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July 19, 2017 1:25 pm

New York Times Showers Compliments on Iranian Foreign Minister

avatar by Ira Stoll


Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

One of the clearest ways to see the bias in the New York Times is to look at the adjectives, the modifying words that the newspaper uses to describe people in the news. The Times uses these words to signal its readers, to transmit subtle messages about how people are supposed to view the actors on the world stage.

So, for example, as we’ve noted here recently, Israel’s defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, is described by the Times as “ultra-nationalist.” Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is described by the Times as “brash,” as well as loquacious” and “usually taciturn,” two diametrically opposed terms. A former American ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, gets labeled “combative.”

And — in the latest example — the foreign minister of Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif, is described by the Times as… “the urbane, American-educated diplomat.”

Netanyahu is also “American-educated,” yet somehow the Times doesn’t usually introduce him in news articles by reminding its readers of that fact.

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My authoritative Webster’s Second Unabridged Dictionary defines “urbane” as “courteous in manners; polite; suave; elegant or refined.”

Iran funds terrorists who kill innocent Jewish civilians in Israel and Argentina. It sponsors Holocaust-denial cartoon contests. It also funded and provided improvised explosive devices that were used to kill and maim American soldiers, journalists and aid workers in Iraq. It imprisons American reporters. Perhaps the Times has a different view of it, but I don’t find any of that either courteous, polite, or refined.

The Times could have just as accurately — perhaps more accurately — described Zarif as a “henchman for a blood-soaked terrorist regime” or a “front man for a Holocaust-denying murderous government that imprisons and tortures its political opponents.” Instead it describes him as an “urbane, American-educated diplomat.”

It reserves the pejorative descriptions — “brash,” “combative,” “ultranationalist” — for the Israeli diplomats and politicians and their American allies, such as Ambassador Bolton.

The Times clearly has some kind of sweet spot in its heart for Zarif. As I’ve noted, he has had a byline on at least seven New York Times op-ed pieces since 2003, four of them since April 2015, prompting at least some wry speculation that the Times editors will make him their next op-ed page columnist hire after Bret Stephens. Perhaps the frequent Times contributor has been helpful in paving the way for the Times’ “Iran: Tales From Persia” journeys for tourists willing to pay $7,395 for the privilege of being escorted around Iran by a Times journalist. The Times runs the trip about every month, and the revenues help prop up its business, which has been suffering so badly from declining advertising and print circulation that the newspaper has been laying off editors.

The Times reporters and editors themselves deserve to have an adjective applied to them for engaging in this sort of transparently tendentious nonsense. I am tempted to supply one myself, but I am too urbane for that. Feel free to let your own creative talents go wild.

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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