Flush With Subscription Money From Anti-Trump Readers, The New York Times Just Hired a Climate Change Denier
The New York Times hasn’t exactly been shy about all the good that anti-Trump readers have done for them. “Trump is the best thing to happen to the Times’ subscription strategy,” said executive editor Dean Baquet. “Every time he tweets [an insult] it drives subscriptions wildly.” The newspaper added 276,000 new digital-only subscriptions in the last three months of 2016, more than they added in the entirety of 2015.
In response, Baquet promised “to report America and the world honestly, without fear or favor.” The Times even aired an ad during the Oscars declaring, “The truth is more important now than ever.”
And then they hired a climate change denier.
The New York Times editorial team (admittedly, different from the newsroom team) announced the hiring of Bret Stephens from The Wall Street Journal. Stephens has written on many topics, often eloquently, but he is also a climate change denier and anti-Arab xenophobe.
He has called global warming a “mass hysteria phenomenon” meant to drum up “taxes, regulation, and other changes to civilization as we know it.” He claimed that scientists are forced to believe in climate change, like “Stalinists” or religious zealots, because they “have been on the receiving end of climate change-related funding.” Therefore, they “must believe in the reality (and catastrophic imminence) of global warming just as a priest must believe in the existence of God.”
The Times defended its decision by arguing that “to pretend like the views of a thinker like Bret, and the millions of people who agree with him on a range of issues, should simply be ignored, that they’re outside the bounds of reasonable debate, is a really dangerous form of delusion.”
Now, I don’t like to spend too much time attacking newspapers when there’s a battalion of sentient dumpster fires in the Oval Office whom I could be railing against instead. But this is a classic example of transforming the valuable principle of journalistic “neutrality” into nonsense through false equivalency. You are not required to treat evidence-less screeds as equal to evidence-based science just because a certain number of people really like those screeds.
It is in fact the job of traditional, well-funded gatekeeper media to determine which perspectives are worthy of a public platform and which are not. In many ways, that’s actually the only function of a gatekeeper institution; it is supposed to provide a highly visible platform for the country’s very best and most well-supported ideas, leaving unstable, racist, or poorly conceived ideas to less prominent platforms. Gatekeeping institutions serve that important function of separating the wheat from the chaff in a society where everyone is free to air their not-so-smart ideas.
In hiring a climate change denier, The New York Times abdicated that responsibility.
Stephens has also written some pretty loathsome pieces about Palestinians and the Muslim world. He once described Palestinians as possessed by “a communal psychosis in which plunging knives into the necks of Jewish women, children, soldiers and civilians is seen as a religious and patriotic duty, a moral fulfillment.”
As The Intercept points out, the Times editorial team currently has no regular Arab American or Muslim American writers – even after a managerial mandate came down to recruit women and minority candidates. Instead, they have hired another middle-aged white man, one who thinks all Palestinians have a “blood fetish,” to share his opinions on a number of topics including the Middle East and Islam.
The Times‘ ad was right. The truth is more important now than ever. So why, with so many subscribers supporting that message, did they decide to leave truth behind and hire a climate change denier?
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