NYT in Translation: Democrats Shouldn’t Challenge Oligarchy

The editorial board may editorialize about social justice, but Norman Solomon and Jeff Cohen say it objects to any structural changes or policies to support that posture. 

The New York Times Building. (Michal Osmenda, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By Norman Solomon and Jeff Cohen
Common Dreams

A few days after the Nov. 2 election, The New York Times published a vehement editorial calling for the Democratic Party to adopt “moderate” positions and avoid seeking “progressive policies at the expense of bipartisan ideas.” It was a statement by the Times editorial board, which the newspaper describes as “a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values.”

The editorial certainly reflected “longstanding values” — since the Times has recycled them for decades in its relentless attacks on the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

The Times editorial board began its polemic by calling for the party to “return” to “moderate policies.”

Translation: Stick to corporate-friendly policies of the sort that we applauded during 16 years of the Clinton and Obama presidencies.

The board also said the election results:

“are a sign that significant parts of the electorate are feeling leery of a sharp leftward push in the party, including on priorities like Build Back Better, which have some strong provisions and some discretionary ones driving up the price tag.”

Translation: Although poll after poll shows that the Build Back Better agenda is popular with the broad public, especially increased taxation on wealthy and corporate elites to pay for it, we need to characterize the plan as part of “a sharp leftward push.”

And the board noted:

“the concerns of more centrist Americans about a rush to spend taxpayer money, a rush to grow the government, should not be dismissed.”

Translation: While we don’t object to the ongoing “rush to spend taxpayer money” on the military, and we did not editorialize against the bloated Pentagon budget, we oppose efforts to “grow the government” too much for such purposes as healthcare, childcare, education, housing and mitigating the climate crisis.

“Mr. Biden did not win the Democratic primary because he promised a progressive revolution. There were plenty of other candidates doing that. He captured the nomination—and the presidency—because he promised an exhausted nation a return to sanity, decency and competence.”

Translation: No need to fret about the anti-democratic power of great wealth and corporate monopolies. We liked the status quo before the Trump presidency, and that’s more or less what we want now.

“‘Nobody elected him to be F.D.R.,’ Representative Abigail Spanberger, a moderate Democrat from Virginia, told the Times after Tuesday’s drubbing.”

Translation: Spanberger, a former CIA case officer and current member of the corporate Blue Dog Coalition in Congress, is our kind of Democrat.

“Democrats should work to implement policies to help the American people.”

Translation: Democrats should work to implement policies to help the American people but not go overboard by helping them too much. We sometimes write editorials bemoaning the vast income inequality in this country, but we don’t want the government to do much to reduce it.

“Congress should focus on what is possible, not what would be possible if Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema and — frankly — a host of lesser-known Democratic moderates who haven’t had to vote on policies they might oppose were not in office.”

Translation: We editorialize about social justice, but we don’t want structural changes and substantial new government policies that could bring it much closer. We editorialize about the climate crisis, but not in favor of government actions anywhere near commensurate with the crisis.

Our type of tepid liberalism is an approach that won’t be a bottom-line threat to the Times owners and big advertisers — and won’t diminish the leverage and holdings of wealthy elites, including The New York Times Company’s chairman, A.G. Sulzberger, and the company’s board of directors. We want change, but not too much!

“Democrats agree about far more than they disagree about. But it doesn’t look that way to voters after months and months of intraparty squabbling. Time to focus on—and pass—policies with broad support.”

Translation: Although progressives are fighting for programs that actually do have broad public support, we’ll keep declaring those programs don’t have broad public support. Progressives should give up and surrender to the corporate forces we like to call “moderate.”

Norman Solomon is co-founder and national coordinator of RootsAction.org. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death (2006) and Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State (2007).

Jeff Cohen is an activist and author. Cohen was an associate professor of journalism and the director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, founder of the media watch group FAIR, and former board member of Progressive Democrats of America. In 2002, he was a producer and pundit at MSNBC (overseen by NBC News). He is the author of Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media —and a co-founder of the online action group, www.RootsAction.org. His website is jeffcohen.org.

This article is from  Common Dreams.

The views expressed are solely those of the authors and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.


17 comments for “NYT in Translation: Democrats Shouldn’t Challenge Oligarchy

  1. Jon D. Rudd
    November 20, 2021 at 08:50

    Krugman and the crossword puzzle are OK.
    The less said about everything else the better.

  2. Anonymot
    November 19, 2021 at 08:02

    NYT: Democrats Shouldn’t Challenge Oligarchy

    Well, of course, the NYT IS the Oligarchy. When its financial problems were overwhelming in 2015/15 they were bailed out by a couple of very prominent billionaire who changed the nature of the Times, converting it to a propaganda machine for a few of their preferred causes and 2016 candidates. That’s why Biden is there instead of a real leader. I’m not a fan of the loud-mouth extremists of either party, but that is who is in control of America.

    Only the alternative press barks at both. Thank you!

  3. Anonymotron
    November 18, 2021 at 17:44

    Tnx Norman,Jeff,CN
    At times… perhaps the Commons would benefit thru Life Imitates Art…
    ToWit: “Gray Lady Down”
    Uhhh… just sayin…

  4. Em
    November 18, 2021 at 16:58

    Em Sos

    Yanis Varoufakis, Noam Chomsky, Anne Pettifor


  5. Jim other
    November 18, 2021 at 16:54

    Julian Assange challenges the hierarchy in ways the NYT doesn’t like. So does Consortium news!

  6. Em
    November 18, 2021 at 16:50

    And how on point they are!

    And for how many decades now have their processive “longstanding values” come up against the intransigence of the ‘opposing’ “longstanding values” of the real power structure, represented by the neoliberal, corporatist NYT; effecting no change in its fundamental editorial strategies?

    As recently heard, Yanis Varoufakis stated, in a dialogue with Noam Chomsky and Anne Pettifer: “I choose pessimism, but I still have hope.”

    It is groups of “mainstream” ‘opinion journalists’ who hold sway over the lay mindset. How come this means of narrative manipulation, still has such power over the masses, after generations of the uplift of standing on the shoulders of giants who came before? This is still a fundamental question: “Where have all the flowers gone?” Pete Seeger, from the Latin: Ubi sunt qui ante nos fuerunt?

    How come the price – costs, are always measured in private shareholder financial value gains, which never includes the direct losses to the toiling masses – public commons’ shareholders – basic quality of life, values?

    And the bored are understating the understatement in the translation of the translations?
    Surely, by now, there has to be a more concrete way to bring about fundamental structural change than continuous empty rhetoric, even if it is coming from a ‘left’ slant!

    The social fabric, long-ago having tipped over into actual individual narcissistic fascism towards “a (supposed) sharp leftward push”, is nothing more than a one-degree shift in course.
    Just to get back to the center would take at least a 180 degree change in active strategy.

    How does simply, point by point, rehashing the NYT’s ‘tepid liberalism’ concerns clarify, let alone define, for us, the lay public, the dire changes necessary to superstructurally alter the course of the sh– of state, before we literally go extinct? Figuratively, we widgets are already there, never mind what the polls and pundits tell us.

  7. Frank McCoy
    November 18, 2021 at 16:22

    Thank you; excellent! I missed this in the NY Times to which I subscribe. Going to cancel my subscription and hope millions do. What a backward attitude and backward newspaper. They have proved to be too “old” for the modern world.

  8. John Stanley
    November 18, 2021 at 16:10

    Brilliant and so true. We must escape Jane Austen Economics and equalise equalise! On a dying planet billionaires are walking obscenities.

  9. He is G
    November 18, 2021 at 11:00

    Spot on! This piece is the Rosetta Stone for understanding our current frustrations with the Democratic Party, and our democracy as a whole. Corporate control of the media narrative insures progressive ideas never get a fair hearing and lulls the average Democratic voter into believing they support change when in reality they are supporting a failing status quo.

    • evelync
      November 18, 2021 at 13:18

      If only President Biden recognized what you are saying here and then ACTED on it, namely he started to fight for a sustainable domestic and foreign policy that might even draw support from the edges of the disenfranchised who out of desperation voted for the person they believed was a renegade against the corruption, the narcissistic con man Donald J Trump…..

      In 2016 there were some livelong conservative (sometimes even rural) Republicans who voted for Bernie in their state’s primary not because they agreed with all his policies but because they trusted him to tell them the truth…..I ran into a few and/or heard about ’em second hand.

  10. Lois Gagnon
    November 18, 2021 at 10:44

    Great job of decoding aristocracy speak. Our overlord loving press proves Orwell right on a regular basis.

  11. mgr
    November 18, 2021 at 10:38

    Finally, a translation of “New York Times speak” that makes sense. Until now, the cognitive dissonance of what the NYT says and what it means just makes one tired. I think it was Patrick Lawrence who said long ago that he reads the NYT, not to find out what the truth of things is but rather to see what he is expected to believe. I have held onto that ever since and it has been a huge help. The problem with establishment media outlets today is that the more you read and hear from them, the stupider you get.

    • Jeff Harrison
      November 18, 2021 at 11:39

      Sadly, CN doesn’t have a like button. Yes, Patrick said that and long ago I stopped paying any attention (which means reading) the MSM. One needs to get their news from the likes of CN or other foreign outlets.

      • mgr
        November 18, 2021 at 13:38

        Yes, indeed. :)

  12. November 18, 2021 at 10:19

    A wakeup call for progressives who believe in change from within the Democratic Party? Not likely. Delusions, like sleeping beauty’s slumber, are hard to shake off, more’s the pity.

  13. Dave Easley
    November 18, 2021 at 10:17

    Thanks for the spot on translations!

    I know that major media lies constantly but one of the biggest lies I think is when, the day after an election, they say, ” well, the American people have spoken. ”

    We know that people in a first-past-the-post system perpetually vote”lesser evil”. And we know that gerrymandering affects election results. So when we talked about electoral results we are NOT talking about what the American people feel. Scientific polling on the issues and policies is a much better indication of what u.s. citizens would actually prefer.

    If I take a multiple choice test with 2 choices I have not “spoken”. When I speak I know more than two words. We all do.

  14. evelync
    November 18, 2021 at 09:57


    Glad I don’t read that rag anymore. I’m using “lifestyle” changes to avoid using blood pressure meds.
    Having read Judith Miller on the front page, no less, editorializing about aluminum tubes pre Iraq War I quit that rag.

    Thanks to Soloman and Cohen for calling out their editorial board.
    The seat of a delusional EMPIRE.

    SHAME ON ‘EM!!!

Comments are closed.