When Donald Trump came down that golden escalator on June 16, 2015, the New York Times’s already considerable penchant for progressive propaganda went into overdrive. Its editors got behind the Russia hoax, painted Trump and his voters as racists and white supremacists, and covered up malfeasance by Hillary Clinton and, later, Joe Biden. The daily’s publisher, A. G. Sulzberger, even ended up apologizing for its publication of an anodyne op-ed by a Republican senator, Tom Cotton; meanwhile, the Cultural Revolution-style atmosphere within the paper’s editorial offices drove out one staffer after another who simply refused to march in woke-left lockstep. When curious developments on Election Night in 2020 raised reasonable questions about the legitimacy of the vote in several states, the Times led the media in describing any such concerns as threats to democracy and conspiracy mongering; during the COVID pandemic, the Times brooked no dissent, not even by highly credentialed scientists, from the line pushed by the White House and CDC; and when a few antic Trump supporters wandered briefly around the U. S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, the Times led the whole media pack in shaping the preposterous “insurrection” narrative.
During these years, more and more savvy Americans have become aware that the Gray Lady isn’t just less reliable than she used to be – she’s every bit as much of a mendacious establishment mouthpiece as Pravda and Izvestia were back in Brezhnev’s day, with virtually every sentence having to win the approval of an ideologically driven editorial crew that’s prepared to squash the slightest deviation from the official dogma by labeling it “misinformation.” It was no surprise, then – although it did demonstrate the staggering level of audacity that still obtains at the Times – when the paper, on January 10, ran an article by Jenny Gross headlined “How Finland Is Teaching a Generation to Spot Misinformation.” Not only, mind you, is the Times, this former newspaper of record turned daily compilation of Democratic Party talking points, pretending to be America’s leading guardian of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; no, it’s also presuming to tell us just how its fellow guardians of truth in schoolrooms far beyond our borders are protecting students from diversity of views in the name of fighting “misinformation.”
As an example of alerting pupils to the dangers of fake news, explained Gross, Saara Martikka, an eighth-grade teacher in Hameenlinna, Finland, instructs her young charges to ask themselves the following questions about news articles they’ve read: “What’s the purpose of the article? How and when was it written? What are the author’s central claims?” Fair enough – but isn’t this, quite simply, how you teach reading comprehension? What do such questions have to do with helping students learn, as Gross suggests, “to identify false information”? Gross goes on to note that “Finland ranked No. 1 of 41 European countries on resilience against misinformation…in a survey published in October by the Open Society Institute in Sofia, Bulgaria.” On the list, Finland is followed by “Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland and Sweden”; at the bottom of the list are “Georgia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania.” The key point here, as should be obvious to any discerning reader on the lookout for propaganda, is that the survey was carried out by none other than the Open Society Institute in Sofia (OSIS), one of scores of organizations founded and controlled by the power-mad billionaire George Soros.
Soros, of course, is a man whose overriding aim, throughout his worldwide empire of funds, committees, councils, projects, institutes, centers, etc., etc., is nothing less than to transform human society all over the planet: to empower “social-justice” movements, train direct-action activists, introduce “criminal-justice reform,” promote socialized medicine, advance international socialism, push climate-change orthodoxy, champion illegal immigrants, demonize Israel, glorify Palestinians, stand up for convicted Islamic terrorists, weaken American power, and support causes ranging from euthanasia to “gender-affirming surgery” for teenagers to unrestricted abortion rights. But at least as important as all of these objectives – and crucial to attaining them – is the goal of bolstering the public’s trust in left-leaning news media while utterly discrediting in the public mind any media that dare to challenge the left-wing narrative.
The next point worth noting is that the Soros “survey” is really nothing of the kind. The word “survey” implies that professional pollsters initiated conversations about the media with systematically selected individuals around Europe. This wasn’t the case. Instead, the OSIS based its country ratings on press-freedom scores, degrees of education attainment, and levels of trust, as recorded in studies carried out by other bodies. What’s the thinking here? First of all, the OSIS “survey” posits that people living in countries with high press freedom (as determined by Freedom House and Reporters without Borders) will be more likely to be able to distinguish real news from fake news. One problem here is that these press-freedom ratings are highly unreliable: to a remarkable extent, what’s being measured in these indices is the degree to which the leading media in any given country conform to left-wing ideology. In several of the countries with the highest scores for press freedom, many if not most of the major media are generously subsidized by the government – a state of affairs that, if this report were really concerned with objective journalism, would be instantly disqualifying. In any event, even if these media were free, that wouldn’t prove a thing about their consumers’ ability to winnow the wheat from the chaff.
In the case of education, the situation is not terribly dissimilar: in many of the countries that come out on top in the OCIS “survey,” education, especially at the higher levels, consists in very large part of left-wing indoctrination. The report states that well-educated people – meaning those who’ve spent the most years being brainwashed by progressives – will more readily dismiss notions that the OSIS dismisses as “conspiracy theories.” But for the OSIS, as for the Times and other mainstream U.S. media, “conspiracy theory” is a label slapped on a news story (such as the one about Hunter Biden’s laptop) not because it’s false but because it damages the left-wing narrative. What the OSIS is measuring here, then, is not an ability to see through spin but a readiness to believe spin so long as it’s executed by trusted mainstream sources. As for high-trust societies – well, I live in a high-trust society, namely Norway, and while that trust is an admirable attribute insofar as it means that people don’t steal from their neighbors, it’s not so admirable when it means that a depressingly high percentage of citizens believe virtually everything they’re told by their state-owned TV and radio networks, even though those networks tend to be founts of PC bilge.
In short, combining gauges of media and academic orthodoxy with measurements of social trust isn’t going to tell you anything about the ability of a country’s citizens to identify and resist misinformation; rather, it’ll tell you about their readiness to accept what they’re told by the sources of information that they’ve been brought up to trust – period. Gross writes that one of the purported pluses about Finland, in the view of the OSIS report, is that its citizens display “high trust in the government.” Yes, you read that right. In America, a healthy skepticism about the government – and a readiness to entertain views about it from a range of perspectives – used to be the mark of a sensible citizen; but for the OSIS, distrusting your rulers is an indication that you’re perilously vulnerable to “misinformation.” Gross further writes that since few people outside Finland speak Finnish, “[a]rticles containing falsehoods that are written by nonnative speakers can sometimes be easily identified because of grammatical or syntax errors” – the point being that materials originating abroad are less likely to be trustworthy than materials originating in Finland. Gross goes on to note that the pupils in one Helsinki class “searched words like ‘vaccination’ and discussed how search algorithms worked and why the first results might not always be the most reliable.” But in a time when experts still differ strongly on pretty much every important detail about the pandemic, how can anybody – including a roomful of kids in Helsinki – know what is and isn’t true about it?
The bottom line, needless to say, is that progressive types all over the West, at newspapers like the Times as well as in schools in faraway Finland, are united in promulgating the 21st-century Newspeak of the international left, which labels assertions that conform with left-wing orthodoxy as factual while branding deviations from that orthodoxy – even if they’re 100% truthful – as “misinformation,” as “propaganda,” as “conspiracy theories.” It’s a cynical charade, and once you’ve seen through it, it’s easy to recognize it whenever you run across it; but if you’re someone who’s been brought up by your parents, teachers, and professors to believe that certain established sources of information, especially those with ties to your country’s rulers, can be relied on – and that material encountered in more marginal, unofficial, and “alternative” media should be viewed as instantly suspect – you’ll be a useful soldier in the left’s lockstep legions. Which is why activities like those Finnish schoolteacher’s lessons about “misinformation” – and material like Gross’s article about those activities – are so vital to the progressive cause: they stave off, one gullible world citizen at a time, that great hallelujah day (which may or may not come) when everyone finally will get red-pilled, when the left will come crashing down, and when the Times will either have to close up shop for good or change its tune and – gasp! – become a real newspaper.