6 Times Reputable News Sources Just Plain Went Crazy
The free press is currently under assault in a big way, and its fate will in no small part decide the fate of our society. But we at Cracked are not at all qualified to tackle such a big issue. Instead, we would just like to point out a few times that fancy and respected publications came away looking like a bunch of jerks. In some ways, we are a very petty institution. In most ways, actually.
New Statesmen Warns Of "A Kosher Conspiracy"
The critically lauded New Statesman is basically a British version of The Atlantic. Over the years, the magazine has featured writing by distinguished folks like Bertrand Russell, Virginia Woolf, and John Maynard Keynes. It's been described as "radical," but in the same sort of way that, like, Noam Chomsky's theories on generative linguistics are "radical."
That is, until one morning when the reading public awoke to a picture of the Union Jack being impaled by a Star of David. That was New Statesman's cover in early 2002, accompanied by the title "A Kosher Conspiracy?"
Now, there are many valid critiques of, say, Israeli settlements in the West Bank or Bibi Netanyahu's infatuation with the far right. But you'll find most of those don't contain the phrase "Big Jewry," nor do they compare boosters for Israel to tobacco companies. Both of which New Statesmen did -- at the same time!
Here's a good high-water test: If your political thinkpiece implicitly compares Jewish people to cancer-mongers, it's possible you need a broader perspective. Even we at Cracked understand that, and our foreign policy "credentials" are limited to watching half a season of Homeland when we were drunk on our birthday. (It was a sad birthday, but we're not the ones on trial here.)
Time Wants You To Know That Racist Anti-Immigration Tirade Was In Fact Hilarious
In 2010, Time commissioned a penetrative analysis of large-scale immigration trends in formerly white suburban neighborhoods of the U.S. Unfortunately, the writer they tapped for that story must've died in a horrible Citi Bike accident, because they had to bring in the guy from VH1's I Love The 80's to finish the job.
The article, "My Own Private India," talks about immigrants in Stein's hometown like they're a cat problem that was cute at first but steadily lost its charm. Stein playfully intimates that Indian people are poor because of congenital intellectual deficiency, then switches tack and mentions that locals have begun calling immigrants "dot heads" and driving down the town's main drag screaming "Go back to India!"
At this point, you'd think the article was teeing up to address simmering racial tensions in an otherwise Rockwellian portraiture, but no. Stein only wants to bitch about how the town is now "a maze of charmless Indian strip malls," complain about the food being too spicy, and lament that the local theater now plays Bollywood movies. It seems these are the spiritual crises that attend the "displacement" of middle-class dudes from suburban New Jersey.
Stein eventually admits that he once helped gentrify Chelsea, so he guesses he can forgive Indian people for liking the movies they like and cooking spicy food in an area he once had some personal stake in. What a generous soul.
The New York Times Sends A Reporter Undercover ... To Find Out What Brooklyn Is Like
In 2013, The New York Times told one of their 50-year-old Manhattanite writers to spend a weekend in Brooklyn, just like ... pretending to live in Brooklyn. As if there's some team of roving bouncers that wanders the borough, ejecting those who don't belong.
In the course of his too-wacky-to-be-allowed picaresque, The Times' man on the scene rents a fixed-gear bicycle, tells the clerk of a ridiculously expensive clothing store that he wants to "look like Mumford and Sons," and informs his waitress "I was sort of hoping you'd be naked" -- ostensibly because there was a news story about that once, but really because he's an old creeper.
In short, The Times couldn't have fetishized their rich Manhattanite reporter's outsider status more if they made him wear a safari hat and talk like David Attenborough. You want to know the sorts of people who live in Brooklyn, New York Times? They're people who can't afford a studio apartment in Manhattan because New York's beau monde all bought second apartments below 14th Street just so they don't have to take the subway home after dining at Cipriani. We wish that was a derisive example we made up, but The New York Times goddamn reported that story in the breathless tone of a baby vamp that somehow made it past the door at Jay Gatsby's garden party.
The Wall Street Journal Absolutely Freaked Out Over Citi Bikes
If you don't live in New York City, you might not know or care about Citi Bikes. They're bare-bones rent-a-bike kiosks that presumably curb the city's emissions output a little, and generally don't do much else. That is, unless you're the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, who are goddamn fired up over Citi Bikes. You don't win 39 Pulitzer prizes without learning to recognize what hills are worth dying on, and in 2013, WSJ picked themselves a hill and wrote themselves a will.
In an unintentionally hilarious video titled "Death By Bicycle," Dorothy Rabinowitz -- both looking and sounding exactly like you'd imagine a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board would -- depicts Citi Bikes as cryptofascist death machines that are "begriming" New York City. You know, because of how clean New York was before the bikes came along.
Rabinowitz goes on to describe the bike share program as "totalitarian," ominously warns "the bike lobby is an all-powerful enterprise," and assures her interviewer, "I represent the majority of citizens." She also describes then-mayor Michael Bloomberg as an "autocrat," for good measure.
To be fair to The Wall Street Journal, they did begin to warm to Citi Bikes after a few years. But there was a brief moment there in 2013 when they tried to start a revolution over a bunch of dirty bicycles, and we should never let them forget it.
Related: The Time a Horse Bombed Wall Street
The Daily Beast Outed A Bunch Of Closeted Athletes For No Apparent Reason
Every few years, reporters all across the world get a free vacation to go and report on the Olympics. It's a pretty low-stakes gig. "Feel-Good Story About A Gymnast," "Expose On Figure Skating Judges," and maybe "In-Depth Analysis Of Who Exactly Gives A Damn About Curling." Boom. Done. Time to hit the bar.
Also every few years, some scandalized tipster puts a bug in the Fourth Estate's ear that a bunch of 20-somethings in peak physical condition, high on adrenaline, and crammed together in dormitories so snug that everybody can smell the cologne Ryan Lochte dips his testicles in before bedtime might be -- get this -- sexually active.
Listen, that's not a groundbreaking story, but there's nothing inherently wrong with it. Until, as New Media is often wont to do, The Daily Beast thought they'd turn the goddamn game on it's ear by -- and you're going to think this is just a hoot and a half -- paying one of their straight, married reporters to go on Grindr, pose as gay, and lure gay Olympians into conversation. You know, like a trap.
Like a fun trap.
Don't worry -- in the writer's own words, he "didn't lie to anyone." After they showed up, and only if they actively caught him out. In that case, he freely "confessed to being a journalist" right "as soon as anyone asked who was." Ethics!
The article then proceeds to out a bunch of closeted athletes to the public by publishing not-so-circumspect descriptions of all the gay men in question. And if that's not insane enough for you, the writer himself admits that some of the athletes live in "notoriously homophobic" countries, which is the reason they remain closeted. So in summary, The Daily Beast happily risked the lives of several strangers because they were homosexual, and they did it all for nothing. Because at the end of the day, that story was still about the Olympics, and the world at large doesn't really give a damn about the Olympics.
The WHO Once Claimed Greek People Were Infecting Themselves With HIV For Cash
Six years ago, the World Health Organization let everybody in on some rather shocking news: About half of all the new HIV cases in Greece were self-inflicted. That's right, people were giving themselves HIV in order to suckle on the sweet money-teat of their nanny state. Naturally, Fox Business, Rush Limbaugh, Al Jazeera, Drudge Report, and The Daily Mail ran with this story unchecked ... because look at the names of those media outlets again.
It was a total blockbuster story, but there was one small problem: It was all lies. It only took about 24 hours of real investigative journalism to upend the assertion, because of course hundreds of Greek people weren't giving themselves HIV. Fox Business jabbed a condemning finger at the WHO, because they really didn't need any help looking like idiots, at which point the WHO scrambled to retract their whole "AIDS? More Like 'Made In The Shades" expose.
It turns out that one sentence in the WHO report -- the one about half of all HIV cases being self-inflicted -- was quoting another report in The Lancet. Meanwhile, that Lancet report was itself quoting a third report by an organization called the Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Problem was, every time the passage got re-quoted, it became more and more inflammatory.
The original report read: "An additional factor the committee believed worth considering is the well-founded suspicion that some problem users are intentionally infected with HIV." But there was no data attached to that claim; it was nothing but a suspicion some committee had. Then, when The Lancet quoted that report, the assertion became: "An authoritative report described accounts of deliberate self-infection by a few individuals to obtain access to benefits of 700 euro per month and faster admission onto drug substitution programmes." That escalation finally mutated into the WHO's weirdly specific: "HIV rates and heroin use have risen significantly, with about half of new HIV infections being self-inflicted to enable people to receive benefits of 700 euro per month and faster admission on to drug-substitution programmes."
So the claim went from "Our committee has this crazy hunch that somewhere out there, some lazy Greek bastard is giving himself HIV in exchange for $1,000 a month" to "An authoritative study proves that some Greek people give themselves HIV for drugs and money" to "HALF OF ALL GREEK PEOPLE ARE GIVING THEMSELVES HIV, THE RATS ARE IN THE CORN, ABANDON ALL HOPE."
J.C. Breen lives and works in New York City. If you liked this article, be sure to follow this here link to his website, where you can dig through his more alienating, less financially viable work.
You can still die by bicycle. Wear a helmet.
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