Anyone who compares a copy of The New York Times or The Guardian in 2010 with a copy of those same newspapers in 2020 would be struck by the difference in their tone and content. One small indication of this transformation lies in some of the articles and op-eds that would have been considered too extreme to see the light of day a decade earlier. “Can My Children Be Friends with White People?” one article in The New York Times, by an African American law professor, asked in November 2017. The conclusion he came to seemed to rule out the possibility of any genuine trust between members of different ethnic groups: “I will teach my boys to have profound doubts that friendship with white people is possible.”
Another important difference lies in how mainstream newspapers framed everyday stories. Clear quantitative evidence backs up the speed and extent of this change in the content of the most prestigious newspapers in the English-speaking world. The share of New York Times articles using the term “racist,” for example, increased by an astonishing 700 percent in the eight years between 2011 and 2019, according to an analysis by Zach Goldberg, a doctoral student in political science at Georgia State University. Over the same time period, uses of the word “racist” in The Washington Post increased even more quickly, by 1,000 percent.
But the key change was not even in how often mainstream media outlets talked about racism; it was that the way they did so increasingly incorporated the ideas and the vocabulary of the identitarian left. Both in The Washington Post and in The New York Times, the share of articles invoking “systemic racism,” “structural racism,” or “institutional racism” increased by tenfold between 2013 and 2019. The share of articles associating the word “white” with the idea of “racial privilege” grew at an even more rapid pace: their incidence increased twelve-fold in The New York Times and fifteen-fold in The Washington Post. Goldberg draws an unambiguous conclusion. Over the course of Obama’s presidency, key concepts of the identity synthesis, like microaggression and white privilege, “went from being obscure fragments of academic jargon to commonplace journalistic language,” he writes. “Along with the new language came ideas and beliefs animating a new moral-political framework to apply to public life and American society.”
These rapid changes in the way the most prestigious media outlets described the world were to have an enormous influence on a small yet highly influential segment of American society. As Goldberg demonstrates, the rapid uptick in the focus on race and racial inequality in The Washington Post and The New York Times was followed—not preceded—by a significant increase in progressive views about race, such as the number of people who favor “race-conscious” public policies, in the electorate. And because the audience of mainstream news outlets is disproportionately white and educated, attitudes about race changed much more drastically among this comparatively “privileged” group of Americans than they did in the population at large.
This led to some strange ironies. In the so-called feeling thermometer, for example, social scientists have long asked respondents about the general impression they have of members of a particular ethnic or religious group. Until recently, white liberals were more likely to have positive feelings toward white people than toward African Americans. By 2016, this had changed: white liberals were now more likely to say they had negative feelings toward white people—a group that presumably included their parents and other close relatives—than did Black Americans.
Mounk, Yascha. The Identity Trap: A Story of Ideas and Power in Our Time
Oh, banner headlines, times change and our morals do too. Do the same kind of analysis on terms like "sexual abuse" or "sexual misconduct". My guess is it would show a similar increase. Does that mean that the Catholic church and care systems did not have systemic abuse 20-30 years ago? That women were not sexually harrassed? Have we all gone OTT on paedos and creeps because we are woke?
Add to that the increase of camera phones. Twenty years back when a bunch of cops beat up a black guy it was his word against theirs. Nowadays they are there on camera, and the inaction of the authorities is blatant. So newspapers are more aware and report on it.
Cases in point. My school friend told me how his uncle made page 5 in "The Daily Mirror" which was the biggest selling UK newspaper in the 50s. Why was he in the news? He married a black woman.