Sign here to become a member of the 14 Per Cent Club. Twenty bucks plus shipping and handling gets you the T-shirt. Credentials for membership derive from a recent study by the Pew Research Center disclosing, in the words of Katharine Seelye of the New York Times on May 9, that 45 percent of Americans believe little or nothing of what they read in their daily newspapers.

"When specific newspapers were mentioned, The Times fared about average, with 21 percent of readers believing all or most of what they read in The Times and 14 percent believing almost nothing," Seelye reports. Chalk up another victory for the left. We've been at it for 30 years at least, saying that most things in the Times are distortions of reality or outright lies, and here is a robust slice of the American people agreeing with us. Of course, the faint hearts who believe that the left can never win anything will say that the credit should go to moles at the New York Times, boring from within, hollowing out the mighty edifice with year upon year of willful falsehoods until, at last, the whole ponderous structure is crumbling into dust, crushing all within.

True to this point.

Heroic moles, entombed in the rubble of your own making, Judith Miller and all the others, back through to the suzerain of sappers, A.M. Rosenthal, we salute you all! As with any empire on the brink of collapse, frantic orders are being issued from the command bunker. Seelye divulges the program of proposed "reform" devised by the editors.

"Encourage reporters to confirm the accuracy of articles with sources before publication and to solicit feedback from sources after publication. Set up an error-tracking system to detect patterns and trends. Encourage the development of software to detect plagiarism when accusations arise. Increase coverage of middle America, rural areas and religion. Establish a system for evaluating public attacks on The Times's work and determining whether and how to respond."

Can there be any better evidence of the panic that has settled in? If this trend continues, they'll be forcing Tom Friedman to install preventive software based on the works of Noam Chomsky that freezes his hard drive every time he types an untrue sentence.

The Times's "reform" package veers between apologetic sniveling about improved coverage of the heartland (fatter slabs of patronizing nonsense about God-fearing kulaks in Iowa) and quavering barks of defiance at "the relentless public criticism of the paper . . . Mr. Keller [the NYT's editor] asked the committee to consider whether it was 'any longer possible to stand silent and stoic under fire.'"

"'We need to be more assertive about explaining ourselves -- our decisions, our methods, our values, how we operate,' the committee said, acknowledging that 'there are those who love to hate The Times and suggesting a focus instead on people who do not have 'fixed' opinions about the paper."

This is like reading a strategy memo from the dying embers of the Dukakis campaign. I'm glad to say I have no constructive recommendations to offer to the editors of the New York Times, except maybe one suggested by my Nation intern, Mark Hatch-Miller, whom I canvassed for his opinions: "Stop bringing up Jayson Blair every time you screw up. Every time the Times talks about why people don't trust them, they have to mention Blair, but we all would have forgotten him by now if they'd shut up about him for a second. His story is only used to distract us from the real problems at the Times." Aye to that. So far as I know, the Times has never named its reporter Judith Miller as a prime agent in fomenting what has become the most thoroughly discredited propaganda campaign in the entire history of war scares.

On the matter of constructive versus destructive criticism, I'll always opt for the latter. Keep things clean and simple, like "U.S. out of Iraq now." My only quibble with Chomsky down the years has been the implication in all his trenchant criticisms of the Times that somehow the NYT should be getting things right, and that it would be better if it did so.

This has always seemed to me to be a contradiction in terms. The role devised for itself by the New York Times was to be the credible organ of capitalism ("newspaper of record"), with its reports and editorials premised on the belief that American capitalism can produce a just society in which all can enjoy the fruits of their labor, in peaceful harmony with their environment and the rest of the planet.

The evidence is in. The case is proved a million different ways. American capitalism can't do that. It's produced an unjust society run by a tiny slice of obscenely rich people (including the real estate developers owning the New York Times) with a vested and irreversible interest in permanent war and planetary destruction.

Given those premises, how can the Times ever get it right? Why would we want the Times to get it right? On the left, we've always said that the corporate press tells lies, and now, for a variety of reasons, at most, people believe us. The corporate media are discredited, the same way the corporate political parties are. They have zero credibility. Newspapers are dying. The main TV networks have lost a third of their audience over the past 20 years. There's no need for whining that the problem consists of narrowing ownership. The corporate press was just as bad when there were 500 different newspaper owners instead of five. And, for now at least, we have the Web. We're infinitely better off than we were 30 years ago.

The only trouble is, the left hasn't got too many ideas. We should stop bitching about the corporate press and get with a new program. If it's credible, then the people who don't trust the New York Times might start trusting us.

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Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at COPYRIGHT 2005 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.