For NYT’s Interpreter Blog, the Context Is Always the Same

Journalists from the far left blame the world’s ills on the far right

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August 19, 2019

"The Interpreter" blog and newsletter at the New York Times is more likely to report on "far right" politicians and movements around the world than "far left" ones, an analysis finds.

Described as a blog and newsletter that explores "the ideas and context behind major world events," "The Interpreter" is penned by Max Fisher and Amanda Taub, who are alumni of the left-leaning explainer site Vox. Before that, Fisher worked at the Atlantic, while Taub was a human rights lawyer.

The Washington Free Beacon analyzed more than 50 stories that mentioned the political "right" or "left" around the globe written by Fisher and Taub for the blog, which began in 2016. The emphasis on coverage of the political right in comparison to the left was stark.

Their articles made 136 mentions of the "far right" but just one mention of the "far left," and 60 mentions of "right-wing" politicians or movements" but just 10 mentions of "left-wing" politicians or movements.

Thirty-two of their stories overall mentioned the "far right" and 31 mentioned "right-wing" movements or politicians, while one story mentioned the "far left" and seven mentioned "left-wing" movements or politicians.

In a lengthy article headlined "How YouTube Radicalized Brazil," which appeared on Tuesday's front page, Fisher and Taub used the phrases "far right" and "right-wing" 15 times. It described President Jair Bolsonaro as a "star in YouTube's far-right community" before becoming president last year.

A piece by Taub headlined "Why Democracy Feels Like a Dangerous Game" on Dec. 1, 2017, mentioned the "far right" 12 times alone.

It isn't always consistent in its political labeling. A report on corruption scandals embroiling former left-wing presidents Dilma Rousseff of Brazil and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina didn't provide a label for either of them, while this 2017 Interpreter story mentioned Rousseff's "left-wing party."

Furthermore, stories about Venezuela omitted the "far left" label to describe the failed socialist government there under Nicolas Maduro. A 2017 article on the rise of authoritarianism referred to Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez as championing "leftist populism." Another Interpreter story later that year mentioned the government's socialist bent but also omitted any "left" label.

A May 14, 2017, piece specifically analyzing Venezuela's economic collapse didn't use the word "socialism" or "socialist" once. It did report on the "leftist" Chavez's rise to power, increased nationalization of the economy, and cronyism that eventually crippled the nation.

The New York Times overall is far more likely to use the labels "far-right" and "right-wing" than "far-left" and "left-wing" in its reporting, a search shows.

A search of the Times archives showed far fewer stories involving the terms "far-left" (5,259) and "left-wing" (40,972) than "far right" (11,868) and "right-wing" (51,168).

The same also goes for the terms "hard left" (1,332) versus "hard right" (3,389) and "extreme left" (5,829) versus "extreme right" (6,902). The terms "conservative" and "liberal" can often be employed in nonpolitical contexts, so they were omitted.