Over the last week, the op-ed page of the New York Times (NYT) turned into a conflagrant trash receptacle, even more so than usual. Much of the well deserved ire was aimed at an anti-trans column that was barely disguised as ‘bad feminists to my right, bad feminists to my left’ piece (80-85% of the text was an anti-trans screed over largely over language, not any concrete, specific issues). While it’s disgusting, anyone who remembers the flat-out bigotry that could be found on op-ed pages (and in papers’ editorials) during the eighties and nineties (SOOPERPREDATORZ!) isn’t surprised that the moderates of the chattering class have found a new acceptable cruelty (a lack of surprise makes it no less pernicious).
But more fuel was added to the conflagrant trash receptacle in the form of an op-ed, in which the author argued that the possible* termination of her ectopic pregnancy wasn’t an abortion, that “it is closer to delivering a baby very prematurely because the mother has life-threatening eclampsia.” The whole piece is an argument for a ‘life of the mother’ exception, combined with a desperate and nonsensical refusal to call that procedure an abortion because, apparently, using the word abortion devalues life, even if an abortion is what actually occurred*.
Newspapers, especially prominent ones that are full of themselves like the NYT, must use words such that they have meaning and are not propaganda. Even in op-ed pieces, writers should not be allowed to redefine a procedure universally defined as an abortion as ‘not an abortion’ to serve ideological or sectarian purposes. As Confucius wrote, “the beginning of wisdom is calling things by their right names.” If newspapers, whose very job involves writing, the use of words, are willing to misuse words, then our democracy is in even more trouble than we realize.
Over the weekend, I half-joked that there must be a Federalist Society-like organization that, instead of placing judges in the judiciary, places conservatives on major daily editorial boards. Now I’m pretty certain there is–and here is one such organization that fits the bill. To understand the editorial decisions newspapers make–and behind every shitty story and op-ed, there’s an asshole editor–we need to start examining the staff of editorial boards in a much more rigorous way.
Put another way, Bari Weiss, formerly of the NYT, drew a lot of attention to herself (and wound up on the lucrative wingnut grift circuit as a result), but how many are there who share her predilections, but have the brains to keep their heads down and “catapult the propaganda?” Inquiring minds would like to know…
Added: The NY Times outdid itself in whitewashing anti-Semitism today. Has anyone tried turning off the NYT and then turning it back on?
*As others have noted, the doctor couldn’t find a fetus, so as Liz Dye put it, “…there was no “child” and she was the only “patient” in the operating room.”