- - Monday, February 27, 2017


That’s quite a hangover Oscar is still nursing, two days later. The motion picture academy tried to give him away to the wrong winners, and the academy posted a tribute to a Hollywood icon no longer with us with a photograph of someone else who is still very much with us. One of the performers was hit on the head by a prop. One thing followed another.

As Casey Stengel, managing the New York Mets in their first expansionist year, with a line-up studded with cast-offs, has-beens and never-would-bes, cried out in terminal frustration: “Can’t anybody here play this game?”

But the greatest shame of the evening was a paid commercial for The New York Times, trying hard to reclaim its reputation as the place to find all the news that’s fit to print, claiming “The Truth is Hard.” The Times is trying to persuade readers that if they want the “truth” they must ignore everything that comes out of Donald Trump’s White House and pay attention only to what they read in the Old Gray Lady.

The Times proclaims that “The Truth has no Alternative,” and says the newspaper has a “proven track record. Sources are verified. Facts are verified we strive to tell compelling stories so you can better understand.”

The New York Times, which can indeed be a feast for readers, has nevertheless never been a paragon of the truth, certainly not of facts with which the paper has no sympathy. The newspaper is relentless in attacking a president who, its editors think, is insufficiently critical of Vladimir Putin. They may be correct that closer scrutiny should be paid to Moscow, but the newspaper has no claim to skepticism of those who wish America ill.

Its pages have been a cheering section for two of the 20th century’s most murderous dictators. Few readers today will remember Walter Duranty or Herbert Matthews, but history remembers, and shudders. Mr. Duranty was the newspaper’s “man in Moscow,” and a sycophantic apologist for Josef Stalin, one of the recognized brutes of history. He covered Stalin’s show trials of his enemies in the ‘30s as if the trials were legitimate, and dismissed his many thousands of executions and purges, declaring that one cannot make an omelet without breaking eggs.

Joseph Alsop, a leading American journalist of the day, described Mr. Duranty as a “fashionable prostitute,” and Malcolm Muggeridge described him as “the greatest liar of any journalist I have met in 50 years of journalism.”

Herbert Matthews, a celebrated foreign correspondent in the ‘50s, was to Fidel Castro what Mr. Duranty had been to Stalin, an unabashed supporter of everything the Cuban dictator did to his own people. These men and their newspaper were pioneers in “fake news.”

Historians agree that Walter Duranty was at his most corrupt denying Stalin’s genocide in the Ukraine, and even he conceded to friends that Stalin had probably starved or executed 10 million Ukrainians. Mr. Duranty’s malignant influence is felt today. Only last week The Washington Post, reviewing “Bitter Harvest,” a new Canadian film about the Ukrainian genocide, panned it as unfair to the Soviets and to Stalin, refusing to acknowledge that the rape of Ukraine was a conscious decision by the evil one. The film makers were scolded for portraying Stalin as a “villain straight out of a black and white serial from a hundred years ago.”

After Stalin was unmasked as the monster he was, Mr. Duranty described him as a “quiet, unobtrusive man” devoted to his people. He was typical of those who look for wickedness in the wrong places, and cannot see it at the end of their noses.

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