The NY Times version of spin isn’t at all subtle


When the New York Times got around to reporting Ted Yoho’s vicious outburst at Ocasio-Cortez, they put all the emphasis on the woman’s anger, as if Yoho was in a boys will be boys moment, and Ocasio-Cortez was over-sensitive. Rebecca Traister explains what the Times was up to.

The Times’ story on the speech bore the headline “A.O.C. Unleashes a Viral Condemnation of Sexism in Congress” and kicked off by noting that Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman in Congress, who arrived there in 2019, “has upended traditions.” It called her speech on Thursday “norm-shattering” and described supporting speeches made by her colleagues — including one in which Pramila Jayapal recalled being referred to as a “young lady” who did not “know a damn thing” by Alaska representative Don Young — as a moment of “cultural upheaval.”

All these words somehow cast Ocasio-Cortez and her female colleagues as the disruptive and chaotic forces unleashed in this scenario, suggesting that they shattered norms in a way that Representative Yoho’s original, profane outburst apparently did not. (Perhaps Yoho’s words weren’t understood as eruptive and norm-shattering because calling women nasty names, in your head or with your friends or on the steps of your workplace, is much more of a norm than most want to acknowledge).

As Mark Harris pointed out on Twitter, the Times only printed the full epithet in a piece about Ocasio-Cortez reading it into the House record, after declining to print the words in an earlier story, when they would have been attributed to Yoho. This offered the faint impression that the only person who actually said the actual words “fucking bitch” was AOC herself, and not the man who aimed them at her. What’s more, the paper described her as “punching each syllable in the vulgarity,” reinforcing a view of Ocasio-Cortez’s utterances as pugilistic, without acknowledgment that while she enunciated clearly, she delivered her speech in the calmest and most genial tones imaginable. (An earlier Times story on Yoho’s non-apology and Ocasio-Cortez’s initial response to it described her as having “upbraided” him, and opened with a description of how she “forcefully rejected” his apology.)

This is a perfect summary.

In describing her team’s decisions about how to respond, the Times put scare quotes around their plans “to discuss how she ‘was accosted and publicly ridiculed,’” rather than simply reporting that she had been … accosted and publicly ridiculed. The whole thing suggests that she had somehow connived to set this all in motion; that her actions were the active and self-serving ones, while Yoho was a passive actor, his only contribution to the situation providing the platform from which she might spring. As the Times put it: “Republicans have long labored to cast Ms. Ocasio-Cortez as an avatar of the evils of the Democratic Party, a move that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has used to bolster her own cheeky, suffer-no-fools reputation.”

The Times has long been a master of framing, whether it’s the he-said-she-said style of reporting, or this, pandering to the conservative businessman in a suit reading the paper in his limousine, aghast at the fact that women are in the workplace, the boardroom, even in the halls of power.

As we read commentators tell the story of women’s ambition and savvy and drive, all of which are surely politically animating forces — as they have been for all the many men who have preceded them in American politics — I hope people can remember that the analysis is not wrong, exactly, but that it is woefully incomplete. Because until we can see how white men have taken advantage of sexism and racism for their own gain — how they’ve built their own “brand,” the American brand — on the backs of the fucking bitches forever, we’re not really reading a full story.

Remember this: The NY Times is and always has been an agent of the status quo, working to build and reinforce the “American brand”. We won’t be able to rebuild our country by letting “the newspaper of record” tell the story.

Comments

  1. redwood says

    The problem with the NYTimes is that they’re the ones deciding what the “American brand” is. So typical to make it sound like a product of some kind, not a genuine feeling or understanding of what it means to be an American citizen. I have a feeling that their version of it is quite a bit different from mine and probably many of yours.

  2. bcwebb says

    The authors of the NY Times article are getting hammered for this in the comments. I had a delivery subscription for years to support “journalism” but it was finally just too much. My delivery goes on “vacation hold” for six months, every six months, so I have online access but pay them not a dime.

  3. Doc Bill says

    Throughout my career in industry I heard women referred to by men in ways men would never refer to other men. Not always vulgar, but cutting, demeaning where women were the butt of “locker room” inside jokes. Men were strong, women were pushy. Men were forthright, women were shrill. It exists to this day.

    Although I don’t recall the exact reply because I only heard it second hand, my wife who has a PhD, published and widely recognized as an expert in the industry was introduced at a presentation by her boss as “a soccer mom.” To be clear, in case you are wondering, no man has ever been introduced at a board level presentation as a soccer mom in the history of the World.

    My wife’s reply, after the laughter died down was something like this, “Actually, I am a certified Grade 6 referee, qualified for the highest amateur levels in the state. This certification requires an encyclopedic knowledge of the game, physical fitness and agility, and the ability to make instant and accurate judgements under immense pressure. Skills we sorely needed in our industry but as we all recognize are lacking in general.”

    She received several promotions before she retired on her own terms. I’m proud to be her personal chef.

  4. hillaryrettig says

    bcwebb – clever!

    I canceled my long-time subscription last month, in the wake of the Tom Cotton editorial. And WOW did the Times make it hard to cancel. NO online option, no way to reach a phone operator (perpetual busy signal), and they responded to a text A WEEK LATER. It reeks of desperately trying to “trap” subscribers, and for that reason alone I would never resubscribe.

    Really glad I’m not supporting them anymore. From now on, my subscription $$ only to go to solid, left media. (e.g., DemocracyNow.org and The Guardian online).

  5. hillaryrettig says

    PS – the left media isn’t perfect, of course, but their heart – and morals – are in the right place, and they still take journalism seriously. Which is more than you can say for the NYT. (Recalling that NYT resigned editor Bennet claimed not to have read Cotton’s editorial before publishing it.)

  6. says

    Useful trick: if you subscribe to things, use paypal. You can drop the subscription on the paypal end and the recurrent bills are rejected. Then, you get whiny emails for a while about how much freedom you are buying, etc.

  7. Elladan says

    I always thought of the NYT as a stodgy right wing mouthpiece, but I briefly subscribed to them anyway in 2016 thinking that at least they had a few standards.

    They don’t. They’re Fox News but targeting the college educated crowd, working hard to make blood soaked imperialism and neoliberal ideology acceptable in polite company.

    I think it was about six months before I couldn’t stand it any more and cancelled. Which I had to do by telephone.

  8. robro says

    I read the NY Times selectively, and often to compare with other sources. As for subscriptions…never done that. Depending on where you live, your local library may provide free online access to the the NY Times and Washington Post. Or, you can just clear the New York Times cache (nyt.com) and the Washington Post’s several cache items (washingtonpost.com, wp.com, and I think wpengine.com) whenever they block you from seeing an article.

  9. nomdeplume says

    I am reminded of the song from “My Fair Lady” – “oh why can’t a woman be more like a man?” All over the world I think the “liberal media” undermine progressive politics in an oh-so-subtle, more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger, this-will-hurt-me-more-than-it-hurts-you kind of way. As a result they are more damaging than the outright fascism of News Ltd and Sinclair.

  10. Ridana says

    I’ve never subscribed to the NYT. There was a period about a year ago when I couldn’t read their articles without going through the Wayback Machine, but since then I’ve never been blocked, except from the crosswords. I don’t have to dump cookies (which I don’t accept from them) like I do with WaPo to get access. I have no idea why this is so, or I’d clue you in. But it is nice to read what people are upset about now and then, without having to jump through any hoops. Fingers crossed that they don’t close whatever loophole I unwittingly stumbled through.

  11. shagnaski says

    Hers was a speech for the ages, one of the most important in the House in my lifetime. I cheerfully shared it broadly including to the few conservatives of my acquaintance. Long ago AOC demonstrated that if you want to take her down, you’d better be well prepared and pack a lunch. It’s so amusing because those baggers, draggers and trogs can’t seem to recognize how superior to them she is. She slices and dices them before they know they’ve been cut. Still they come…

    While I fear for her safety, I look forward to her development.

  12. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    The New York Times isn’t fit to wipe an ass with. The ultimate problem is that it caters to the rich and powerful in New York. It can’t afford to upset hedge fund managers and CEOs, so it can never adopt a liberal–or even a sincere and honest position.

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