Monday, August 22, 2011

Journalist Caught

Newspaper reporters often wish to present themselves as neutral and objective in their communication of facts to their readers; and some of them are. But some are not. The case of Walter Duranty has become a famous example. He wrote for the New York Times, and reported from Russia in the 1920's and 1930's. During these years, Soviet rule Joseph Stalin was creating a series of artificial famines which would ultimately kill several million people; Stalin was depopulating sections of the country which were not enthusiastic about his dictatorship.

Duranty, however, failed to mention any of this in his articles. In fact, he painted a rather pleasant picture of life in the Soviet Union, and assured his readers that there was no starvation. How and why would a journalist write such unquestionable falsehoods?

Columbia University Professor Mark von Hagen, who worked with the management of the New York Times to investigate Duranty's writings, commented that Duranty

frequently writes in the enthusiastically propagandistic language of his sources


Much of the 'factual' material is dull and largely uncritical recitation of Soviet sources, whereas his efforts at 'analysis' are very effective renditions of the Stalinist leadership's self-understanding of their murderous and progressive project to defeat the backwardness of Slavic, Asiatic peasant Russia.

Duranty has knowingly repeated the texts of the Soviet propaganda agency in his articles, despite his clear awareness that the claims were false.

The management of the New York Times, distancing itself from Duranty's work, commented that

Other writers in the Times and elsewhere have discredited this coverage.

It remains something of a mystery why Duranty would sacrifice his own credibility and professionalism to support the dictatorship which would ultimately kill millions of its own citizens.