First There Were Neo-Nazis, Then There Were No Nazis, Then There Were – Patrick Lawrence 6/6/23


I tell you, serving as a New York Times correspondent these days cannot be easy. You have to convey utter nonsense to your readers while maintaining a straight face and a serious demeanor. You have to suggest the Russians may have exploded a drone over the Kremlin, that they may have blown up their own gas pipeline, that their president is an out-of-touch psychotic, that their soldiers in Ukraine are drunkards using faulty equipment, that they attack with “human hordes” (Orientalism, anyone?) and on and on—all the while affecting the gravitas once associated with the traditional “Timesman.” You try it sometime.

I am reminded of that pithy passage in Daniel Boorstin’s regrettably overlooked book, The Image. “The reporter’s task,” Boorstin wrote in 1962, “is to find a way of weaving these threads of unreality into a fabric that the reader will not recognize as entirely unreal.”

Boorstin reflected on America’s resort to imagery, illusion, and distortion as Washington geared up its gruesome follies in Vietnam. The reporter’s task is a whole lot harder now, given how much farther we have wandered into illusion and distortion since Boorstin’s day.

And now we have the case of Thomas Gibbons–Neff, a square-jawed former Marine covering the Ukraine war for The Times—strictly to the extent the Kyiv regime permits him to do so, as he explains with admirable honesty. This guy is serious times 10, he and his newspaper want us to know.

Tom’s job this week is to persuade us that all those Ukrainian soldiers wearing Nazi insignia, idolizing Jew-murdering, Russophobic collaborators with the Third Reich, gathering ritually in Nazi-inspired cabals, marching through Kyiv in Klan-like torch parades are not what you think. Nah, our Tom tells us. They look like neo–Nazis, they act like neo–Nazis, they dress like neo–Nazis, they profess Fascist and neo–Nazi ideologies, they wage this war with the Wehrmacht’s visceral hatred of Russians—O.K., but whyever would you think they are neo–Nazis? …

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