I shall never forget the anecdote by Malcolm Muggeridge who was speaking of an early version of the Narrative back in the 1930s, when he worked for the Guardian. Unsure of a position that the paper was supposed to take, he shouted down the hall at his editor and asked: “What’s our position on corporal punishment?”. His editor rolled his chair to the doorway and said: “Same as capital punishment, only more so”.
Out of the myriad of daily events, the Narrative is the simple story plucked out for attention. For example, blacks kill whites every day in the United States, and it isn’t part of the Narrative. Blacks kill even more blacks every day than they do whites, by far, and that isn’t part of the Narrative, either. But if the police kill a black man, that is part of the Narrative, and it will never be let go, because the Narrative says that most black males are being killed by white police, even though the Narrative never says so in plain terms. The reader is left to infer it – because it is not true and can be shown not to be true.
Slate magazine reports that Dean Baquet, senior editor of the New York Times, assembled the entire news staff and announced that he has shifted the line on Trump for the next few years from Trump, agent of Putin to Trump, racist.
Baquet is speaking: “Race in the next year—and I think this is, to be frank, what I would hope you come away from this discussion with—race in the next year is going to be a huge part of the American story. And I mean, race in terms of not only African Americans and their relationship with Donald Trump, but Latinos and immigration. And I think that one of the things I would love to come out of this with is for people to feel very comfortable coming to me and saying, here’s how I would like you to consider telling that story. “
And later in the talk to staff:
” I think that we’ve got to change. I mean, the vision for coverage for the next two years is what I talked about earlier: How do we cover a guy who makes these kinds of remarks? How do we cover the world’s reaction to him? How do we do that while continuing to cover his policies? How do we cover America, that’s become so divided by Donald Trump? How do we grapple with all the stuff you all are talking about? How do we write about race in a thoughtful way, something we haven’t done in a large way in a long time? That, to me, is the vision for coverage. You all are going to have to help us shape that vision. But I think that’s what we’re going to have to do for the rest of the next two years. “
I do not think that enough attention has been paid to this event. The announcement by Baquet tells us that the Narrative is supreme guide to what will be covered and how, what will be called “news”, what the focus will be. There is no better indication of the truth of Thomas Jefferson’s statement that ‘man who read nothing at all would be better informed than a man who read newspapers’. But more than this, it shows that, in the environment in which we live, our media have been caught overtly deciding the interpretation to be given to news, if news is the right term for what is published by the New York Times.
Enjoy your news, people, it is as contrived as you have suspected.