UPDATE: Please note that shortly after posting this, a reader, in this comment below alerted me that Mr. Cohen is not a reporter, but “a member of the NYT editorial board.” When I had a moment to do a google search, I confirmed that this was so. The piece which linked the Cohen piece identified him as a “reporter.” Prior to joining the Times editorial board, Mr. Cohen most recently served as a reporter for Time. I have changed the post from its original content to reflect this knowledge. The main point remains. Just as a reporter has an obligation to report the facts, an editorial writer has the responsibility to present accurately the issues on which he opines.
I apologize for my error in the original post and am grateful to the reader for noting my mistake.
A few days ago, Glenn Reynolds (AKA Instapundit) linked Ilya Somin’s post on the Volokh Conspiracy taking apart NY Times Reporter Adam Cohen’s attack on what that reporter labeled “conservative judicial activism.” While Somin found the reporter’s argument “riddled with flaws and misrepresentations,” what struck me was how Cohen misrepresented recent Supreme Court decisions. He said conservative justices were using “their judicial power on behalf of employers who mistreat their workers, tobacco companies, and whites who do not want to be made to go to school with blacks.”
Mr. Cohen, the assistant editor of the New York Times editorial page, a man with a background in journalism, should know better than to so define those cases. If I had time, I would address all the cases he references, but for now, will just look at one — the decision striking down race-based school assignment policies in two states. In misrepresenting that case, Cohen reveals his bias against conservatives.
The case Cohen mentions did not involve the Court siding with whites being made “to go to school with blacks” (as the Times reporter puts it), but rather about school assignment decisions based on “racial guidelines” (in Kentucky) and on a point system to effect “overall racial balance” (in Seattle, Washington). The mother of the student from Kentucky wanted him transferred from a school 10 miles from his home to one “nine miles closer.”*
In Seattle, a white student qualified for a competitive biotechnology program at a public school, but lost his place “due to his race.” That city’s plan also hurt “students of color . . . who wanted to attend Franklin High, their neighborhood school, [but] were turned away because the district gave those seats to white students in an attempt to balance the school’s racial mix.”
Hmm . . . doesn’t seem like a case of white students objecting to going to school with blacks. The issue was school districts’ racial guidelines, not racial integration.
The basic issue here is parents wanting their children to attend schools closer to home or to attend the public school program best suited to their needs. Or students wanting to attend the same school with friends from their neighborhood.
Instead of looking to those facts, Mr. Cohen sees the issue as whites not wanting to attend school with blacks, despite the fact that the white students in this cases would be attending schools that were racially mixed. It almost seems he’s commenting on a case in the 1950s where the facts were far different than those in the decision recently handed down.
Alas that Mr. Cohen, like so many others on the left, assumes that conservative objections to affirmative action programs or to the use of racial, gender or sexual orientation criteria are due to animus against the minority. Even when members of minority groups criticize such policies. For example, when I object to certain supposedly gay-friendly policies on libertarian grounds, people accuse me of self-hatred — or trying to please (again supposedly) gay-hating conservatives.
Cohen’s description of the race-based school assignment cases is just another example of the assumptions those in the MSM make about conservatives. Like all too many who comment to this blog, they would rather take issue with a conservative straw man drawn in their own imaginations than with the real arguments we make everyday.
- B. Daniel Blatt (GayPatriotWest@aol.com)
* I would rather have quoted a news article, but, in my google search, I found only a handful of articles which addressed the facts at issue in this decision. Most just reported the decision. Maybe that’s why Cohen made the assumption he did. But shouldn’t a reporter check on the facts of a court decision before writing about its result?