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July 8, 2016 4:45 pm

Does Bibi Talk Too Much, or Too Little? The New York Times Has All The Answers

avatar by Ira Stoll

Email a copy of "Does Bibi Talk Too Much, or Too Little? The New York Times Has All The Answers" to a friend
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta hold a press conference in Nairobi. Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta hold a press conference in Nairobi. Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO.

Does the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, talk too little, or too much?

The New York Times can’t make up its mind, but seems sure it’s either one or the other.

A recent Times dispatch from Nairobi, Kenya, about Mr. Netanyahu’s visit to Africa referred to “the usually taciturn Mr. Netanyahu.”

“Taciturn,” according to my authoritative Webster’s Second unabridged dictionary, means “habitually silent; not apt to talk.” Synonyms are “silent, uncommunicative, reserved, reticent, mute, dumb.”

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Anyone old enough to recall Mr. Netanyahu’s days as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in the 1980s, when he appeared on television about as frequently as Ted Koppel, will find the description of Mr. Netanyahu as “usually taciturn” to be humorous, to say the least.

In 1996, when Prime Minister Netanyahu visited New York, a Times news article referred to “the loquacious Mr. Netanyahu.”

“Loquacious,” according to my authoritative Webster’s Second unabridged dictionary, means “talkative; given to continual talking.”

Got that? The Times has managed to describe the same person as both “taciturn” and “loquacious.”

It’s just the latest apparent example in the category of how New York Times news coverage has little to do with any independent, objective, underlying reality, but more to do with whatever insulting adjective the Times reporters and editors decide they want to hurl at the Israeli prime minister on any given day.

In fairness to the Times, the Prime Minister Netanyahu of today may be more of a doer, and less of a talker, than the Prime Minister Netanyahu of 20 years ago. But that’s a tale of maturation and growth that actually makes Mr. Netanyahu look good, which means you are unlikely to read it in the New York Times in any detail.

Instead, Times readers are left to puzzle over the vacillations and contradictions of a news organization that manages to describe a single Israeli politician as both “usually taciturn” and “loquacious,” words that are diametrically opposed. Is Mr. Netanyahu impossible to silence? Or does he hardly ever say a word? If the Times can’t give us a clear or consistent idea on what seems like a basic character trait, what are the chances that the newspaper can accurately describe more complex situations, like the Arab-Israeli conflict or the Iranian nuclear program?

As a matter of journalist craft, it’s a reminder that it’s better to use details — nouns, verbs, and anecdotes — than to sprinkle adjectives. For example: “Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke for an hour and a half without interruption, paused for a sip of water, and then resumed talking for another 45 minutes.” Or, “Prime Minister Netanyahu answered my first question with a shrug, my second question with a nod, and my third question with a grunt followed by four minutes of silence.” When Times journalists slap on the labels — loquacious, taciturn, or, as in this case, both — it gives readers justification to slap a label of their own on Times journalism: biased.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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  • Martin Bookspan

    I would add one word to the conclusion of the article: “criminally” as in criminally biased. and thus to be shunned as congenitally controlled by hypocritically liars.

  • Reform School

    “Cannot make up its mind?”

    From the times its owners first dealt with brith milah, the New York Times has been mindless: too much brain famage!

  • Please boycott the NYT as it is a mouth piece for antisemitism and Islam terrorism. If its bad the NYT will make it worse.

  • Hamanslayer

    As usual, Ira Stoll does a fabulous job of nailing the declining and slip-sliding Times with its flagrant bias and slanting of news.
    Only, I think the question posed might be: Does Bibi talk too much and say too little, or talk too little while saying too much?
    I often think (actually, I know — having worked as a journalist in Israsl for nearly a decade) Israeli leaders and politicians tend to talk too much, knowing they will be gleefully quoted by the press, and not always calculating possible consequences… This is so true of both the Left and the Right, and Bibi is part of the scene even if watches himself a little more than others.

  • stevenl

    NYT confused by its own antisemitism. BB owe NOTHING to the antisemites.

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