NY Times Columnist: Coverage of BLM Riots, Kavanaugh ‘Encourage Radicalization on Left’

June 13th, 2022 8:30 PM

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat took a polite shot at the liberal press, including his own paper, in Sunday’s “Why the Memory of Jan. 6 Can’t Prevent a Trump Resurgence.” 

Douthat argued that the liberal establishment (including its press handmaidens) unwittingly reinforce the idea that Trump isn’t a “uniquely malign figure” but only “one dubious actor among many.”

….because it’s constantly reinforced by a liberal establishment that’s officially committed to combating it. In this sense the powers undermining the Jan. 6 committee include not just its Republican critics, but some of its most devoted champions -- from Democratic politicians who demand that conservatives vote for them to save democracy even as they themselves swing leftward, away from common ground, to media institutions whose sense of Trumpian emergency constantly undermines their claims of neutrality and fairness.

Douthat laid out detailed specifics.

The last week brought a depressing example of this pattern. As the media geared up to cover the Jan. 6 committee hearings, a young man seemingly motivated by liberal causes -- a constitutional right to abortion and gun control -- crossed the country with the apparent intention of assassinating Brett Kavanaugh at the justice’s Maryland home....Since the leak of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion on abortion, justices have faced protests outside their homes and threats of violence, and pro-life organizations, especially crisis pregnancy centers, have been hit with arson and vandalism….

He flicked criticism at his own paper for downplaying the attempted assassination of Justice Kavanaugh.

Yet the coverage of this campaign in mainstream news outlets has been limited, perfunctory. Kavanaugh’s would-be assassin did make the pages of this newspaper and The Washington Post. But neither that specific threat -- a constitutionally substantial one, given that an assassination really could tip the balance of the court -- nor the general intimidation campaign has been treated as really big news, something that merits the intensive coverage that equivalent tactics from the right would undoubtedly receive.

It’s a similar pattern to what you saw around the George Floyd protests in 2020, when much of the ostensibly neutral press found it politically difficult -- as New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait put it recently -- to use “clear language to describe the rioting and looting that was springing up around some demonstrations or the effects of the de-policing that took place in some areas in response.” Again and again, the spirit of emergency has converged with pre-existing ideological bias to both downplay and tacitly encourage radicalization on the left.

Douthat pointed out the information gap.

This has pernicious effects on how liberals understand the world. Just as a lot of Fox News viewers don’t know what they should about Jan. 6, I encountered many high-information liberals across late 2020 who had literally no idea about the scale of damage from the spring and summer rioting.

The Times didn’t quite ignore the protest-related violence and looting, but certainly didn’t foreground it, and often rose to defend the protests against Republican criticism, ridiculously calling them “mostly peaceful” or even “overwhelmingly peaceful.”

He wrote Americans "are extremely aware that there’s more beyond the liberal media than just 'disinformation,'” so that leads to a general skepticism of everyone that keeps Trump viable.

Every year or so Douthat lays a soft-spoken smackdown upon the liberal press, and his own paper, from his Times perch.