Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

No biased Times?

Jerry Stratton, February 18, 2007

When I saw the New York Times headline that the February 5 votes against cloture on the Iraq resolution in the Senate were actually votes for ending debate, I let it go: perhaps the New York Times staff was completely ignorant of politics, and didn’t realize that voting for cloture was voting for ending debate. I don’t generally read the Times; I just see the headlines on memeorandum.

After seeing a nearly identical headline today, it seems clear that they always knew. In reporting on both votes, the Times goes out of its way to avoid even using the word “cloture”.

In G.O.P. Senators Block Debate on Iraq Policy they use “procedural vote” to avoid using the word “cloture”:

The procedural vote, which divided mostly along party lines, left the Democratic leadership 11 votes short of the 60 needed to begin debate on the bipartisan resolution.

They must have liked that, because in Senate Rejects Renewed Effort to Debate Iraq, they use the “procedural” misdirection three times:

Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, spoke Saturday after a procedural vote to start debate on an Iraq resolution failed.

But the outcome, four votes short of the 60 needed to break a procedural stalemate…

Without 60 votes for the procedural motion, the Senate was unable to start debate.

Cloture is a “procedural motion” to limit debate and force a vote. Those who vote against it want more options to be considered before the vote. As the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-Nevada) can keep debate going for as long as his party supports it. Debate ends when the majority leader chooses not to continue debate.

The Times staff must know this. After the February 5 motion for cloture failed, debate continued for almost two weeks.

While researching this post, I ran across a posting by “Lance” on A Second Hand Conjecture. The English language appears to be going through a major shift. A year ago, cloture meant “ending debate” and “shutting off debate”. Voting against cloture meant being “against limiting debate”. Today, voting against cloture means the exact opposite.

What’s changed in the eyes of the Times?

In the past, I’ve preferred the blood & controversy theory of media bias: that they’re biased in favor of spectacle. That theory fails here. The New York Times is either displaying extreme bias or extreme ignorance, and it’s hard to believe that they’re ignorant of the true meaning of cloture when they go out of their way to avoid even using the term.

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