söndag 14 februari 2021

Disillusioned about the New York Times

Until not very long ago, I used to regard the New York Times (NYT) as a beacon of sanity, truth and enlightenment. But not any more. In terms of trustworthiness, I now rank it on the same level as Breitbart News, Alex Jones, Donald Trump's Twitter account, and various climate denialism blogs such as the Orwellianly named Klimatupplysningen.1

Coming to this standpoint has been a painful and somewhat gradual process. So what triggers me to bring up the topic right now? Readers will be forgiven who think it must be NYT's intolerant and totemic witch hunt and word magic very similar to what was protrayed more than 40 years ago in the Jehova scene of the Monty Python movie Life of Brian.

But no. While that sort of thing does contribute to my change of hearts in how I view NYT, what triggers me today is their malicious hit piece yesterday against the rationalist movement in general and blogger Scott Alexander in particular. The piece is appallingly dishonest, and deals not so much in outright falsehoods (although one such untruth is the claim about the contents of James Damore's 2017 Google Memo) as in guilt-by-association routines and dozens of other insidious insinuations (such as the claim about rationalists that "some [of them] practiced polyamory", which is probably true, but is clearly meant to have the same effect on readers as the statement "some of them are rumoured to be homosexuals" would have had in the mid-20th century). If you absolutely must read the horrible NYT piece, then please make sure also to read the rebuttals by Scott Aaronson and by Scott Alexander himself. Especially the former makes clear that many of the misrepresentations in the NYT piece are not mistakes (which would be bad enough) but fully intentional.


1) Well, not really. I'm exaggerating. But if the New York Times can allow itself to engage in sensationalist falsehoods, then so can I.

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