DaTruth and DaTimes

By Christopher Harper

Against the backdrop of the investigations into Russia and Ukraine, the New York Times failed to mention one of the most egregious failures about the region propagated by the news organization itself.

Fortunately, a recently released motion picture, Mr. Jones, provides the details of how DaTimes manipulated the American public about the Soviet Union and the Ukraine famine, which resulted in the deaths of millions of people.

The film, directed by Agnieszka Holland, recounts the story of Moscow bureau chief Walter Duranty, a chief propagandist for Josef Stalin, and how Welsh journalist Gareth Jones tried to unmask the gross falsehoods created by the then-venerated Times scribe.

Duranty, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Soviet Union in 1931, dismissed Jones’ first-hand accounts of the famine, known as the Holomodor.

Here are some excerpts from Duranty’s reports:

–New York Times, November 15, 1931: “There is no famine or actual starvation, nor is there likely to be.”

–New York Times, August 23, 1933: “Any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration or malignant propaganda.”

–New York Times, December 9, 1932: “Enemies and foreign critics can say what they please. Weaklings and despondents at home may groan under the burden, but the youth and strength of the Russian people is essentially at one with the Kremlin’s program, believes it worthwhile and supports it, however hard be the sledding.”

–New York Times, May 14, 1933: “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.”

At the time, Duranty was so influential that his reporting is credited for convincing FDR to establish diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.

Although Jones and others provided extensive evidence to refute Duranty’s reporting, it wasn’t until 2003 that the Pulitzer Board and DaTimes itself finally sought outside analysis of the work.

The Pulitzer “Board determined that Mr. Duranty’s 1931 work, measured by today’s standards for foreign reporting, falls seriously short…. However, the Board concluded that there was not clear and convincing evidence of deliberate deception, the relevant standard in this case….The famine of 1932-1933 was horrific and has not received the international attention it deserves. By its decision, the Board in no way wishes to diminish the gravity of that loss. The Board extends its sympathy to Ukrainians and others in the United States and throughout the world who still mourn the suffering and deaths brought on by Josef Stalin.”

Ironically, DaTimes’ review of Mr. Jones only references Duranty in passing. At least that’s more than what DaTimes said during the recent debate over Russia and Ukraine. 

H/T to my wife Elizabeth for suggesting we watch the film! See the trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=15&v=wtWSyFNT9qY&feature=emb_logo

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