The News Isn’t Always the Truth

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Yet the Truth is Always Sacred

By J. Jeff Toler for Shenandoah Christian Alliance

  • Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 4:24)

Writing in Tablet Magazine, October 23, 2020, Izabella Tabarovsky, in describing her takeaway from the British film release, “Mr. Jones,” starring James Norton and Peter Sarsgaard, makes this pertinent observation, “A short while into Mr. Jones, a film by the Polish director Agnieszka Holland, the protagonist, Gareth Jones, who has come to Moscow to learn about Soviet collectivization efforts, says he has no agenda other than finding the truth. It is 1933, and two totalitarian powers are unleashing their competing visions of the world on the Eurasian continent. Jones’ interlocutor, Ada Brooks, a Moscow-based foreign reporter, asks Jones, with not a small touch of cynicism, whose truth he is seeking to uncover. He says that he is looking for ‘the truth. There is only one kind.’” []

“Mr. Jones” is a film produced and released in 2019, and shortly before the release of COVID 19, and so it was burdened with two handicaps: it wasn’t produced in Hollywood, and the timing could hardly have been worse. And yet, this very modest production, with a tiny box-office draw of a little over $2 million, sheds a spotlight on both how and when journalism began its descent from grace into disrespect among the many of those who are aware and should know better.

Among the many other journalists also in Moscow at this time, was one Walter Duranty, who, living in Moscow, was reporting for the New York Times. (NYT) He was an admirer of both Joseph Stalin, and Soviet collectivism.

Duranty holds the dubious distinction of shaping America’s flawed understanding of the Soviet Union from 1931 to 1933 and far beyond until today.

This is particularly true of his fabricated reporting on the famine there, that ultimately claimed the lives of millions of Russians and Ukrainians. Four million people died in the Holodomor with some estimates going as high as eight million. The name Holodomor is a type of portmanteau from the Ukrainian words “holod” which means hunger, and “mor” which means plague: “In the Ukrainian language, the famine of 1932 and 1933 famine is called ‘holodomor’, which means extermination by starvation.” [

Ironically, Ukraine is, and always has been, a major wheat and grain producer, “Ukraine is one of the world’s major grain producers. The country mainly grows and exports wheat, corn and barley. According to the European Commission, Ukraine accounts for 10% of the world wheat market, 15% of the corn market, and 13% of the barley market.” [’s%20major%20grain%20producers.,13%25%20of%20the%20barley%20market.] Because of the ongoing war there, Europe is now considering alternatives to avoid catastrophic shortages. []

We will ever know with any certainty, given Joseph Stalin’s proclivity for false propaganda, the exact number of starvation deaths in that era, but consider this when listening to the history lesson Vladimir Putin gave to Tucker Carlson in his recent interview with him. The Russian famine reveals two important historical truths: it was the result of forced collectivist programs, and, it was denied and covered up. Duranty, for his part, played an important role in creating a false narrative with dispatches that were regularly published in the New York Times. Ironically, he received a Pulitzer Prize for this, which was nearly revoked, when they were revealed to be nothing more than Soviet propaganda. But why would he do it? Equally important, why is the New York Times still committed to valuing ideological journalism over impartial reporting?

Ninety years later, James Bennet (pictured) was forced to resign as editorial page editor at NYT in June of 2020, owing to the immense criticism he received in publishing an editorial by Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton (R) who responded to the George Floyd riots that year. The flack was not so much from the readership as it was from his colleagues within the paper. A.G Sulzberger, publisher, only two years into the job, had no stomach or backbone for it.

There are two important observations from a subsequent column Bennet published in the Economist, where he now works as Lexington Columnist, and Senior Editor. The first is in the analysis of an essay Sulzberger wrote for the Columbia Journalism Review defending “independent” journalism, “Sulzberger seems to underestimate the struggle he is in, that all journalism and indeed America itself is in. In describing the essential qualities of independent journalism in his essay, he unspooled a list of admirable traits – empathy, humility, curiosity and so forth. These qualities have for generations been helpful in contending with the Times’s familiar problem, which is liberal bias.” And secondly, “The Times’s problem has metastasized from liberal bias to illiberal bias, from an inclination to favor one side of the national debate to an impulse to shut debate down altogether. All the empathy and humility in the world will not mean much against the pressures of intolerance and tribalism without an invaluable quality that Sulzberger did not emphasize: courage.” []

The business of news gathering and reporting today ought to be about the ideals that were recorded at the time of its founding in 1896, when the Times had said about itself then “that it does its work without fear or favor.” That simply is not true of the paper today. How can it be when its journalists are afraid to trust its readers to read a mainstream conservative argument such as Senator Cotton presented, and when its publisher and editors are afraid to publish it?

The NYT has historically set the agenda for what is reported—and what is not—in the wide net of the corporate media. It’s enormously influential, and not in a good way. Still, Walter Duranty was able to live long life, and died in Orlando, Florida at the age of 73.

Gareth Jones was not so fortunate. “After being banned from re-entering the Soviet Union, Jones was kidnapped and murdered in1935 while investigating in Japanese-occupied Inner Mongolia; his murder is suspected by some to have been committed by the Soviet secret police, the NKVD.” [] Given what we know, those suspicions are well-founded.

David George Lloyd
, (pictured) Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1916 to 1922, eulogized Jones with these words, “Nothing escaped his observation, and he allowed no obstacle to turn from his course when he thought that there was some fact, which he could obtain. He had the almost unfailing knack of getting at things that mattered.”

What are the things that matter today—in this generation—ninety years later? Are they so different that the truth of them can be excused away? Evil can never be politically correct. Tyranny is the complete absence of politics. Politics is, “The science of government; that part of ethics which consists in the regulation and government of a nation or state, for the preservation of its safety, peace and prosperity; comprehending the defense of its existence and rights against foreign control or conquest, the augmentation of its strength and resources, and the protection of its citizens in their rights, with the preservation and improvement of their morals. politics as a science or an art, is a subject of vast extent and importance.” From Webster’s Dictionary 1828. []

The news media today has inherited too much of Duranty’s version of reporting, assumed too much illiberality, and so have little to offer in matters of truth and morality. And yet, millions continue to trust them.

  • How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)

Photo by Mr Cup / Fabien Barral on Unsplash

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views the Virginia Christian Alliance

About the Author

Shenandoah Christian Alliance
Shenandoah Christian Alliance is a Christian organization devoted to the promotion and education of biblical truths, faith, and spiritual equipping. We believe in the sanctity of marriage as defined in God’s revealed word. We oppose the practice of abortion, and respectfully object to its funding and facilitation as currently promoted by our elected leaders. We understand homosexuality to be something that God—whom we worship and honor—does not approve among his creation. Our faith in God as revealed in scripture is not something we are ashamed of, or for which we must apologize.