The New York Times on Thursday published an opinion column by Regina Ip, the Hong Kong official widely denounced as “Beijing’s enforcer.” Ip declared “Hong Kong is part of China” and dismissed the protesters fighting for freedom in their city. I have no objection to the publishing of the column. Ip is a major figure in Hong Kong and, despite her support for authoritarian rule and crushing dissent, there is a value to having such views as part of the public debate. Rather, my concern is that the New York Times was denounced by many of us for its cringing apology after publishing a column by Sen. Tom Cotton (R, Ark.). and promising not to publish future such columns. So it will not publish a column from a Republican senator on protests in the United States but it will publish columns from one of the Chinese leaders crushing protests for freedom in Hong Kong.
Ip told Americans not to be sympathetic with the protesters being beaten and arrested as they fight for the most basic freedoms and human rights. She insists these inspiring protests as meaningless because it is the “destiny” of the protesters (and the city) to accept Communist Chinese rule. It is like publishing Emperor Palpatine’s op-ed declaring “Your feeble skills are no match for the power of the dark side.”
Ip declared. “No amount of outcry, condemnation or sanctions over the Chinese government’s purported encroachment in Hong Kong’s affairs will alter the fact that Hong Kong is part of China and that its destiny is intertwined with the mainland’s.”
Now compare that to the Cotton column that led to a mass protest from reporters and led to the forced resignation of the opinion editor.
The column by Cotton was discussing a statutory option used by presidents in the past in times of riot. He was arguing that troops could be used support insufficient law enforcement numbers. He stressed that his column concerns the violence not the protests. While I disagreed with the column, Cotton did not denounce the protests or the protesters. Rather than he objected to “a revolting moral equivalence of rioters and looters to peaceful, law-abiding protesters. A majority who seek to protest peacefully shouldn’t be confused with bands of miscreants.” In doing so, he not only cited the history of such use but cautioned that it should only be used temporarily to get hold of the situation:
“This venerable law, nearly as old as our republic itself, doesn’t amount to ‘martial law’ or the end of democracy, as some excitable critics, ignorant of both the law and our history, have comically suggested. In fact, the federal government has a constitutional duty to the states to ‘protect each of them from domestic violence.’ Throughout our history, presidents have exercised this authority on dozens of occasions to protect law-abiding citizens from disorder.”
I have repeatedly opposed such a move as unnecessary and inimical to the exercise of free speech. However, the column correctly recounted how the military has been used repeatedly by presidents to quell rioting and stabilize cities. However, the New York Times then bowed to the pressure of advocates and abandoned both its principles and the proud legacy of the paper. In a statement that will go done in journalistic infamy, the newspaper announced:
“We’ve examined the piece and the process leading up to its publication. This review made clear that a rushed editorial process led to the publication of an Op-Ed that did not meet our standards. As a result, we’re planning to examine both short term and long term changes, to include expanding our fact-checking operation and reduction the number of op-eds we publish.”
All of that because the newspaper published a historically correct account of a Republican senator on the use of military personnel to put down rioting. At the time New York Times reporter Jenna Wortham denounced publishing Cotton’s view because it put “Black @nytimes staffers in danger.” Instead, it is publishing a Chinese authoritarian leader dismissing protesters being crushed by her regime and proclaiming “Like it or not, Hong Kong is part of China.” Reporters are simply arrested by China and disappear into its extensive prison camp system.
The New York Times has succeeded in reducing its legendary opinion page to a mockery of hypocrisy. That is what happens when proving that you are woke is more important to being right. The right answer is to publish both columns as a newspaper committed to diversity of thought and expression.