“It’s not the way that you say it when you do those things to me. It’s more the way that you mean it when you tell me what will be.” — Justin Hayward
The New York Times is supposed to be one of the cornerstones of journalism. They were a beacon of light throughout the TFG presidency bravely calling balls and strikes. That’s ultimately what the free press is supposed to do. Their recent staff editorial on free speech certainly caused a stir for all of the wrong reasons.
The staff editorial made two huge mistakes in logic with their screed. First, one of the beacons of the free press misunderstood what free speech is and therefore misunderstood what censorship is. Aa you might suspect, they got quite a bit of push back on their opinion. The editorial presents two distinct problems plaguing journalism and the marketplace of ideas.
The first such problem is one I have discussed here in this space numerous times. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from criticism. I don’t get to broadcast my truth free and clear of any push back from anyone else in the marketplace of ideas. That is literally how none of this works. There are ideas worth shunning. There are ideas that demand shunning. Shunning horrific and grotesque ideas is not censorship. If cancel culture is even a thing, it has been a thing for an eternity. It is nothing new. The only thing that is new is what ideas get cancelled.
However, it is the second problem that is perhaps even more alarming. The NYT seems to think it is their job to be fair and balanced. Fair is a four letter word. To borrow from the baseball analogy, fair and balanced seems to indicate calling balls and strikes as they come. Yet, the NYT seems to think that if there isn’t an equal number of balls and strikes then they haven’t done their job.
Some pitchers have impeccable control while other pitchers occasionally hit the mascot. The free press cannot treat them equally. A ball in the dirt is still a ball in the dirt. It does not become a strike because you’ve already called a bunch of balls on that particular pitcher. Some ideas are just wrong. Some schools of thought are just wrong and not to be taken seriously. Bad ideas don’t get equal consideration because we are supposed to give all ideas equal air time. That is literally never how any of this is supposed to work.
That also means that some people are wrong and are not to be taken seriously. We don’t give them equal air time because we have some new fangled idea of what it means to be fair. It also means that we don’t take them seriously because we are afraid that crazy people will consider us to be biased because we don’t give their bullshit equal time.
Calling balls and strikes means that you report facts. Calling balls and strikes means that you present ideas and report on all ideas. It doesn’t mean giving them an equal amount of support. It means that when an idea is not supported by the facts then you say so. It shouldn’t matter that you also said this yesterday and the day before. We don’t give credence to stupidity because we gave airtime to the other side.
Someone has to be the arbiter of what is true and what is not true. In a free society we want an independent source to do this. The government cannot tell us what is true and what isn’t. If that happens then we wake up one day with our neighbors being bombed and somehow believing that isn’t happening. We somehow believe they are bombing themselves and the guy doing the bombing is somehow the good guy. We somehow end up believing things that are clearly not true. In many ways, we are nearly half way there. That’s especially true when the NYT refuses to tell people they are wrong. They told them they were wrong yesterday. It wouldn’t be fair and balanced to do it again.