NYT Strategy: Spinning New News from the Old

Actually uncovering plots is difficult. Reporting the news is costly. So the New York Times has figured out a new strategy for filling its front page by spinning old news into sinister conspiracies.

The first example was Abu Ghraib, a crime that was duly reported when the military started investigating the charge in January. However, it didn't become news until June when the media discovered that they could spin this story into a tale of Bush evil conspiracy if they just ignored the fact that the military announce this crime in the first place. Certainly the release of the pictures triggered this, but it took a lot of spinning for the NYT to fill 47 front page with stories basically turning this into a story about how evil Bush and the US military are.

More recently, we saw this same technique applied to the Bush military record. Back in February, the Bush campaign released W's military records and, at the time, noted that a few pay stubs from one quarter in 1992 had been destroyed by the military. The NYT uncovered this same fact just a few days ago when it realized that it was part of a military conspiracy to destroy George Bush's records.

Even more recently, we say this again with the election postponement story, but with a much faster spin cycle. DeForest Soaries, head of the US Election Assistance Commission, announced that he sent a letter to Homeland Security on July 8th about a number of issues regarding terrorist attack including about how to reschedule elections in case an attack disrupted them. In stories on the July 9th, when Tom Ridge, head of Homeland Security announced briefing of congressmen regarding increased threat during election, Soaries was quoted as complaining about the fact Tom Ridge, hadn't had time to meet with him to discuss these issues. But by July 12th, this became a NYT times conspiracy story when Ridge sent the Soaries letter to Justice to see if there was any legal basis for Federal agencies delaying the election. In these reports, of course, the NYT never mentioned the fact that the Supreme Court already decided this issue in the 2000 elections when it pointed out that the constitution required election rules to be set by state legislatures, not the federal government or state judiciaries. This story isn't really news unless the NYT can spin it into a plot by Ridge, so that is what they do.

Now the NYT's has seen the light. When Cheney's doctor is dismissed because he was having a problem with drug abuse, the real reason for his dismissal disappeared almost immediately. The doctor's drug addiction isn't even mentioned until the end of the story in the NYT about the conspiracy theories that see this as a pretext for Cheney dropping out of the race. When it is mentioned, it is rejected as a reason for the dismissal because Cheney "has known about the 5 year struggle with drug addiction but has no concerns about the care he received," making it sound like Cheney knew for five years about this, when he clearly didn't.

Of course, the fact that this was all publicly announced, like all of these other stories, doesn't mean it isn't a conspiracy or, as the NYT says, "The vice president must put aside his obsession with secrecy..." Just like the military must put aside its obsession with secrecy when it announced the Abu Ghraib problem in January, or the Bush campaign must put aside its obsession with secrecy in announcing back in February that the military destroyed some records, or Tom Ridge must get over his obsession with secrecy in announcing the sending of Soaries' letter to Justice for a legal opinion. Thank goodness that we have the NYT to uncover these sinister plots by figuring out that these announcements are really a secret plan to keep secrets by announcing them publicly, knowing that the media usually ignores announcements by a Republican administration.