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Front Page NYT: ‘Nationalism is Jeopardizing’ COVID Fight

Mainstream media makes no effort to conceal its free-trade, globalist, liberal biases, even if it means throwing in with China.

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There’s no longer anything unusual about journalism marked by a failure to distinguish between fact and opinion, by blind worship of globalism and free trade, and by neglect of the special interest funding behind establishment think tankers masquerading as scholarly truth-seekers. 

And of course, the ritualistic Trump Derangement Syndrome.

Much rarer is a liberal media article guilty of all these sins, which is why the New York Times‘ April 10 article on how nationalistic policies by governments around the world are crippling the global fight against the CCP Virus deserves as many rotten tomatoes as can be thrown.

 Its headline is the slanted, “Why Nationalism is Jeopardizing the Virus Fight,” but it’s presented as a straight news article, rather than appearing on the paper’s Opinion page. Sure, there’s no doubt that countries around the world have been husbanding many of the healthcare goods that can strengthen public safety–like drugs, medical devices, and protective gear. But there’s supposed to be some readily available alternative? Or one conceivable in the policy-relevant future?

The article’s very first stage-setting paragraph describes “leaders of many of the world’s largest economies” as being “in the thrall of unabashedly nationalist principles, undermining collective efforts to tame the novel coronavirus.”

Why would anyone trying to report objectively use a phrase like “in the thrall”? It means “slave” or “captive,” and inevitably conveys an impression of thoughtlessness. Why write of whatever nationalist principles are being displayed as “unabashed” – i.e., unembarrassed or unashamed? Is it beyond doubt that nationalist leaders should be embarrassed and ashamed by these points of view?

And what exactly are those collective efforts being undermined? The only developments mentioned that even come close are the Trump administration’s overall efforts to slash scientific cooperation with China, and its reduction of U.S. health authorities’ presence in China.

But evidence abounds that see-no-evil pre-Trump American science and tech collaboration and exchange programs were a one-way street that sent to Beijing cutting edge knowhow crucial both for defense and for national competitiveness. None of that made its way into the Times. Besides, when the CCP Virus broke out in Wuhan, Chinese authorities hid its existence and its human-to-human transmission characteristics to their own people. 

Nevertheless, according to The Times, world cooperation is essential for every country’s prospects for defeating the virus, including the United States. But so-called nationalists are trying to thwart that. As readers are told, “Now, just as the world requires collaboration to defeat the coronavirus–scientists joining forces across borders to create vaccines, and manufacturers coordinating to deliver critical supplies–national interests are winning out.”

The nationalists’ “zero-sum perspective is a guiding force just as the sum in question is alarmingly limited,” they add.

And the reason that such neanderthal mindsets are so damaging? Because, as explained by Dr. Seth Berkley, the chief executive of the Gavi Alliance, a nonprofit started by Microsoft founder Bill Gates “to get vaccines to the world’s poor,” international collaboration is “how science is done, and we really ought to follow that paradigm.”

It’s true that Americans can benefit from the work of researchers abroad. But presumably this authority isn’t old enough to remember that the United States became the world’s health leader largely on its own–along with the help of numerous genuinely skilled and talented immigrants.

Companies steeped in genomics and the rigorous demands of manufacturing,” the Times warns, “must find a way to develop new drugs, begin commercial production and also anticipate how the predilections of nationalists running major economies may limit supplies.”

Ostensibly proving this argument is none other than Daniel O’Day, the head of Gilead, a pharmaceutical company that has made a promising anti-viral agent; “The international nature of the supply chain for remdesivir reminds us that it is essential for countries to work together to create enough supply for the world.”

And if these supply chain run through or are centered in China? No problem, The Times assures readers. After all, “Given China’s role as a dominant supplier of hospital gear and medicines, American health effectively depends on being able to buy more from Chinese factories.”

Nor does the paper expect you to take reporters’ word for this claim. It’s also the view of “international trade expert” Chad Bown, who goes on to explain, “Right now, the brightest shiny hope that we have is imports of this stuff. We’d like to run the biggest trade deficit we could possibly find.”

“It’s not that we are buying this stuff from China that’s made us vulnerable,” Bown added. “It’s that we are buying this stuff from China, and we decided to start a trade war with them.”

The only dissenting voices featured? An Indian health researcher who stated, “In this situation, each country has to take care of itself. If we are not able to take care of our population, it will be a very critical situation.” That’s a great formula for insinuating that everyone not under the the thumb of (disastrously selfish) nationalistic governments, like America’s under Mr. Trump, supports a globalist approach.

You want cover ups of think tank conflicts of interest? Just look at the article’s treatment of Bown. It’s bad enough he’s one of a crew of free trade extremists on which The Times relies nearly exclusively for expert opinion on that subject. But it’s worse that he’s presented as an impartial authority with no stake in this field’s highly controversial policy debates.

But Brown’s employer is the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Washington, D.C. think tank that’s funded not only by many U.S. and foreign multinational companies that have profited handsomely from the offshoring trade policies that sent so much American-owned healthcare manufacturing to China and other foreign economies in the first place. It’s also funded by many of the countries that have benefited as well. The same, moreover, can be said for Yanzhong Huang and Jennifer Huang Bouey, the two other think tankers cited, who work for the Council on Foreign Relations and the RAND Corporation, respectively.

That’s not to say that the views of the world’s Bowns, Huangs, and Boueys should be automatically dismissed. But readers deserve to know who signs their paychecks, and therefore who they need to please. The Times itself has done excellent work exposing such think tank conflicts of interest–and how pervasive they’ve become. Why doesn’t the paper insist on transparency whenever they’re quoted?

Finally, you want Trump Derangement Syndrome? How about, “The United States, an unrivaled scientific power, is led by a president who openly scoffs at international cooperation while pursuing a global trade war”? That claim came right after the lead paragraph speaking of the thralldom of shamefully nationalist principles, so it’s clear that readers are being told that scoffing at international cooperation is a major no-no.

Also included was the now-obligatory establishment swipe at President Trump’s interest in possible anti-CCP medicines that haven’t received the Beltway seal of approval: “President Trump has been especially aggressive in securing an American stockpile of hydroxychloroquine, disregarding the counsel of federal scientists who have warned that testing remains minimal, with scant evidence of benefits.”

In fact, so determined were the reporters to diss the President that they missed the irony created by their very next sentences: “India is the world’s largest producer of hydroxychloroquine. Last month, the government banned exports of the drug, though it stipulated that shipments could continue under limited circumstances.”

A Times treatment of the Chinese coronavirus and world politics that actually would have passed a Journalism 101 class isn’t hard to imagine. Rather than condemning wholesale the Hobbesian global responses to securing and preserving medical supplies it did usefully describe, it would simply have noted that they clash with some major transnational features of modern scientific research. Rather than dismiss the advantages of self-reliance, it would have at least ticked off some of them–like protection against all the export bans that have been imposed and could be imposed–and recognized that this goal is hardly fanciful for big, wealthy, scientifically advanced countries like the United States.

And rather than assume that global well-being is the only legitimate goal of a national government, it might have given a nod to the idea that national loyalties still, despite the preferences of New York Times staffers, do still hold significant sway throughout the world.

A Gallup poll last month found that the news media was the only one of nine leaders and institutions examined whose coronavirus response received more negative reviews (55 percent) than positive (44 percent). Mr. Trump’s performance was approved by a 60 percent to 38 percent margin. After reading this New York Times‘ coronavirus-nationalism article, it’s difficult to see why the media’s ratings were remotely that high.

Alan Tonelson is the founder of RealityChek, a public policy blog focusing on economics and national security, and the author of The Race to the Bottom.

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