Much of the New York Times reporting on Ukraine doesn't meet basic journalistic standards. The "newspaper of record" is in fact a record of ruling class and state apparatus narratives.
A “newspaper of record” is a major newspaper with a large circulation whose editorial and news-gathering functions are considered authoritative. In this country, that newspaper has been the New York Times. It is believed that librarians began to refer to The New York Times (NYT) as the “newspaper of record” in 1913 when it became the first U.S. newspaper to publish an index of the subjects covered in its pages. Regardless of how it became known as the authoritative source for editorial and news content, it is time that we stop calling the NYT the “newspaper of record” now, especially during this conflict in Ukraine.
The NYT’s March 18th digital headline reads: “130 Rescued from Mariupol Theater, Official Says.” Beyond the headline and under the section, “Here are the latest developments in Ukraine,” more details are provided:
“At least 130 survivors have escaped the ruins of a theater that was nearly leveled in a Russian attack in the embattled southern city of Mariupol, a Ukrainian official said on Friday, but hundreds remained unaccounted for in the wreckage. The city was one of the many under withering missile bombardment across Ukraine as Ukrainian forces continued to frustrate Russian troop advances.”
There is more in this section about the millions escaping Ukraine and the “withering Russian attacks” on the theater. But there is not one word about the neo-Nazis which, in the case of the city of Mariupol and that theater, is a very important part of the story. In fact, the Azov Batallion, an openly Nazi paramilitary group that was consolidated in 2014 to fight against “pro-Russian separatists,” captured the city of Mariupol in 2014. To be clear, those designated “pro-Russian separatists” are the people who, in protest of the US-backed fascist coup in 2014 and in demand of their democratic rights, voted to secede from Ukraine and rejoin the Russian Federation.
It is true that we focus a lot on the neo-Nazis in this conflict. It is not because they are the only and major problem in the conflict. But the lack of reporting on them in US media is disturbing. Aren’t Nazis supposed to be the bad guys? You would think it would be easy for journalists of such a “reputable” publication such as the New York Times to report on the neo-Nazis who took over and now control the city of Mariupol. But no.
Even The Guardian - the British newspaper of note, with at least some standing - reported on the fascists controlling Mariupol back in September 2014. The reporter focused the article on individual members of the battalion, particularly one man named Dmitry ( not his real name) who is quoted at the beginning of the article saying, “I have nothing against Russian nationalists or a great Russia, But Putin's not even a Russian. Putin's a Jew." The article continues:
“...there is an increasing worry that while the Azov and other volunteer battalions might be Ukraine's most potent and reliable force on the battlefield against the separatists, they also pose the most serious threat to the Ukrainian government, and perhaps even the state, when the conflict in the east is over. The Azov causes particular concern due to the far right, even neo-Nazi, leanings of many of its members.”
Actually, the good ol’ USA Today reported on the neoNazi problem in Ukraine, too, back in 2015. They didn’t even use the term “neo-Nazis;” They used “Nazis.” In the article, a drill sergeant named Alex is interviewed. The accompanying picture shows Alex laughing with an Azov Battalion patch on his jacket. Alex, according to the article,
“...admitted that he is a Nazi and said with a laugh that no more than half his comrades are fellow Nazis. He said he supports strong leadership for Ukraine, like Germany during World War II, but opposes the Nazis' genocide against Jews. Minorities should be tolerated as long as they are peaceful and don't demand special privileges, he said, and the property of wealthy oligarchs should be taken away and nationalized. He vowed that when the war ends, his comrades will march on the capital, Kiev, to oust a government they consider corrupt.”
The article, however, goes on to dismiss Russia’s concerns about these Nazis at their border in eastern Ukraine, claiming: Russian media exploit such statements to describe the brigade in this port city in eastern Ukraine as a bunch of thugs who menace the population yet are embraced by Ukraine's national government.” But it is these same Nazis who would go on to wage war against and kill mostly ethnic Russian people for the next 8 years.
But when one digs a bit one finds a March 3, 2022 article in Greek City Times, titled “Greek in Mariupol: ‘The fascist Ukrainians would kill me, they don’t let us leave the city.’” The article includes a video from Twitter in which the news anchors on the Greek outlet SKAI News asks a Greek man living in Mariupol, Mr. Kiouranas, if he planned to leave the city. Kiouranas responded, “how can I leave? When you try to leave you run the risk of running into a patrol of the Ukrainian fascists, the Azov Battalion. They would kill me and are responsible for everything,” he added.
So when TASS - which is Russia’s news agency of record - reported on March 16, 2022, that it was Azov Battalion militants who blew up the Mariupol theater building, it was not believed because, to the west, Russia only reports propaganda and lies.
But the New York Times does not mention the presence of the Azov battalion or the war crimes they have been committing against the citizens of Mariupol, at all. That’s right - war crimes, according to a 2016 report by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The report states:
“In Shyrokyne, a key location in the ‘grey zone’ between the Government-controlled city of Mariupol and the town of Novoazovsk controlled by the armed groups, extensive use of civilian buildings and locations by the Ukrainian military and the Azov regiment…looting of civilian property…civilian buildings in Donetsk city, such as residential buildings, a shelter for homeless people, and a former art gallery, continued to be used by armed groups, thereby endangering civilians.”
The New York Times might be considered the newspaper of record by some, but it is clearly the authoritative source on imperialist and fascist propaganda - from giving Adolf Hitler a platform in 1941 to giving cover to Nazis in 2022.
Jacqueline Luqman is co-host of By Any Means Necessary on Radio Sputnik. She is also a contributor to The Real News Network, Editor-In-Chief of the social media program Luqman Nation, and a contributor to Black Power Media. She has more than 20 years of activism in Washington, DC focusing on participating in and supporting community-level issues as well as regional and national issues that impact working-class, poor, and oppressed people in the US and abroad. She is a member of the Black Alliance for Peace, Pan-African Community Action, is a supporter of several other grassroots radical Black-focused and led organizations, and is an active member of the Board of Social Action in Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, a progressive church in Washington, DC.