In his classic work The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli tells the story of how the tyrant Cesare Borgia has his own executioner put to death in the public square to demonstrate to his subjects how merciful he is. This is the same executioner, mind you, who had put scores of people to death on the tyrant's orders. But Borgia was counting on people being so fearful and forgetful that they would actually be grateful for this transparent act of "mercy."
One is reminded of that story in the recent flap over the firing of a reporter first hired as an intern in 1998 under the New York Times's "diversity" program. Jayson Blair, who was hired despite his lack of a college degree, stands accused of at least 50 inaccuracies in stories he has written over the years. By "inaccuracies" I do not mean merely minor errors of fact, but plagiarizing information, fabricating events and even describing landscapes that didn't exist.
Times Publisher Arthur Ochs ("Pinch") Suzlberger and Executive Editor Howell Rains are insisting that Blair's falsifications are a case of individual failure for which they cannot fairly be held responsible. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal on May 12, Haines warned against "leaping to any grand conclusions," adding: "There are all kinds of systems and none are 100% effective-people get away with murder."
Let us review the misdeeds and the "systems." According to the Journal and other sources, the Times wrote 50 corrections in connection with Blair's stories. So flagrant were they that the Times published a 7,200-word article about the whole affair in its May 11 issue, beginning on page one and filling two inside pages.
And these were not minor stories. They were about such things as the Washington-area sniper shootings and the families of military personnel serving in Iraq. One would think that the nation's "newspaper of record" would scrutinize those stories particularly closely.
But the Times is in a denial mode. "[T]here will be no newsroom search for scapegoats," Mr. Blair said. Mr. Sulzberger added: "the person who did this is Jayson Blair . . . Let's not begin to demonize our executives-either the desk editors or the executive editor or, dare I say, the publisher." Would this kind of "defense" wash at Enron?
So Mr. Blair has been thrown to the winds. But there is more to this story. After his internship at the Times, Blair interned at another Times-owned
paper, The Boston Globe, in 1997. He returned to the Times in June 1999, and advanced quickly to become a full reporter in January 2001. Gerald Boyd, the
Times managing editor, said that Blair's rise had nothing to do with his race.
However, according to the Journal, the Times overlooked "multiple clear warnings about Blair's past inaccuracies from his supervisors." Jonathan Landman, metropolitan editor and once Blair's boss, opposed Blair's
promotion to full reporter. Indeed, he e-mailed newsroom administrators, saying: "We have to stop Jayson from writing for the Times. Right now." Although Blair was reprimanded and took a formal leave, he was allowed later to return to the paper. The inaccuracies kept occurring and still Times editors did nothing. Why?
The beginning of the answer may come from Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism in Washington. "They [Times editors] have not completely answered why this went on for so long and whether the paper is more structurally at fault for not stopping him sooner."
They certainly have not come clean. The answer is corruption of journalistic standards by "diversity." Not until paragraph 21 of an inside page of the Journal (in a 25-paragraph story) do we learn that Blair was a "diversity" hire. In other words, he was hired to make the newspaper look good. And when he failed them so spectacularly, the paper's brass dropped him like a hot
Examples of both favoritism and harassment can be cited everywhere, and I am no stranger to them myself. But the obvious reason the Times kept Blair on the payroll was because it was committed to a "feel-good' project. A spokesman for the Times said on the radio that it was committed to diversity even more than to good journalism-as if the former contributed to the latter. Not only is this false, it is destructive of everything it touches.
Mr. Blair might have turned out to be a good reporter, but his bosses were too busy overlooking his errors and infractions. Also, he took the place of someone who might well have done a better job, thereby enhancing the Times's reputation, rather than tarnishing it. Once, again, too, the defenders of race-conscious policies do even more damage to the cause of racial justice and to racial minorities than the plain, unadulterated racism of the past. These incidents served only to stigmatize members of racial minorities, not help them.
In her short-story classic, "Whatever Rises Must Converge," Flannery O'Connor writes of a young white man whose mother is an unmitigated racial bigot, one who even tosses pennies to black children on the city bus. But her son Julian sees himself as better than his mother, for he will be a friend of black people. He will still be deferred to by black people, not because of his bigotry but because of his compassion.
Young Julian has not changed, and neither has his character. He just has a different way of lording it over other people than his mother. Similarly, the Times and other advocates of so-called "diversity" are no better than bigots. They just have developed another way of lording it over other people. That means escaping responsibility for derelections of duty or injustice toward others. These are the folks Thomas Sowell calls the "anointed ones." They don't "discriminate"; they just right the world's wrongs in their own way.