NY Times publishes hit job on anti-war activists; solidarity must be the answer

Left, Jodie Evans of Code Pink, who the New York Times attacked for the group’s straightforward message.

Once in a while, the New York Times runs an article that reveals what this media conglomerate really represents.

People often call the Times “liberal.” That’s because it seems to oppose some of the most reactionary politicians, like president #45, and gives ample opinion space to diverse voices.

When Washington mobilizes for war, however, the Times doffs its liberal cloak and exposes itself as a loudspeaker for U.S. imperialist interests. That’s what it did Aug. 5, running a front page hit job on progressive organizations and on a donor to these causes. The verbal attack replayed 1950s McCarthyism.

Though the article had clear political goals and lacked hard evidence, the Times disguised it as investigative journalism. Four Times’ reporters produced propaganda aimed at repressing voices that oppose Washington’s preparation for war, in this case war with China. It’s important in the context of the Aug. 5 article to be conscious of the fact that the Times pays these journalists to write —  and to follow editorial “guidelines.”

The New York Times and imperialist war

People in the anti-war movement who have followed the Times over the past 60 years know that whenever the U.S. government and the Pentagon prepare for war, the Times uses its influence to magnify the government’s lies and pretexts and mobilize public support.

This happened with the alleged Gulf of Tonkin attack in 1964, which provided the pretext to expand U.S. intervention in Vietnam. It happened with the demonization of the Belgrade government in the 1990s that led to the 1999 U.S.-backed U.N. bombing war against what was then Yugoslavia. It happened with Judith Miller’s reports in 2003 for the Times, filled with lies about Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction.” It happened with the demonization of Muammar Gaddhafi in 2011 as NATO bombs and rockets destroyed Libya.

And it has been happening all year, with every article written about China as well as about the war in Ukraine, with the bulk of the Times articles backing Washington’s war mobilization.

A blurb in the Times describes the lead writer of the Aug. 5 hit piece, Mara Hvistendahl, as “an investigative reporter focused on China.” All Hvistendahl’s earlier articles this year criticized China’s COVID-19 policy.

The Aug. 5 article aimed to discredit organizations that have campaigned against the U.S. starting a new Cold War against China. They labeled the groups and some individuals as “agents of a foreign power,” while presenting no hard evidence. All was insinuation, slanted language.

Anyone who really knows the organizations named — No Cold War, Code Pink, the Peoples Forum and the think-tank Tricontinental — knows they have taken consistent positions throughout their history, acting on the convictions of their leading bodies. 

No evidence given

The Aug. 5 article claimed, without evidence, that the Chinese government or the Chinese Communist Party gave aid to and imposed positions on the named donor. It offered no evidence that the donor imposed his views on the organizations receiving funds.

Remove the biased negative language describing the donor, Neville Roy Singham, and his path appears remarkable. Son of a Marxist political scientist the Times calls “a leftist academic,” Singham started a “software consultancy firm, Thoughtworks” where people “jokingly called each other comrade.” He then sold the company and decided to donate his own wealth to progressive causes.

Consider other so-called “philanthropists.” Those who made their fortunes getting millions of people addicted to painkillers, or breaking unions, or those who show signs of megalomania, insist on their names sullying opera houses, museums or hospitals. Some back the most right-wing politicians and expect a payback with tax breaks or rights to plunder natural resources. 

As one rare progressive Times opinion columnist, Jamelle Bouie, pointed out in an Aug. 12 piece, “A whole coterie of Silicon Valley billionaires and millionaires have lent their time and attention to [Richard] Hanania,” whom Bouie described as “an unremarkable racist.” Since white supremacy is as U.S. American as cherry pie, however, no one will demand that Hanania or his billionaire backers register as “agents of a foreign power.” 

Unlike others, Singham actually did give away significant parts of his fortune. He gave it to leftist causes — and that’s why he, as well as his life partner Jodie Evans, a founder of Code Pink and a leading political activist, were targeted. 

McCarthyism II – and how to fight it

The Aug. 5 article named other individuals as being friendly to, or present at, functions involving the organizations, insinuating that these individuals, too, were changing their actions or speech because someone paid them. Again, it did so without a trace of evidence, without even a quote of anything pro-China said by these individuals. Like the original McCarthyism tactics of the 1950s, this was an attempt to intimidate anyone who might be friendly to those targeted.

The reactionary Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin once waved a phony list, claiming he had the names of a couple hundred “card-carrying communists in the State Department.” This effort, in the then burgeoning Cold War aimed at the Soviet Union, coincided with a wave of repression. Some organizers were imprisoned, others expelled from their valuable roles as labor organizers, anti-racists, teachers, and film directors and screenwriters, known as the Hollywood Ten. 

The Times hit job follows other attacks by the government on left political organizations. Omali Yeshitela, chairperson of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP), and other members face charges of “failing to register as foreign agents,” merely for expressing their views on Ukraine.

Li Tang “Henry” Liang — a hotel worker active in Boston’s UNITE HERE Local 26 and in Pivot to Peace –- was indicted by a federal grand jury for “conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government without prior notification” and “acting as an agent of a foreign government without notice to the attorney general” for acts such as publicly holding a banner reading, “China is not our enemy: Stop the provocations!”

Five activists in Tampa, Florida, were arrested brutally at a March 6 campus protest that was organized by Students for a Democratic Society at the University of South Florida against Governor Ron DeSantis’ attacks on education. 

It’s important to include all these attacks, because the movement must respond in a united way. An attack on one is an attack on all. 

Even the comments responding to the Times article had the smell of an organized effort. Many much-too-similar comments lauded this proofless report. Many attacked individuals were named only for being present at a wedding party with the article’s main targets. This appeared to be an attempt to frighten people away from supporting those under attack.

Anyone really confused by the Times’ phony “investigative report” should realize this was a contrived, premeditated Big Lie aimed at disrupting the movement to combat the U.S./NATO proxy war in Ukraine and the Cold War against China. 

What’s needed is that all who want to resist war and injustice redouble their solidarity with all the groups and individuals under attack – and raise their voices even higher against the new Cold War. That’s the best strategy for combating this new McCarthyism.

John Catalinotto

John.Catalinotto@workers.org

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John Catalinotto
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