The New York Times Tries to Lie About Ukraine Without Lying

By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, Agust 27, 2023

I’m pretty sure I usually read the New York Times differently from how some people read it. I read it looking for two things: the insinuations and the independent evidence.

By insinuations, I mean the bulk of it, the stuff that’s put in there to communicate without any straightforward assertion of verifiable facts. Here’s a sample article from Sunday, starting with the headline:

“A Former French President Gives a Voice to Obstinate Russian Sympathies
“Remarks by Nicolas Sarkozy have raised fears that Europe’s pro-Putin chorus may grow louder as Ukraine’s plodding counteroffensive puts pressure on Western resolve.”

“Russian Sympathies” we know, as we begin to read, could end up meaning anything. We’ll see. But “Obstinate” means that it’s something enough people believe to bother the New York Times which does not believe it. The Times would never refer to sympathies it wanted you to have as “obstinate.”

The subheadline identifies the problem as “pro-Putin.” So we’re talking about some sort of agreement with the Russian government, and one that the Times considers extremely evil. And yet “chorus” tells us that a large number of people in Europe are holding this sort of evil belief.

With the name “Nicolas Sarkozy” we learn that a disgraced, corrupt, warmongering man has been needed to “give a voice” to what is apparently a common belief. Of course it is largely the Times itself — at least for U.S. audiences — giving Sarkozy this voice through its very reporting on his “giving a voice.” But, as principled peace advocates are virtually banned, and opponents of both sides of a war are strictly taboo, this is just normal. And, as the Times is trying to paint such beliefs — whatever they are — as vile and corrupt, it only makes sense to have found them in Sarkozy rather than in numerous respected diplomats, historians, or U.S. chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, etc. The article may go on to mention other former or current European presidents or parliamentarians, but we can count on it being done with the same selectivity.

The topic is revealed in the end of the subheadline: there is a need for more “Western resolve” because the “counteroffensive” is “plodding.” If someone had ever read the New York Times before, they would know that “counteroffensive” is simply warmaking by the favored side of a stalemated war — a side which one is to imagine as not really, you know, waging war. The other side is waging war, and waging offensives, and your side, the good and noble side — no matter its role in creating the war, and no matter its refusals to negotiate peace — is waging something other than war: simple, inevitable, non-optional defense — in short, non-war killing albeit with bragged-about body counts. This is called “counteroffensive.” A Times reader would also know that victory has been imminent for a very long time, and “resolve” has needed to be — one is tempted to write obstinately — maintained for quite a while now. As decades will probably be required before the words “failed” and “counteroffensive” find each other, the attentive reader will also understand what “plodding” means.

The words “raised fears” are typical in that they do not tell us who is afraid. At this point we only know that it includes the New York Times and is meant to include us. And yet we ordinary readers, who know we haven’t signed up for any pro-Putin choruses or accepted any funding from the horrible warmongering Russian government, may nonetheless recall an ancient practice known as independent thinking. And if we recall that, we may wonder what the difference would be, factually, between these two sets of headlines:

“A Former French President Gives a Voice to Obstinate Russian Sympathies
“Remarks by Nicolas Sarkozy have raised fears that Europe’s pro-Putin chorus may grow louder as Ukraine’s plodding counteroffensive puts pressure on Western resolve.”


Corrupt Warmonger Worthy of Our Attention Joins Significant Number of People in Disagreeing with the New York Times About Russia
Times Owners, Advertisers, and Sources Fear We Won’t Be Able to Go on Claiming Imminent Victory Much Longer, Request Public’s Help in Painting Naysayers as Loyal to the Enemy

Let’s read the article looking for insinuations and any independent evidence.

“PARIS — Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president, was once known as ‘Sarko the American’ for his love of free markets, freewheeling debate and Elvis. Of late, however, he has appeared more like ‘Sarko the Russian,’ even as President Vladimir V. Putin’s ruthlessness appears more evident than ever.”

This is just “with us or against us” framing. There may be no further mention of free markets or debate or Elvis in the article. I wouldn’t expect it. In fact “freewheeling debate” is hard to square with the notion that either one loves all good American things or one loves Russia-Putin. We can already expect that the article will include Sarkozy saying something positive about Russia but little or nothing negative about the United States or the U.S. government. Hence the need to delay the news in this news report in order to pre-condition the reader to understand that a positive statement about Russia simply is a negative statement about the United States.

“In interviews coinciding with the publication of a memoir, Mr. Sarkozy, who was president from 2007 to 2012, said that reversing Russia’s annexation of Crimea was ‘illusory,’ ruled out Ukraine joining the European Union or NATO because it must remain ‘neutral,’ and insisted that Russia and France ‘need each other.’”

Here is the bit of independent evidence. The Times links to an interview in Le Figaro. I call it independent, not because it is in Le Figaro but because it is a transcript of, or at least a selective and biased and translated report on, an interview. It could be a Times interview and I’d say the same. While I suspect the Times of trying to mislead the world into catastrophic policies resulting in huge numbers of deaths (and the Times has itself apologized for that in regard to the war on Iraq), I do not suspect it of blatantly misquoting anyone. It has standards. Without paying for a subscription to Le Figaro and without being good at French, one can see from the link — though it’s not really necessary to go to it — that the interview does include the idea that France and Russia need each other. It would be surprising if it did not also include the idea that conquering Crimea is a fantasy and that Ukraine should be neutral.

This is where a sensible news organization would stop and observe some inconvenient facts. The people of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to be part of Russia. The Western media spent several years declaring the Russian “seizure” of Crimea to be the gravest threat to world peace — graver than wars with millions of corpses and tens of millions of homeless people left behind — while never once — not once — proposing that the people of Crimea vote again, not even in an election different in any way from the one they’d already held. Ukraine and its allies and armers and instigators have spent the better part of two years trying to conquer Crimea and Donbas for Ukraine, using war and economic sanctions, with enormous damage but without success. Wise observers from the West, from Russia, and from around the world, through the past two years and long before, have generally concluded that Ukraine would need to be neutral in order to establish a lasting peace. Without agreement on such a compromise, either abandoning the crusade to save Crimea from the Crimeans or succeeding in actually occupying Crimea with Ukrainian forces would indeed be “illusory” as the defeated side would only redouble its devotion to continuing the fight. As to Russia and France needing each other, just as Senator Bernie Sanders wrote last week that the United States and China need each other, what could be more indisputable? The divisions created by war are dooming us to climate collapse, homelessness, poverty, and chaos, without global cooperation even to mitigate the damage.

Instead of acknowledging these facts, the Times moves from geopolitics to political personalities. There’s no easy response to the assertions quoted from Sarkozy. So the answer is to move on to some other ones about the most hated object available, namely Vladimir Putin:

“‘People tell me Vladimir Putin isn’t the same man that I met. I don’t find that convincing. I’ve had tens of conversations with him. He is not irrational,’ he told Le Figaro. ‘European interests aren’t aligned with American interests this time,’ he added. His statements, to the newspaper as well as the TF1 television network, were unusual for a former president in that they are profoundly at odds with official French policy. They provoked outrage from the Ukrainian ambassador to France and condemnation from several French politicians, including President Emmanuel Macron. The remarks also underscored the strength of the lingering pockets of pro-Putin sympathy that persist in Europe. Those voices have been muffled since Europe forged a unified stand against Russia, through successive rounds of economic sanctions against Moscow and military aid to Kyiv.”

Is Putin rational or not? Were the national leaders who destroyed Libya or Afghanistan rational or not? Are the militaries and legislatures and media outlets who bow to the orders of such people rational or not? There are many ways to answer this. But it’s answered differently based on nationality, not on anything else. While one can negotiate grain deals and prisoner exchanges with Russia, one can declare negotiating peace impossible because Putin is “irrational.” And one can back that up with his horrible murderous actions, which are of course perfectly real. But this is done in the name of supporting the horrible murderous actions of others. The story that Putin may have murdered a mercenary is used in this and other articles to suggest that Putin has become worse. The story that the U.S. and its sidekicks are sending cluster bombs or fighter jets or whatever is not used for anything at all, though it could serve the same purpose and does in Russian media.

The assertion of the enemy’s irrationality is made along with an irrational ban on disagreement. Sarkozy says that Putin is not “irrational” and is immediately labeled pro-Putin — and not, by the way, a fan of “freewheeling debate.” He adds that “European interests aren’t aligned with American interests this time.” The implication is that at other times — perhaps most times — they are. He clearly means U.S. government interests, not the actual interests of the U.S. public, which, according to CNN, has a majority wanting to stop arming this war.

Having framed unwanted facts as pro-Putin, the Times goes on to note other people, in addition to Sarkozy, asserting such facts, not as reason to take the facts seriously, but as evidence of the danger of Putin-sympathizers lurking in the corners of Europe:

“The possibility they may grow louder appears to have risen as Ukraine’s counteroffensive has proved underwhelming so far. ‘The fact the counteroffensive has not worked up to now means a very long war of uncertain outcome,’ said Nicole Bacharan, a political scientist at Sciences Po, a university in Paris. ‘There is the risk of political and financial weariness among Western powers that would weaken Ukraine.’ In France, Germany, Italy and elsewhere, not even the evident atrocities of the Russian onslaught against Ukraine have stripped away the affinity for Russia traditionally found on the far right and far left. This also extends at times to establishment politicians like Mr. Sarkozy, who feel some ideological kinship with Moscow, blame NATO expansion eastward for the war, or eye monetary gain.”

Recognition of facts is here depicted as weakness. People who oppose continuing destructive endless warmaking are “weary.” One cannot grow weary of peacemaking and fall back on blowing things up. One can only grow weary of destruction and lazily surrender to the insidious idea of peace. Making peace wouldn’t benefit the people of Ukraine who are dying by the thousands. Making peace would “weaken Ukraine.” And look at what is lumped together in the final sentence above! I feel no ideological kinship with Moscow. If I were eyeing monetary gain I would be applying for work at Lockheed Martin. And yet I do blame NATO expansion, along with numerous other actions by both sides, for the war. Surely the question of whether I’m right or not has to do with facts, and not with who’s paying whom or who feels “kinship with Moscow.” I’d like everyone to feel kinship with everyone, and believe we’re all likely to die for the lack of that, if you really must know.

The Times continues in this vein for over a thousand more words. I won’t quote them all at you, because I don’t dislike you. You can go read them yourself. I will note that they include various other means of getting you to despise Putin (as if his bombing of Ukraine were somehow insufficient). One is gratuitously associating Putin with Donald Trump. This looks like a desperate grab at a certain demographic, but it could just be the general practice of including Donald Trump in as many news reports as possible.

My concern is not that there aren’t actually lots of people who do sympathize with Putin and — in perfect agreement with the Times’ with-us-or-against-us attitude — believe they must take his side against that of the United States. My concern is that basic facts about the war should not be banned by yelling “Putin!” and that a preference for peace, compromise, and avoidance of nuclear apocalypse should not be twisted into supposed support for whichever side of a war a newspaper opposes.

Before its end, this same article suggests that public opposition in Europe to shifting resources into weapons and away from human needs lies on the pro-Putin side of politics. The Times does not suggest that Putin is funding most of the European public. As I said, the Times has standards.

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