The New York Times’ Attempts to Tar Hindus, Bring Down an Indian Government
The New York Times (NYT) has carried on a sustained campaign about what they have termed as “interference in the American elections” — identifying Russia and Putin as the ones who meddled in the 2016 elections and brought us Donald Trump. They have implied that Putin and his government wished to bring us to heel for what America did overtly and covertly to dismantle the Soviet Union and cut Russia down to size in the past. Thus, we have been witness to events over the past three years, culminating in the motion in the House of Representatives to impeach the president, and the rejection of the same in the Senate. On the way, we have had Robert Mueller’s report, and an unremitting day-in-and-day-out coverage of these matters on the front pages of the newspaper. Thus, it came as no surprise, last month, when the Trump campaign sued the newspaper, and one of its own former editors has slammed the paper’s coverage of Trumpian matters.
There is more to The New York Times’ efforts at shaping the world than what we ordinarily know or surmise. As Gregory Shaya noted in an essay in 2012, “The power of the press is also the power to misinform,” and that “…the press is never simply a force for cohesion… (as) (I)t can just as easily serve the ends of division, giving voice to conflicts of all shape”. The editors of the newspaper sure are concerned about state actors interfering in others’ affairs, but ironically they don’t consider their own work — in terms of slanted reporting, partisan opinion peddling, and outright calls for bringing down foreign governments — which they deem are good medicine for the citizens of those countries but not as interference in others’ internal affairs. Their justification for such interference is that they are merely reporting what is happening in those countries, and that they are merely expressing opinions about the nature of the governments that they deem unfit for the people in those countries who chose the government in the first place!
On the surface, the claim that the fourth estate acts as a check on unbridled government authority, as a watchdog, and as an institution that has the wellbeing of the people in mind seems to make sense and the fourth estate a necessity. This description and justification are offered by journalism instructors to their wards in American classrooms all the time. But as Walter Lippman observed in 1920 about The New York Times’ reporting on the Bolshevik Revolution, “In the large, the news about Russia is a case of seeing not what was, but what men wished to see.” Keeping an eye on the country’s internal affairs and governance is fine but what is the role of this watchdog of others’ affairs? When does the watchdog become a troublemaker who interferes in the matters of another country?
A hundred years later after Lippman’s observation, therefore, we see nothing much has changed. Therefore, what the gray lady seeks to see in India is not what actually is, but what she wishes us to see. Drunk with her own power to influence minds, shape policy, and sway attitudes she has her own hired hands in India, paid very well, who will do her bidding, and she has men and women of her own, from these United States of America, who manage that stable back in New Delhi, and have the “native” reporters march on command.
Thus, what has not been widely reported, even in India, is that the Indian Police Service (IPS) strongly condemned the recent biased and slanted reporting by the NYT of the Delhi riots. The provocative reports authored by its cabal of New Delhi based reporters and correspondents blamed the Delhi police for standing by and looking on while people went on violent, murderous rampage. An activist has sued the NYT in an Indian court about both the biased and provocative reporting, but we will have to see where that goes and how well-equipped the lawyers are in arguing their case and offering evidence of the deliberately provocative, highly partisan, and egregiously mischievous reporting.
The wares that the NYT sells about others, especially India and Hindus, are nothing new, however. We can start with a headline in their March 23, 1999 edition as an example:
Shiva vs. Jesus: Hindus Burn Homes of Christians
By Celia W. Dugger
March 23, 1999
The provocative headline did not really capture the essence of the report but instead was meant to paint Hindus as aggressors and Christians the proverbial lambs. In the report by Dugger, the concluding paragraph says this: “Mr. Marik, the divisional police chief, said that it was logical to ask why the cross became a source of conflict now, but that he had no real answer. Nor did he see any direct evidence that the Bharatiya Janata Party or any other Hindus had been involved. ‘If you go asking questions that way,’ Mr. Marik said, ‘then Jesus and Rama are the cause. You could say these two fellows are responsible. If you look at it that way, there’s no end to it’.” So, what the police chief really warned against and asked the reporter to consider was twisted and turned upside down so that the NYT could beat the Hindu horse till it was dead.
Now, imagine if the NYT would have headlines like these:
· Muhammad vs. Jesus: Muslims slit Christians’ throats
· Jesus vs. Yahweh: Christian Slaughters Jews in Pittsburgh Synagogue
· Buddha vs. Muhammad: Buddhists kill Muslims
Would they? Have you seen one such headline other than when they are targeting Hindus? If you think the 1999 headline was a one-off aberration, you would be surprised. Consider these:
· Hindu Cow Vigilantes in Rajasthan, India, Beat Muslim to Death — Apr 05, 2017
· His Defense of Hindus Was to Kill a Muslim and Post the Video — December 08, 2017
· Where 8-Year-Old Was Raped and Killed, Hindus Rally Around Suspects — April 24, 2018
· Indian Court Convicts 6 Hindus in Rape and Murder of Muslim Girl, 8 — June 10, 2019
· Forced to Chant Hindu Slogans, Muslim Man Is Beaten to Death in India — June 25, 2019
· Hindu-Led India Puts Clamp on Muslim Kashmir — August 06, 2019
· India Plans Big Detention Camps for Migrants. Muslims Are Afraid — August 17, 2019
These kinds of provocative headlines, for example, propelled and fueled the February 2020 riots in Delhi. Of course, every piece of reporting offers evidence, but the evidence is partial, carefully chosen to buttress a preconceived narrative, and any contrary evidence erased from the narrative. In this manner of reporting, and in fashioning headlines to provoke, the NYT reporters and editors have deliberately gone against the “Norms of Journalistic Conduct” adopted by the Press Council of India. The press council’s standards contain a specific clause which deals with religious conflict and violence in India, for example. It reads as follows:
"News, views or comments relating to communal or religious disputes/clashes shall be published after proper verification of facts and presented with due caution and restraint in a manner which is conducive to the creation of an atmosphere congenial to communal harmony, amity and peace. Sensational, provocative and alarming headlines are to be avoided. Acts of communal violence or vandalism shall be reported in a manner as may not undermine the people’s confidence in the law and order machinery of the State. Giving community-wise figures of the victims of communal riot, or writing about the incident in a style which is likely to inflame passions, aggravate the tension, or accentuate the strained relations between the communities/religious groups concerned, or which has a potential to exacerbate the trouble, shall be avoided. (ii) Journalists and columnists owe a very special responsibility to their country in promoting communal peace and amity. Their writings are not a mere reflection of their own feelings but help to large extent in moulding the feelings and sentiments of the society at large. It is, therefore, of utmost importance that they use their pen with circumspection and restraint."
What allows the NYT reporters and correspondents, and the NYT editors back home to undermine the Press Council of India guidelines? More dangerously, when it comes to reporting on India there is no balance, and there is no space given to those with opposing views, and more ominously, attacks on Hindus by Muslims, for example, don’t get reported. Anand Ranganathan, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, took to Twitter to list 250 incidents over a period of two years, in which Muslims were the aggressors and Hindus the victims. None of those incidents found mention in The New York Times.
In matters of opinions and the op-ed pages, the NYT seeks to balance its opinion page commentary by giving space to right/conservative columnists like Ross Douthat, Bret Stephens, and David Brooks. However, in their coverage of India, and in their commentaries on India published both in the editorial/opinion pages and reports, no space is offered to those who have a different story to tell about India, Hindus, Hinduism, the threats that India faces from monopolistic/monotheistic religions who wish to make India Muslim or Christian, and from dangerous neighbors who seek to destroy India “by a thousand cuts”.
A quick survey of some top editors, commentators, government experts, and academics in India, who have different views and opinions on Indian matters than the ones purveyed by the NYT, showed that none of them had been contacted by the NYT for their opinions nor had they been invited to write op-eds or commentaries. Those of us who have written letters to the editors have been ignored. We may consider this as political bias — with the NYT leaning politically left/liberal and considering the Indian ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), its supporters, as well as Hindus in general leaning right (Though the whole left/right divide in India has no relevance or similitude to the left/right divide in Europe or the US). Therefore, is it just a matter of the ideological lens that NYT editors wear? What about their claim that they are the newspaper of record and that they publish “all the news fit to print”? What about fairness and balance in reporting? When we probe carefully we find there is more to this than meets the eyes, and in the next few articles on this matter, I will point out to the orientalist and hegemonic worldviews that shape the new colonialists, these NYT editors and correspondents and their hired hands, who have seduced the “heathen Hindu” to thinking that this Western discourse about them is “rational, logical, scientific, realistic, and objective” and what they offer to their readers is the truth, and that it is medicine that Hindus should swallow for their own good.
The NYT’s editorial board seeks to impose their version of the truth and their ideas of India on the world by demonizing and mischaracterizing a large majority of Indians — those who voted the BJP to form a government — and by using specific tropes and metaphors to present Hindus, Hinduism, and Hindu concerns in a manner similar to what the British colonialists did in their reports about India and its people. They also deliberately pick events and incidents where the Hindu is presented as the aggressor or the alleged aggressor and the Muslim or Christian as the victim or the alleged victim. Every case where a Hindu is the victim at the hands of a Muslim, a Christian, or a Muslim mob have gone unreported.
In a series of future pieces here, I will present more evidence for the imbalance and bias in NYT coverage of India, and argue that it is not mere bias or a particular ideological leaning that makes NYT’s reporting on India so fervidly anti-Hindu. The NYT’s editors and reporters seek to impose their version of the “truth” and their ideas of India on the world by demonizing and mischaracterizing a large majority of Indians who are Hindu, who voted for the BJP, who have been the targets of violent monopolists over centuries, and who have designs of making India lose its Hinduness. They do this by using specific tropes and metaphors to present Hindus, Hinduism, and Hindu concerns in a manner similar to what the British colonialists did in their reports about India and its people.