Friday, February 10, 2023


In George Orwell's 1984, the Ministry of Truth rewrites news stories whenever the original text ceases to track with the official government line. After the editing, no trace of the original story remains intact.

To hear right-wingers tell it, The New York Times just edited one its own articles the same way.

The Times just published a story about how Senator John Fetterman is coping with the aftereffects of the stroke he had last year. But the story as it exists now is not identical to the story as it originally appeared. This has led to a right-wing freakout. At RedState, a piece by Nick Arama has this headline:
NYT Stealth Edits Report They Did Revealing Fetterman's Big Problems
Arama complains that the Times edited the story "but made no note of it, as they should have."

The headline of a Mediaite story by the right-wing writer Caleb Howe says that the Times piece was, according to the headline, "Edited After Backlash."

And then there's this guy, the editor of Pluribus, "an online project exploring the rising tide of illiberalism and its recent progeny, cancel culture":

So how did the Times Ministry of Truth "stealth edit" the story? What's the massive deception here?

One word was deleted. That's all.

Howe explains:
“As Mr. Fetterman adjusts to his new life, the Senate and his colleagues are also adjusting to his special needs,” [the story] originally said....

“Special needs” was later changed after a fair amount of online backlash....

The article has been changed and now reads, “the Senate and his colleagues are also adjusting to his needs.”
And the Times didn't announce the edit in 96-point type with a red siren GIF! We truly live in a totalitarian hellscape.

But the change in wording won't help right-wingers understand what's going on with Fetterman. After reading the Times story, I worry that Fetterman doesn't have the physical stamina after his stroke to do everything a senator is expected to do. But the right treats Fetterman as if he's mentally enfeebled, based on the fact that he has auditory processing issues.

The detail from the story that turns up in right-wing headline after right-wing headline is this:
The most evident disability is a neurological condition that impairs his hearing. Mr. Fetterman suffers from auditory processing issues, forcing him to rely primarily on a tablet to transcribe what is being said to him. The hearing issues are inconsistent; they often get worse when he is in a stressful or unfamiliar situation. When it’s bad, Mr. Fetterman has described it as trying to make out the muffled voice of the teacher in the “Peanuts” cartoon, whose words could never be deciphered.
That's a serious impairment, but the fact that Fetterman devised this analogy to explain it suggests to me that his mind is still sharp, whatever other impairments he might have. So do other quotes in the story that describe what it's like to talk to him as he uses devices that translate speech into text:
“We’re going to have to learn our own styles with it,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, who said she experimented with the tablet at a recent Democratic caucus lunch. “What I was saying was accurate even when I talked fast. I wanted to make sure it was accurate. It was kind of to imagine what it would be like to be him.”

“He answers like you would answer anyone,” Ms. Klobuchar added. “It’s us that have to get used to it; he’s used to it.”

... Representative Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez, Democrat of Washington, said she approached Mr. Fetterman at a White House reception for new members....

Ms. Gluesenkamp Pérez said the tablet allowed for seamless small talk and dress code jokes.

“It’s just a slight delay,” she said. “I didn’t notice he was using it at first. Then I was like, ‘Why are they holding it?’ It took me a minute to figure out what was going on.”
The strain of doing the job may be wearing Fetterman down, but it seems as if he can still think, and if so, it's understandable that Pennsylvania voters saw his impairment but still chose him over Dr. Oz. I hope his health improves. I hope he can cope with the stress. But Republicans are wrong to treat him as a brain-dead invalid.

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