Vacuous NYT report props up Planned Parenthood’s “videos were edited” meme


The New York Times reports today that “Undercover Planned Parenthood Videos Were Altered, Analysis Finds.” There’s almost no value to this story, because the only videos that the company chose to “analyze” were the shorter, edited videos, not the uncut, longer ones. To say an edited video was “altered” is trivial. It implies nothing about the truth of the content of the video.

Notice two things in this snippet from the NYT story:

According to the investigation, the reviewers could not determine “the extent to which C.M.P.s undisclosed edits and cuts distort the meaning of the encounters the videos purport to document.”
But, it said, “the manipulation of the videos does mean they have no evidentiary value in a legal context and cannot be relied upon for any official inquiries” unless C.M.P. provides investigators with its original material, and that material is independently authenticated as unaltered.

First, the analysts balk at giving substance to the claim that the videos were altered. Taking after Derrida, they are totally agnostic about what the video is really trying to say, and how that might differ from what the raw data of the uncut video really says.

Second, I’m not so sure that a “manipulated” video has zero evidentiary value in court. A testimony, whether written or recorded as audio or video, is necessarily a product of a human mind and hands at work. Call this manipulation. Yet, such testimony is often rightly admitted as evidence.

More pertinent to Planned Parenthood’s legal troubles, the longer videos that the Center For Medical Progress recorded are very likely not “manipulated” in the nefarious sense that the analysts suggest. The job of a legal prosecutor will be to draw on that uncut video evidence to produce a case that in effect corroborates the shorter, edited videos. And it is the jury, not these analysts paid big bucks to say nothing of value, who will decide the matter.

So what business does the New York Times have in producing this empty story, if not to carry water for Planned Parenthood? The report uncritically repeats the message of a company hired by Planned Parenthood. The coverage is one-sided; there’s zero effort to get comment by anyone not ultimately commissioned by Planned Parenthood. The headline is clearly meant to prop up the vacuous “videos were edited” excuse for ignoring the content of the CMP releases. Imagine how many social media feeds this unsubstantial NYT story is populating now, giving false relief to people who want to ignore the undeniable brutality, callousness, and illegality that these videos–edited or not–clearly attest to. Whatever The New York Times is doing here, it is not objective journalism.

Photo credit: / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

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Fearing the rhesus revolution

It’s an exciting time.  The Republican National Convention is about to start.  This is Romney’s chance to shine.  But the press has been stuck on the narrative that unwelcome events keep the GOP off message.  This is where media malfeasance has steered us, to meta-news, news about news.  Who is responsible for determining what the media covers?  Whoops, we’re not supposed to ask that kind of question.

The New York Times Magazine commemorates the advent of the Republican convention with a dour examination of the host city, Tampa, Florida.  Writer John Mooallem brings us the saga of a renegade rhesus macaque.  As he tells it, this indomitable monkey has become a sort of resistance symbol and a focal point for anti-government sentiment.

From start to finish, he peppers the piece with liberal complaints.  Opening up, he finds fault with the American flag flying over a local restaurant.  It’s “preposterously large.”  He reveals that, en route to covering the story, he tortured himself by listening to conservative talk radio.  From what I can tell, he’s done this for no other reason than to complain about it in writing afterward.

With respect to the monkey controversy itself, Mooallem makes his sympathies very clear.  He’s supportive of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, who the locals see as “the Gestapo.”  The writer’s sentiment crystallizes in this assessment of the state officers:

But they took a somewhat traditional view: the American people had a right to be protected by their government from wild monkeys. It was disorienting to watch the people of Tampa Bay champion the monkey’s rights instead.

That an idea like freedom might trump the public order deeply troubles him.  To counter such libertarian exuberance,  he quotes one man’s stern warning: “Sometimes, freedom isn’t necessarily a good idea.”  In true liberal fashion, the writer is most at home expressing his convictions as an equivocal miasma.

Nonetheless, he seems to advance a genuine concern about public order and safety.  Mooallem unmistakably condemns Tampans’ refusal to cooperate with the animal control agency.  But I suspect he doesn’t feel the same way about the Holder Justice Department’s bitter reluctance to enforce federal deportation laws.  Per his metric, why shouldn’t the prospect of fellow humans living an uncertain, shadow existence elicit the same kind of concern?

At any rate, pieces like Mooallem’s are the Sunday afternoon grist that Northeastern cultural elites relax by.  Harper’s, Atlantic, The New Yorker, anything that will allow them to look with detached pity and concern upon their benighted countrymen in the far flung regions.

I recall a long-running TV ad from some years ago.  In an effort to get the viewer to subscribe to the weekend edition of the New York Times, a woman would exclaim, “For me, that’s what Sundays were made for!”  Back then, I suspected this woman’s compatriots would profess that Sunday was “made” with a nobler purpose in mind.

With aching essays like the Tampa monkey expose, the folks at the Times demonstrate they are just as aloof of Middle America today as they’ve ever been.

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