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November 28, 2018 12:24 pm

‘Overt’ Antisemitism Is ‘Complicated,’ New York Times Claims

avatar by Ira Stoll


The headquarters of The New York Times. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Read The New York Times enough, and certain problematic patterns emerge. One of them is the excess adjective or adverb — an extra word that makes an article worse by being there. An editor might have improved an article that suffers from this affliction simply by deleting the offending word.

Two recent New York Times articles on Jewish topics suffer from this problem.

One, in the arts section, is about an announcement by Netflix that it had acquired the rights to produce animated programs based on the works of the British author Roald Dahl, of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame. The Times reports, “While Dahl’s stories have proved durable, his legacy is complicated, marred by his overt anti-Semitism.”

Actually, it’s not “complicated.” Antisemitism is bad regardless of whether it is “overt” or hidden. At least the overt antisemites aren’t deceptive or in denial about it. The Times might have simply written, “While Dahl’s stories have proven durable, his legacy is marred by his anti-Semitism.”

Another Times article, a book review of children’s books about Hanukkah, refers to “the inescapable dominance of Christmas.” This one would have been better if some editor had simply deleted the word “inescapable.” It certainly is possible to escape the dominance of Christmas by, say, moving to Kiryas Joel or Bnei Brak.

Times readers can protect themselves by paying extra attention to the possibility of bias whenever a modifying word such as an adjective or adverb appears. It would be nice if Times editors did this work for us before the articles are published. If the editors did so well enough, it might become harder to draw the inescapable and not even particularly complicated conclusions about the newspaper’s biases, both overt and covert.

Ira Stoll is the former managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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