Sunday, April 12, 2015

Retiring, Timesman John Burns Subtly Jabs New York Times

John Fisher Burns
John Burns, the New York Times’ senior foreign correspondent, is retiring after 40 years reporting from South Africa, Soviet Russia, the China of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, Iraq, and Bosnia, while chronicling the wars, assassinations and other disasters of India, Pakistan, North Korea, Afghanistan and others. As he steps down, Burns says, “What those years bred in me, more than anything else, was an abiding revulsion for ideology, in all its guises.”

But having seen the worst of totalitarianism and the human price its victims pay, Burns is depressed that ideology has such a grip on politics among free societies. Burns writes:
My impatience with ideology has carried over in recent years to my encounters with the societies in the West that are my home: to the widespread propensity, as I have sensed it, for people who lack the excuse of brutal duress that is a constant in the totalitarian world to fall sway to the formulaic “isms” of left and right, each of them full of Yeats’s “passionate intensity,” that excuse, and indeed smother, free thinking.
[In] the West. . . it can be depressing beyond words to hear the loyalists of a given political creed — whether of the left or the right — adopt the unyielding certainties common in totalitarian states. Our rights to think and speak freely have been won at great cost, and we abuse them at our peril.
Comment: Burns is careful in his criticism, referring to “left and right,” then “left or the right.” So let’s be blunt for Burns, who surely has no love for ideological conservatives. His real target seems to be the left-wing ideology that has seized control of the New York Times in the years since Burns first began work there; since he started at what was--once--the world’s greatest newspaper.

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