the space race was a prime opportunity to signal the U.S.S.R.’s commitment to equality.”

Hero of equality

Pause for a moment, if you will, over those last words: “the U.S.S.R.’s commitment to equality.” Not its alleged or claimed or supposed or pretended commitment. Pinkham – a grad student at Columbia University who has written for such far-left organs as The Nation and London Review of Books – is apparently trying to sell the Soviet Union to us as a beacon of equality. Yes, in a way we suppose men and women were equal under Soviet Communism – equal, that is, in their utter lack of human rights and democratic freedoms. Men and women alike were woken in the middle of the night by KGB agents and beaten, tortured, or imprisoned, without being officially charged or tried, for having been overheard voicing some complaint or for having otherwise found their way onto the government’s radar. Men and women alike were condemned to death by starvation in the Holodomor, were sent away for years at a time to the Gulag, or were simply lined up against walls and shot in cold blood.

That’s Soviet equality, folks. Yet after Columbia awards a Ph.D. to Pinkham – who, in her recent photos, appears to be too young ever to have experienced Communism firsthand in the U.S.S.R. or its European satellites – she will earn a living telling generations of students at some prestigious college or other that Soviet Communism was synonymous with social equality. Caveat emptor.

Those adorable Communists

In late June, when the Guardian sent a reporter to cover the annual convention of the Communist Party USA, the article that resulted was surprisingly sympathetic. No, let’s revise that a bit: the level of sympathy would have been surprising had the piece appeared in some other British newspaper – say, the Telegraph or the Times. But it would probably be naïve to be surprised by a friendly account of a CPUSA clambake in the Guardian.

Written by one Eric Lutz, the article said nothing particularly negative about the party or its ideology. On the contrary, Lutz seemed to strive to present the CPUSA as a longtime victim of unfair prejudice. The subhead, for example, noted that the party had been “derided and feared for 100 years.” The first sentence called the party “one of American politics[’] biggest historical bogeymen.” Lutz quoted, without comment, a line from a CPUSA official’s convention speech in which he assured America that “the [C]ommunist [P]arty isn’t out to hurt you….It will set you free.”

Moreover, Lutz seemed pleased to be able to state that the party was looking to “a brighter future…at a moment in American politics in which democratic socialism and progressive ideas are increasingly finding a home in the mainstream of the Democratic party.” And when he reported that convention delegates “sought to send the message that their party has been the most consistent champion of [progressive] ideas [and] has been on the right side of some of the most consequential ideological battles of the last hundred years,” there was no indication whatsoever that Lutz wasn’t totally convinced. Neither he nor his editors found it necessary to remind readers of the hundreds of millions of human lives snuffed out by murderous twentieth-century Communist regimes. In a time when the vast majority of mainstream news media in the U.S. and Britain seem incapable of reporting on Donald Trump or the Republican Party or Brexit voters without a condescending sneer, there was not a whiff of skepticism in Lutz’s report on the American Communists.

Far from it. Apparently to show that Communists have been in the vanguard of the advancement of black Americans, Lutz noted that the father of one convention speaker, Pepe Lozano, had “rallied Mexican and Puerto Rican voters to support Harold Washington, the first African-American mayor” in the 1980s. Lutz went on to quote, again without a hint of doubt or dispute, Lozano’s claim that the CPUSA had played a major role in “profound American struggles for democracy.” For anyone who knows anything about the subject, the very idea that American Communists ever sought to advance democracy is obscene on the face of it. Whole books – extremely well documented books, some of them based on Soviet archives – have vividly shown just how thoroughly controlled the Cold War-era CPUSA was by the Kremlin and just how determined the party was to crush liberty and destroy its enemies. For the Guardian to drop all these facts down the memory hole is disgraceful.

“Communism,” wrote Lutz, “has long been regarded with fear in the US, viewed as antithetical to American values and democracy.” The implication here, of course, is that Communism isn’t antithetical to American values and democracy. What to say about the fact that a sentence like this could appear, in the year 2019, in a major British daily? Is Lutz a fool or a liar? “[I]t can be striking,” he observed, “to hear Americans openly discuss their support for communism.” Not “appalling”; not “disgusting”; not “vomit-inducing” – no, “striking.” Imagine a writer for any major conservative newspaper reporting on a neo-Nazi rally in this way. Nazism is – as it should be – beyond the pale. Why does Communism – an equally evil totalitarian ideology, and one that caused even more deaths than Nazism did – still get this kid-glove treatment?

Baba Wawa & Fidel: a love story?

Okay, so she’s not a full-fledged, 100%, dyed-in-the-wool stooge. As we noted in a posting in December 2016, Barbara Walters was one of perhaps two of the upscale Manhattan guests at Leonard Bernstein’s 1970 Black Panthers fundraiser – the one that Tom Wolfe made famous in Radical Chic – who didn’t drool all over the thugs in a repulsive display of limousine liberalism and nostalgie de la boue. While glamorous folks like high-society bandleader Peter Duchin and New York Review of Books editor Robert Silvers oohed and aahed over the Panthers’ plans for an armed revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, Walters actually asked a sensible question: “I’m talking as a white woman who has a white husband, who is a capitalist, or an agent of capitalists, and I am, too, and I want to know if you are to have your freedom, does that mean we have to go?” No, she didn’t give them a dressing-down and then storm out of the party, but at least she stood apart from fellow guests who looked at the gun-toting gangsters and, somehow, saw angels about to usher in a golden utopia.

Similarly, when she interviewed Fidel Castro in 1977, she at least – to her credit – said on the record that she disagreed with him on “the meaning of freedom.” But that statement came at the end of a nauseating puff piece in which Walters did a marvelous job of presenting the murderous dictator as a world-class charmer. She interviewed him again in 2002. And over the years she spoke frequently about her encounters with the Caribbean tyrant, her main point invariably being that he was, as she told Harpers Bazaar in 2014, “very charismatic – very charming and funny.” (Following his death, she said the same thing:“The word ‘charismatic’ was made for him.) Once her 1977 interview with Fidel was in the can, she recalled, “Castro took us into his kitchen and made us grilled cheese sandwiches.” Walters laughed. “That’s an experience you don’t have anymore.” Adorable! During the same Cuba trip, Walters and Castro “dined outdoors on roast pig and Algerian wine at Castro’s mountain retreat.” It’s good to be the dictator. That night, at least two people in Cuba ate well.

As the Harpers Bazaar writer observed, “One thing that seemed clear to everyone was the chemistry between Walters and Castro.” Walters herself said: “People did tease me after that, asking if this was a romance.” When he dropped her at the Havana airport, “I reached up to kiss him on both cheeks, and he all but pushed me away. It was a friendly European goodbye, but I was in Cuba, not France.” We checked with a couple of friends who’ve been interviewed by major newspapers and TV networks. They say that the reporters who interviewed them didn’t lean in for a smooch at the end of the interchange – not once! Interesting that Castro seemed to understand, as Walters didn’t, that, under such circumstances, osculation (European or not) was unprofessional.

“Cuba is a very different country because of Fidel Castro,” Walters told Harpers Bazaar, “and I don’t know what he is proudest of or what he wishes he could have accomplished.” Proudest of? Accomplished? What planet has this woman been living on for the past half century? Even to think along such lines is to buy into this despot’s propaganda. Looking back on her meetings with Fidel, we’d have loved to see her lean over with a smile, put a hand on his knee, and coo confidentially: “What’s your favorite prison?” or “Whose execution made you happiest?” We certainly wouldn’t expect this fatuous talking head – this purported feminist media pioneer who long ago gave up any pretense of being a real journalist and has spent the last few decades lobbing softballs at airheaded celebrities and chatting about the latest gossip on morning TV – to actually interrogate somebody like Fidel, confronting him boldly about his monstrous crimes, his outrageous hypocrisy, and his blatant propaganda. Instead, Walters parroted his propaganda, echoing the oft-repeated claim that he’d given his people first-rate health care and education. Lies, lies, lies. And although she did, yes, admit that he was an autocrat who’d robbed his people of their freedom, nobody has given Fidel and his regime better press in the U.S. than this silly, overrated woman.

AFP whitewashes the Castros

Exotic Havana

From time to time on this site, we’ve examined various public figures who had a soft spot for the Castro regime in Cuba and media organizations whose reports from Cuba routinely focused on its purported charms rather than its totalitarian government. We’ve written about director Bob Yari, who filmed a movie in Cuba; designer Karl Lagerfeld, who used Havana’s crumbling buildings as a backdrop for a glamorous fashion show; and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who, notwithstanding his own wealth, made a point of castigation capitalism while celebrating the Castros. We’ve told the tale of Fidel’s affair with compliant ABC reporter Lisa Howard, noted the chummy relationship between Jesse Jackson and the Castros, and, not least, the shamelessness and fatuity with which Time Magazine, again and again, has glorified the island prison.

Jair Bolsonaro

On January 2, Agence France Press demonstrated that the perverse impulse to whitewash the Cuban regime is not dead in 2019. Under the headline “Cuba celebrates 60 years of revolution amid challenges and change,” AFP described Cuba as a longtime “source of inspiration for leftist Latin American governments,” but added that the nation faces “increasing isolation in a region dominated by a resurgent right,” notably the new Brazilian government led by “far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.”

AFP reported that Bolsonaro had “made a point of not inviting” the new Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro to his inauguration, a decision that some of us might consider principled but that AFP seemed to want readers to regard as churlish.

Nicolas Maduro

Typically, AFP labeled Bolsonaro – a pro-American, pro-Israeli conservative who has been dubbed the Latin American Trump – as “far-right,” and characterized Argentina, Chile and Peru as having “all swung to the right in recent years, unseating leftist governments.” A more objective media outlet might have put it a bit differently – might have said, that is, that the voters of those countries have rejected socialism in favor of democratic capitalism.

Evo Morales

Meanwhile, in its references to Cuba’s leaders, AFP was careful to avoid the word “dictator,” obediently referring to Raul Castro as “[e]x-president” and as “first secretary of the Communist Party,” identifying the late Fidel Castro as “Cuba’s revolutionary leader,” and giving the current thug-in-chief, Miguel Diaz-Canel, his official title of “President.” AFP also reported that Maduro had “paid tribute to the ‘heroic Cuban people,’” whom he praised for their “’resistance and dignity’ in the face of ’60 years of sacrifices, struggles and blockade.’” In addition, according to AFP, “[a]nother surviving leftist leader, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, said Cuba’s revolution gave birth to ‘the light of hope and invincible will for the liberation of the people.’” This effusive rhetoric by Maduro and Morales was presented by AFP without context, so that an ill-informed reader would never know that the Cuban people have spent the last six decades not as stalwart patriots who have bravely resisted a U.S. blockade but as downtrodden subjects of a totalitarian tyranny.

Fidel Castro

To be sure, the word “dictator” did eventually appear in the AFP article – but only as a means of describing Castro’s predessor, Fulgencio Batista. To its credit, moreover, AFP also mentioned, toward the end of its article, that Cuba is a communist state. It also quoted a dissident, but that dissident, as it happened, was not an anti-Communist who opposed the Cuban Revolution from the start but a diehard Communist named Vladimiro Roca, whose father was a sidekick of Fidel Castro, who himself had run afoul of authorities and spent several years in prison, and whose complaint was therefore that the Cuban Revolution “died a long time ago.”

Donald Trump

Moreover, while AFP acknowledged that Cuba “has faced heavy criticism” abroad, it presented the Cuban people not as decades-long victims of a brutal autocracy but as having “had to contend with an increasingly hostile administration under Trump these last two years.” There’s no hint that the Trump administration is hostile not to the Cuban people but to their unelected masters. In 2019, alas, such full-scale misrepresentation continues to be par for the course for all too many Western media.

Ever oppressed, never privileged: Sarah Jeong

Sarah Jeong

After the New York Times‘s newest editorial board member, Sarah Jeong, was revealed to have sent out hundreds of repellent tweets about white people between 2013 and 2015, leftist commentators rushed to her defense. The editors of her own previous employer, the website The Verge, not only stood up for Jeong but condemned those who dared to call out her bigotry, accusing people of “intentionally [taking]them out of context” and of subjecting poor Sarah to “an unrelenting stream of abuse” online.

In the view of the folks at The Verge, the only guilty parties here were those whose jaws dropped when they read Jeong’s tweets: they’re “dishonest and outrageous”; they’re “trolls”; they’re yet more journalist-haters who are “acting in bad faith” and who have a “malicious agenda.” These horrible people on the right, you see, “take tweets and other statements out of context because they want to disrupt us and harm individual reporters. The strategy is to divide and conquer by forcing newsrooms to disavow their colleagues one at a time. This is not a good-faith conversation; it’s intimidation.” And it distracts terrific journalists like Jeong from their vitally important effort to “report on the most toxic communities on the internet.” This is pretty rich, given that it would be hard to find stuff on the Internet that’s more toxic than Jeong’s own tweets. But of course in the Verge mindset, attacks on other human beings are ugly only if those human beings are members of recognized victim groups.

Jim Hoft

At Fortune, Jeff John Roberts accepted the argument that Jeong’s tweets “amount to irony or barbed humor, not racism.” Humor? Irony? Sorry, no sale. In the Guardian, Sam Wolfson defended Jeong by demonizing Jim Hoft, who first drew attention to her old tweets on his site Gateway Pundit – according to Wolfson, “a far-right blog that often publishes entirely false stories that bolster the Trump administration.” (Lie.) Wolfson approvingly quoted one Ijeoma Oluo’s argument that Jeong was “using humor to get through the white supremacist bullshit this society shovels on WOC [women of color].” Wolfson helpfully added that “Jeong’s tweets arguably form part of a genre of commentary common on Twitter and in mainstream media, from the hit Netflix show Dear White People to the bestselling book Stuff White People Like, which seek to highlight the ways people of color can be excluded by white society.” Exactly how on earth, one wonders, can Jeong, a Berkeley and Harvard Law grad and Times editorial board member, be viewed as an “excluded” individual?

When we googled “Sarah Jeong” and “Times,” the first hit was from Vox, which called Jeong “a venerated tech culture journalist” and “an outspoken progressive and feminist, making her an obvious target for the right-wing internet mobs.” As Vox outlined it, the right was out to get Jeong all along and the tweets were merely a useful weapon. Poppycock. Vox, like the other leftist outlets, rejected the racist label: “To equate ‘being mean to white people’ with the actual systemic oppression and marginalization of minority groups is a false equivalency.” Again, to describe a Harvard grad and Times top dog as oppressed or marginalized is beyond absurd – it’s a postmodern ideological construct that has no connection whatsoever to lived reality.

Hating whites is OK: Sarah Jeong

Sarah Jeong

On Thursday, we saw how the New York Times added a Korean-American woman, Sarah Jeong, to its editorial board and defended this action even after Jeong turned out to have been busy, from 2013 to 2015, sending out hate tweets about whites, men, and cops. As we noted, there were critics. But many on the left had Jeong’s back.

At the Washington Post, Eli Rosenberg and Erin B. Logan wrote a piece headlined “An Asian American woman’s tweets ignite a debate: Is it okay to make fun of white people online?” Make fun of? In the article text, they described Jeong as having “spoke[n] sarcastically about white people.” You would think Jeong’s tweets had been playful jabs at good buddies rather than calls for genocide. Rosenberg and Logan called them “old tweets,” even though the oldest of them is only five years old. Then they wrote this:

Eli Rosenberg

Without evidence that they had any bearing on Jeong’s extensive body of work, which includes a book she wrote about online harassment, these statements could have perhaps been unceremoniously dismissed as insignificant. But after conservative media seized on the story Thursday, they ignited a firestorm of debate.

What on earth are Rosenberg and Logan saying here? Are they actually suggesting that Jeong’s mountain of odious tweets have no relevance to her employment by the Times? Do they not grasp that the tweets provide a window on Jeong’s character and patterns of thought, and that they are plainly the work of a sick and vile mind – and that such a mind does not belong at the highest editorial level of a serious newspaper?

Erin B. Logan

No: to Rosenberg and Logan, apparently, Jeong’s tweets are trivial, and the whole hullabaloo over them is the fault of conservatives out to make trouble. This is how they frame it: “in a country in the midst of a painful debate about white supremacy and privilege, Jeong’s episode has exposed a deeper rift between some conservatives – whose political ideology has been marked by the rise of a president who has trafficked in racially charged rhetoric and policies – and the left, pointing to a fundamental disagreement about the nature of race and power in the United States.”

Nonsense. The U.S. is not undergoing “a painful debate about white supremacy and privilege.” White supremacy is a fever dream of the left. Actual white supremacists are exceedingly few in number and are effectively powerless. Privilege? Jeong is a Berkeley and Harvard Law grad and, now, a member of the Times editorial board. If that isn’t privilege, what is? As for President Trump’s rhetoric, there’s nothing “racially charged” about it. He has been frank and tough about very real threats to American security – namely, Islamic terrorism and murderous Latin American youth gangs – that the left prefers not to discuss because of its own twisted obsession with race.

Nolan L. Cabrera

After dismissively summing up some of the conservative reaction to Jeong’s tweets, the Post writers quoted a University of Arizona professor, Nolan L. Cabrera, who characterized the outrage as “manufactured” and as “completely decontextualized and ahistorified.” The only way to conclude that Jeong “hates white people” is to be “willfully ignorant of 400 to 500 years’ history and contemporary social context and also the context from which the tweets were sent.”

Sorry, “white men are bullshit” and “fuck the cops” are pretty straightforward – no historical analysis required. Cabrera also served up the usual postmodern line that an Asian woman can’t be racist toward a white man, because racism is a matter of “power dynamics and social oppression.” More nonsense – and even if you do buy this definition of racism, then okay, she’s not a racist, she’s a bigot. Hate is hate.

More on Thursday.

Pure hate: Sarah Jeong

Jeff Bezos

Thanks to the Internet, newspapers are in a bad way. Just the other day, without warning, the New York Daily News dumped a large percentage of its staff. The Washington Post survives thanks only to its purchase by the world’s richest man, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who has poured cash into the Post in an effort to transform it into “media and technology company.”

Carlos Slim

Meanwhile the New York Times is kept afloat by another zillionaire, Carlos Slim, who topped the list of the world’s richest guys from 2010 to 2013. owned by one of the world’s richest men. Yet Slim’s cash hasn’t protected Times staffers from job insecurity. Over the last few years, the people who run the Times have instituted various economies, large and small. In 2014, about a hundred newsroom jobs were eliminated. Last year, the paper cut the number of copy editors roughly in half.

Sarah Jeong

All of which makes the Times’s hiring of one Sarah Jeong even more puzzling. In late July, the Times announced that Jeong, a young Korean-American writer for a website called The Verge,would be joining its editorial board. It didn’t take long for Jeong’s remarkable history of tweets to make news. Written between 2013 and 2015, they reveal a stunning hatred for white people, especially white men.


“White men are bullshit,” she writes. Whites are only “fit to live underground like groveling goblins.” And: “oh man it’s kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men.” After maintaining that everything white men do other than skiing and golf is cultural appropriation, Jeong concludes: “it must be so boring to be white.” In a couple of tweets, she seems to express approval of genocide: “#cancelwhitepeople.” “White people have stopped breeding. you’ll all go extinct soon. that was my plan all along.”

She hasn’t just targeted whites. Her Twitter record contains plenty of vile stuff about the police, too: “[C]ops are assholes.” “[F]uck the cops.” “If we’re talking big sweeping bans on shit that kills people, why don’t we ever ever ever ever talk about banning the police?”

It’s more than enough, of course, that these tweets are hateful. But in addition to that, they’re staggeringly vapid and vulgar. None of them have the remotest hint of wit or intellectual content. If somebody told you this person was headed for a job on the editorial board of the New York Times, would you ever believe it in a million years?

Andrew Sullivan

Jeong’s tweets sparked outrage. In some places, anyway. Conservative publications and websites called out the Times for hiring an obvious racist. So did Andrew Sullivan at New York Magazine. But the Times held firm. In an August 2 statement, it stood by its hire, accepting her “explanation” that her ugly tweets had been responses to “torrents of online hate” that she had experienced as “a woman of color on the internet.” Her tweets about whites, cops, etc., insisted Jeong, were a form of “counter-trolling” and “intended as satire.”

Sorry, but we don’t buy it. In what way is “fuck the cops” satire? Others didn’t buy it either. But an appalling number of commentators did. Not only did they defend Jeong – they celebrated her. More on Thursday.

How Fidel seduced (literally) ABC News

The lovebirds

On Tuesday, we examined the 1963-64 meeting, mutual seduction, and unconsummated hotel-room encounter between ABC News reporter Lisa Howard and Fidel Castro. It was, as they say, hot stuff. Today, our focus will be on what Howard did back home in the U.S.: publicly, on ABC News, she did her best to improve Castro’s image in America; secretly, as Politico reported recently, she served as a channel between Castro and JFK, and then between Castro and LBJ, urging both U.S. presidents to sit down with Castro and soften their line on his dictatorship.

Adlai Stevenson

When a ten-page letter to JFK got no response, she turned it into an article urging negotiations. She huddle with Adlai Stevenson and one of his U.N. flunkies in an effort to win Kennedy’s approval for a meeting between the flunky and Cuba’s U.N. guy. That ended up happening – at Howard’s own residence, which “became the hub for secret communications between the U.S. and Cuba.”

When she finally managing to put together a phone call between a high-level American official and a Castro sidekick in Havana, she confided to her diary: “At last! At last! That first halting step. Contact has been established!…A long, frustrating, tension-filled, but exciting experience lies ahead.” More than once in Politico‘s article on the Castro-Howard connection, one gets the distinct impression that serving as a diplomatic go-between was positively aphrodisiacal for the ABC talking head.

A clip from one of Howard’s ABC News specials about Castro, showing how much his people supposedly worshiped him

She later did a TV special from Cuba – which, from Politico‘s description, sounds exactly like every mainstream TV report about the island prison that has been aired in the decades since: “Howard and her crew traipsed around Cuba with the energetic Castro, filming him playing baseball, visiting a cattle farm and interacting with peasants. As much as Howard believed Castro was a dictator, the overwhelming public adoration he generated impressed her. ‘They mob him, they scream ‘Fidel, Fidel,’ children kiss him, mothers touch him,’ she wrote. ‘They are awed, thrilled … ecstatic, but mostly passionate. There is no doubt in my mind that the emotion Fidel inspires in all women is sheer undiluted sexual desire. He is the most physical animal man I have ever known.’”

Lyndon B. Johnson

This time when they went to bed, they went all the way. She later described it as “thrilling and ecstatic—as much as anything I have ever experienced.” Even so, she recognized that “so much of what he was doing was truly evil.”

What’s a poor girl to do? Well, in this case, she kept pushing the White House to talk to Castro. Nothing came of it. (The LBJ aide she lobbied was no dummy: he concluded that it was “likely” she was getting it on with the cigar-chomping Comandante.)

But again Adlai pitched in, and Howard was sent as a secret emissary to Cuba, where “Castro arranged for Howard to stay in one of the confiscated mansions that now served as a protocol house. The house came with a Cadillac and chauffeur, a butler and cook, air-conditioned bedrooms and a sunken bathtub.”

Castro and Che

Next thing she knew, however, Howard was discarded as a U.S.-Cuba bridge. Frustrated, she “seized on the visit of Che Guevara” to the UN to restore her bona fides: she “shepherded Guevara around town—together they attended a premiere of a new documentary film commemorating the life of Kennedy—and organized a soiree for him at her New York apartment.” She offered to arrange a meeting between Che and some LBJ honcho, but her days as a power broker were over. So was her TV career: largely because of her positive portrayal of Castro, ABC fired her. On July 4, 1965, age 39, she died of a drug overdose, having loved a brutal tyrant not wisely but too well.