Get over yourself, New York Times. You’re not standing up to anyone
Our media loves to pose as high-minded overseas. At home, they do the government’s bidding almost without fail
They say fiction has had its day, given over to Brooklyn-dwellers with nothing to say. True and not. Our newspapers provide splendid fiction. It is a golden age.
This season’s big fiction is the tale of correspondents abroad shining the light of a free press in darkened, non-Western places such as China. You get more uplift here than in any Jane Smiley novel you can name. You get your courage, your dashing ladies and gents, your arrested bureau assistants to put it all in dramatic relief and remind you of the correspondents’ perils.
Prompting these reflections are the New York Times and the Bloomberg news service, whose correspondents in Beijing and Shanghai may or may not get their visas renewed as we speak. A good question arises: What are Western media going to do as all goes global and reporting in societies not rooted in Western traditions grows ever more a necessity?
It is not a new question. But it takes on urgency now. It comes up because the Times and Bloomberg crossed one of Beijing’s red lines when they reported on corruption among high officials in the central government, along with their offspring navigating to great wealth by way of nepotism.
The pith of it is this: Will Western media cave as the world economy changes shape and power rebalances? Or will they sail bravely on, upholding the principles of free expression — “Damn the torpedoes,” in Adm. Farragut’s famous phrase?