New York Times op-ed page column by Ross Douthat, today: "The powerful belief that only CNN — indeed, only Jeff Zucker — stood between democracy and authoritarianism encouraged the abandonment of normal journalistic standards, the sacrifice of sobriety and neutrality to what Armin Rosen, writing for UnHerd, dubs the 'centrist-branded panic industry.'"
Lead article on NYT.com, same day: "'Taking the Voters Out of the Equation': How the Parties Are Killing Competition. The number of competitive House districts is dropping, as both Republicans and Democrats use redistricting to draw themselves into safe congressional seats. The decline is the latest sign of dysfunction in the American political system, already grappling with misinformation and rising distrust in elections."
This is funny on a couple of levels. Not only is the Times participating in the "centrist-branded panic industry" that Douthat is criticizing, but also the claim of "dysfunction in the American political system" is itself misinformation. Here is a December 11, 2021 statement from the Chinese foreign ministry:
The American-style democracy is full of malaises. Problems like money politics, identity politics, partisanship, political polarization, social division, racial tension, and wealth gap are getting worse. The American-style democracy is a money-based game for the rich. Ninety-one per cent of congressional elections are won by candidates with greater financial support. It is "one person one vote" in name, but "rule of the minority elite" in reality. The general public are wooed when their votes are wanted but get ignored once the election is over. The check and balance has become "vetocracy", with partisan interests put above national development. The flaws of such an electoral system are self-evident, including the rampant use of gerrymandering to manipulate the division of electoral districts that compromises fairness and justice. The dysfunction of the American-style democracy is a fact that cannot be covered up -- the Capitol riot that shocked the world, the death of George Floyd that sparked mass protests, the tragic mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the harsh reality of the rich becoming richer and the poor poorer. (emphasis added).
It's remarkable how a claim like this can go directly from the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman onto the front page of the New York Times. I'm not saying American democracy is functioning perfectly or that the Times should ignore its flaws or even that America might not be better served with more competitive congressional districts. But next time someone tries to get you to believe that "the dysfunction of the American-style democracy is a fact that cannot be covered up," try to remember the phrase "centrist-branded panic industry" and also that the Chinese Communist Party is pushing this idea. The idea that some profit-seeking American news businesses would ally with the Chinese Communist Party to shake American faith in our own democracy is troubling. It's not worth panicking over, but it sure is worth paying attention to.