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New book details how the New York Times peddled Nazi propaganda in 1939 and relied on Nazi publications as main sources in its reports

Author Ashley Rindsberg details the manner in which the newspaper engaged in journalistic malpractices, and its general incompetence, at critical junctures of history.

A new book, ‘The Gray Lady Winked’, that was released earlier in May 2021, details the manners in which the New York Times’s journalistic failures altered the course of history. Author Ashley Rindsberg details the manner in which the newspaper engaged in journalistic malpractices, and its general incompetence, at critical junctures of history.

In a publicly available excerpt, the book elaborates the manner in which the New York Times almost served as the propaganda wing of the Nazi Regime in Germany. The newspaper regurgitated Nazi propaganda of a Polish attack on Germany, which was furthered to justify by the regime to justify its invasion of Poland.

The author writes in the book, “The New York Times bought the Nazi dupe without flinching. Underneath its famous banner, “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” the paper reported that, according to “Chancellor Hitler,” Germany had been attacked. Already in the second paragraph of the Times’s frontpage article, the reporter, Otto Tolischus, went on to reprint verbatim Hitler’s infamous war speech to the Reichstag, which the Führer used to justify to the world, as much as to the German people, his invasion of Poland.”

How the NYT regurgitated Nazi claims without questioning any of it

The NYT had reported, “At 8 P.M., according to the semi-official news agency, a group of Polish insurrectionists forced an entrance into the Gleiwitz radio station [in Germany], overpowering the watchmen and beating and generally mishandling the attendants. The Gleiwitz station was relaying a Breslau station’s program, which was broken off by the Poles.” The author writes that all such details were Nazi fabrications written in NYT’s “characteristically deliberating and objective tone”.

Ashley Rindsberg says of reporter, “Tolischus printed the entirety of the proclamation in his front-page article and then went on to report German military restrictions and warnings. He never once mentioned the possibility that the Nazis, so well versed in propaganda and so ready to use that weapon, as they had proven many times by 1939, might be lying. For his error-ridden, propaganda-friendly reporting, Tolischus was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 “for his dispatches from Berlin.”

In one NYT report soon after the false flag operation in 1939, it was mentioned that “according to the semi-official news agency, a group of Polish insurrectionists forced its way into the Gleiwitz radio station.” Rindsberg says that the “semi-official news agency” mention here was a Nazi propaganda organ and it was cited as the report’s main source.

In another instance, the NYT relied on the official mouthpiece of the Nazi Party to report that the Gleiwitz incident referred here was supposed to serve as a signal for a wider all-encompassing Polish attack on Germany. In reality, the attack was orchestrated by Nazi officials who directed Polish-speaking Nazi officers to dress up as Polish guerrillas and kill prisoners dressed up as German guards.

The entire charade was part of Adolf Hitler’s propaganda initiative aimed at global audience and more specifically, at the American public who were not extremely enthusiastic about the prospects of USA joining what they saw as a European war. At the time, there was serious debate between the anti-war factions among the American public and those who were willing to march against Hitler’s Germany.

“Hitler knew that American production capabilities, resources, and military. His ultimate aim was to keep the US out of the war for as long as possible and then turn the wrath of the German military, backed by the natural resources, ports, fleets and arms of conquered Europe, to the Americas. For Hitler, American delay meant German victory,” Rindsberg writes, elaborating on the objectives of Hitler’s propaganda initiative.

NYT did not have meager circulation at the time

The NYT was not a small time newspaper in 1939 with meager circulation. By 1917, the NYT news service had become the biggest in the United States. By the 1920s, it had emerged as “the most prominent position in foreign reporting, since its communications chief had built a super-heterodyne receiver for direct reception of press dispatches from Europe.” Thus, NYT’s journalistic malfeasance had significant impact on the public perception of the Nazi regime at the time.

The author concludes, “For nearly ten years, the New York Times reported many of these stories by simply reprinting Nazi claims, particularly when it came to Hitler’s peaceful intentions. There was very little journalistic counterbalance in the Times’s reporting on Germany and even less editorial outrage when it came to the Nazi regime’s early crimes. But a closer look at the Times’s coverage of Germany during the Nazi era—especially when compared to the accurate and incisive reporting of other American papers—raises more questions than it answers.”

The book by Ashley Rindsberg is available at Amazon and can be purchased here.

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Searched termsThe Grey Lady winked
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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