One of the most e-mailed articles on the New York Times website this weekend is an op-ed by novelist Robert Harris titled “Pirates of the Mediterranean”. In this essay Mr. Harris claims that history is mutable.
But there are some troubling aspects that arise when one treats history as a mutable entity. It allows people to rewrite history through a new lens; picking and choosing certain events to draw conclusions from within the vacuum of new or limited contexts. Thus, what was once considered immutable may take on new meaning depending on your point of view.
The New York Times allows Mr. Harris to use this mutability of context as a device to draw parallels between the fall of the Roman Empire and that of the United States under the dictatorial rule of President Bush.
For instance, the comparison of al-Qaeda to a loosely unorganized group of disaffected pirates from 68 BC is a prime example of mutating modern day history for the purpose of editorial validity. While al-Qaeda may not have a traditional hierarchical chain of command we know for certain that the al-Qaeda leadership operates within the framework of coordinated planning, funding, training and material support. The fact that these operations are carried out by clandestine sleeper cells in no way should be read as being unorganized.
Likewise, comparing last Thursday’s Senate vote that clarified the President’s powers over terrorism detainees with the passage of the Lex Gabinia in 67 BC is not only an invalid comparison but it is applied in the wrong context altogether. For the comparison to be valid President Bush would have to yield absolute powers and declare all citizens of the United States as enemy combatants to become the left’s version of an American dictator.
I must caution readers that the hypocrisy in the following is so delicious nothing on your desk or couch is safe from sudden hysterical outbursts: the New York Times published an article Monday (hat tip to TVNewser) analyzing a new Democrat strategy to appear on and attack the Fox News Channel. Deliciously, the writer, Lorne Manly, consistently suggested that FNC was a biased, propaganda arm of the Republican Party without recognizing that the overwhelming majority of Americans see the Times as a biased, propaganda arm of the Democrat Party.
The fun began early: “Though Fox News maintains that its reporting is down the middle, Democrats have long complained that the news channel operates like a public relations outpost of the Bush White House.” And, the fun came often:
Howard Kurtz has two notable stories on political bias in today's "Media Notes" column -- first, a spicy review of how all the liberal journalists loathe Fox News and its chieftain, Roger Ailes. Second, New York Times reporter Linda Greenhouse spouted that her splenetic speech at Harvard in June saying Team Bush has created a "law-free zone" and decrying religious "fundamentalists" taking over our government were a "statement of facts," not opinion! The Ailes interview is entertaining:
Vanity Fair recently pegged Ailes as No. 44 on its New Establishment list, calling him "the most powerful news executive in America." But it also called him "the man who gives the Bush administration a major media outlet" and described Dick Cheney -- who demands that his hotel TVs be preset to Fox -- as his "big loyal friend."
This one’s really good, folks. Writing in Friday’s FrontPage Magazine, Professor Emeritus at Brooklyn Law School Henry Mark Holzer made the case for why the New York Times should be indicted for violating the Espionage Act (hat tip to American Thinker):
It is an article of faith on the Left and among its fellow travelers that the Bush administration stole two elections, made war on Iraq for venal reasons, tortured hapless foreigners, and conducted illegal surveillance of innocent Americans. A corollary of this mindset is that the press, primarily the Washington Post and The New York Times, has a right, indeed a duty, to print whatever they want about the administration—even if the information compromises national security.
Holzer marvelously responded to this absurd notion:
Rejection is painful. Spurned suitors often-if-contradictorily condemn the very object of their affection, while reserving a good measure of bile for their successful rivals. Democrats have suffered lots of unrequited political desire in recent years, and the strain is really starting to show. We all know about Bush Derangement Syndrome. Yesterday I described a new strain, Gas Price Derangement Syndrome, and mentioned an even more insidious disease afflicting many on the left - Controlled Demolition Dementia.
Today comes more evidence of the left's painful struggle to deal with its diminished standing and repeated rejection at the polls. In the subscription-required Why Voters Like Values, Times columnist Judith Warner claims that "the Christian right's ability to stir voter passions is based not on values, but on psychology." Warner describes having bravely gone inside the belly of the conservative beast, recently attending a Values Voters Summit in DC, and declaring it "imbued with so much intolerance and hate." This is presumably in contrast with liberal love-ins at Daily Kos, Moveon, etc., where Bush & Co. are regularly depicted as liars, murderers, Hitlers, etc. For that matter, Warner herself doesn't adumbrate many shades of gray in painting those on the right as filled with hatred.
In Thursday’s Washington Post, deep inside a story on page B-2, the George Allen campaign provided a man named Dan Cragg, a former acquaintance of Allen’s Democratic challenger, Jim Webb. Cragg said Webb used the N-word "while describing his own behavior during his freshman year at the University of Southern California in the early 1960s...[Cragg said] Webb described taking drives through the black neighborhood of Watts, where he and members of his ROTC unit used racial epithets and pointed fake guns at blacks to scare them."
The Post puts this in the eighth paragraph of a Michael Shear story on the front of Metro headlined "Webb Denies Ever Using Word As Epithet." The subhead was "Racial Slur Overshadowing All Else in Contest."
New York Times columnist (and former Times reporter) Maureen Dowd appeared on the "Tavis Smiley" show on PBS on Wednesday night with her typical take on the news: Bush and Cheney are suffering from testosterone poisoning, and she urged the media to keep pushing because "checks and balances is what Dick Cheney is trying to destroy." But Hillary Clinton is too cautious, "fetches coffee for older male Senators," and needs to be more outspoken: "I would love to see Barack Obama and Hillary speaking out more."
Smiley asked Dowd about if it was tough to write her column: "The first couple of years I had the column, I was curled up in a ball on the floor of my house, crying a lot." (Like Linda Greenhouse? Is this a standard practice for New York Times reporters?) She continued: "But as a student of literature and Shakespeare, you know that power can be poisonous. And in the case of Bush and Cheney, testosterone can be poisonous. And it’s just my job to tweak them and say before the Iraq war, we should not be ginning this case up to go to a war unless we’re sure that we understand the culture, and we didn’t. So I feel that journalism has a really important place in checks and balances, without being corny about it. And checks and balances is what Dick Cheney is trying to destroy. So I feel that it’s important that we keep pushing."
David Reinhard writes in the Oregonian that the New York Times' leak of the National Intelligence Estimate report on terrorism is suspicious for several reasons. All the sources are anonymous, the leak was timed right before the election, and the Times only released a "paraphrased" version of what was in the report, not any actual words.
One was the fact that all sources in the story were anonymous. Maybe it's too much to expect named sources in such a story, because anyone leaking classified material is committing a big no-no. But the fact that the sources were all anonymous raised questions that they may be leaking -- and giving a slanted view of the report -- for political reasons. So did the fact that the leaks are coming a half-year after the report's completion -- and a half-year closer to November's election.
Another red flag was the lack of any actual quotations from the NIE. The paper just used characterizations by people who had either seen the final draft or helped produce earlier drafts.
David Folkenflik's NPR story on the crying-at-Simon-and-Garfunkel speech at Harvard in June by New York Times Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse displayed a stunned Daniel Okrent, the first Times "public editor"; a troubled editor of the Oregonian newspaper; a supportive Jack Nelson, her former "Washington Week" colleague on PBS, who admits he wouldn't be as supportive if Greenhouse were spouting pro-Bush sentiments; and a set of Times editors who will not comment on the record. Chickens.
Folkenflik's story on NPR.org (not an exact match with the story aired on NPR Tuesday) claimed that "charged commentary" wasn't common in our mainstream media:
Anytime Maureen Dowd writes about Hillary, I figure it's good for an NB item. But reading and re-reading the pay-per-view Another Clinton Seduction at cock's crow, I just couldn't get a handle on what Dowd was getting at. Coming back to it in the light of a beautiful Ithaca morning, it suddenly dawned on me: Mo is mad at Hillary, and there are two reasons:
Hillary hasn't been tough enough on George Bush; and
Incredible as it might sound, Hillary - in contrast with certain NY Times columnists - has figured out a way to make men like her.
Dowd's ire is unmistakeable when it comes to Hillary's insufficient Bush bashing: "She has been like a silent-film star,lacking a voice in this chilling time when the Bush administration has Photoshopped the Constitution, portrayed critics as traitors, and spurred terrorism with a misconceived and mismanaged war in Iraq."
The declassification of parts of the National Intelligence Estimate spells out the ramifications of a major triumph in the War on Terror: the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (the report was finalized in April, before Zarqawi's death). The NIE states:
Al-Qa’ida, now merged with Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi’s network, is exploiting the situation in Iraq to attract new recruits and donors and to maintain its leadership role. • The loss of key leaders, particularly Usama Bin Ladin, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and al-Zarqawi, in rapid succession, probably would cause the group to fracture into smaller groups. Although like-minded individuals would endeavor to carry on the mission, the loss of these key leaders would exacerbate strains and disagreements.
Linda Greenhouse is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who covers the United States Supreme Court for the New York Times. As we all know, the New York Times, along with the rest of the mainstream press, is adamant about their commitment to unbiased journalism. Reporters don't have opinions, at least not opinions that impact their journalism. It's nonsense, of course, but nonsense that's maintained by the likes of the Times.
Well, Linda Greenhouse, in a recent speech at her alma mater, Radcliffe, expressed some opinions. And if she really feels this way, there's absolutely no way that it could possibly not color her reporting. What she chooses to highlight, the way she expresses things, what she covers or doesn't cover, what she thinks is news and what isn't - that's all determined by her worldview.
The New York Times was routinely slow on any allegation of past adultery or even sexual assault by Bill Clinton, dismissing them as lacking convincing evidence, as "toxic waste" designed to damage his campaign. But when Democratic opponents of Sen. George Allen charged that Sen. George Allen used the word "nigger" in the past -- a very politically toxic matter -- the Times was quick to honor it as fit to print. On Tuesday, reporter David Kirkpatrick wrote a story for the top of page A-20 with two photos, headlined "2 Ex-Acquaintances of Senator Allen Say He Used Slurs."
The Times never did more than two paragraphs on the Allen campaign's distribution of an article in which Webb opposed women in combat. In a September 18 article touting Webb's "rising" campaign, Robin Toner put this in paragraphs 23 and 24: "In the past week, the Allen campaign has taken aim at Mr. Webb on two counts: highlighting his opposition, in an article he wrote 27 years ago, to women in combat and at the Naval Academy, and asserting that Mr. Webb has no right to use videotape of President Ronald Reagan praising him in a new television advertisement. On women in combat, Mr. Webb said that he was sorry for any pain his writing had caused, that times had changed, and that he should be judged by what he did in the intervening years to expand opportunities for women."
Many Americans may have been outraged or just perplexed by Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez’s attack on President Bush as "the devil," but the New York Times saw Chavez’s plug for a Noam Chomsky book as a light front-page feature on Saturday – he’s apparently a Latino male Oprah.
The actual Amazon.com review of the Chomsky book "Hegemony or Survival" is blunt: "Chomsky indicates that America is just as much a terrorist state as any other government or rogue organization." But the Times headline is mild: "U.S. Best Seller, Thanks to a Rave By a Latin Leftist." Reporter Mokoto Rich began: "All the authors currently clamoring for a seat on Oprah Winfrey’s couch might do well to send copies of their books to the latest publishing tastemaker: Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez."
Liberal press critics are quite the paradox. Most such writers like Eric Alterman, Michael Wolffe, and Michael Massing, are pretty sophisticated about the media in non-political matters, but when it comes to politics, they can't help repeating a slightly toned down version of rhetoric you'll find over at the Daily Kos. They deny the press is tilted toward the left (ignoring scores of content studies and surveys of reporters) and yet they cheer when the media chooses to favor the left, as if that's the media's natural role. Which it is, of course--if you're a liberal
This line of thought is far too common among left-wing media critics. In an interview with the Huffington Post, writer Michael Massing provided a textbook example of it, arguing that the press has properly began pushing back against the Bush Administration while also saying that conservative critics are fundamentally wrong in their opinion of the media:
My working hypothesis on all this, which I have mentioned in some of
those articles, is that the more powerful the President, the more timid
the press. There's an inverse relationship between the popularity of
the President and the willingness of the press to challenge him. And
right now, Bush's popularity is very low. I think we're seeing the
press pushing back in a very strong way. If I were writing an article
today about what's been happening, I would say more about how the press
has been pushing back. And I think there's a big appetite for this
among readers. The Bush administration is so beleaguered and has done
so many things that have upset the public that the press sees an
opening and has been moving to take advantage of it.
The latest CBS/New York Times poll is reported out in Thursday's lead story by reporters Adam Nagourney and Janet Elder: "Only 25% In Poll Voice Approval of the Congress -- An Echo of 1994 Findings -- Links to Special Interests Are Cited -- Standing of Bush Also Lags."
Nagourney and his headline writer see parallels to the 1994 Republican sweep of Congress -- an event, incidentally, that the Times never saw coming, and certainly didn't anticipate as eagerly as it now does a Democratic reclamation.
The New York Times and Washington Post are now attacking provisions of a defense appropriations bill that would ensure that military chaplains can pray in accordance with their own personal beliefs (i.e., pray in the name of Jesus). A Times editorial calls the bill “an attempt to license zealot chaplains to violate policies of religious tolerance.”
A Washington Post article goes a step farther – calling for calling for a “no prayer” policy at public events, according to an article in CNSNews.com, saying the “best resolution” (to its perceived problem) is to “discourage prayer…as inherently and unnecessarily divisive.”
The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) has released its list of media and elected “elitists” who are doing the most to prevent passage of meaningful immigration reform. This “motley crew” of media organizations that promote “unfettered immigration” and are completely out of touch with public opinion include (who else?) the New York Times and the Washington Post…and, even the Wall Street Journal.
There is “no other domestic issue where there is this gap between the elite and public opinion,” CIS Director of Communications John Keeley told CNSNews.com in an interview discussing CIS’s list of open border elitists.
The New York Times editorial board goes back to lecturing Pope Benedict today in an editorial titled "The Pope's Act of Contrition." They suggest that both Catholics and Muslims should move "forward in a conciliatory spirit" beyond the Pope's "ill-considered comments." It concluded huffily:
As his unfortunate comments show, the pope needs high-level experts on Islam to help guide him. In offering his regrets, the pope said that in its totality, his speech was intended as “an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect.” In living up to that, he and other top Vatican officials will have to accept that genuine communication cannot occur on their terms only.
Anyone who doubts the Times has a predominantly liberal audience should check out the paper's new political blog, The Caucus. The posts themselves( by Times staffers) aren't terribly slanted, although liberal assumptions and conventional wisdoms aren't hard to sniff out. But when it comes to liberal hostility the commenters give the left-wing mobs at the Daily Kos a run for their money.
Check out this comments thread on a post about Sen. George Allen of Virginia's response to a weird, hostile question about his Jewish ancestry during a televised debate with Democrat opponent James Webb. In a charming turn, the left net-roots and the Webb campaign have taken to spelling out the senator's full name "George Felix Allen," and "Felix" crops up in the Times' comments section as well.
Chief political reporter Adam Nagourney today writes the first edition of "Political Action," a new political column in the Times that will run in the paper every Tuesday until the November elections. The first entry is (rather predictably) "The Republican Divide."
"With fewer than 50 days left until Election Day, as many as 40 House and 10 Senate seats are in play, fueling Democratic hopes of capturing power in November. Washington is awaiting polling data that will show how much success the White House has had in trying to put Democrats on the defensive on national security -- and whether that effort has been undercut by the battle among Republicans over what is permissible in interrogating terrorism suspects.
The Fitzpatrick Plame investigation has spurred the New York Times into examining how their reporters conduct themselves. Apparently, the Gray Lady wants her staff to act more like terrorists and drug dealers. Reporters are being told to delete emails, destroy notes, and use disposable cell phones in order to stymie future investigations.
In a surreal clash of the sacred and the profane, the New York Times - that citadel of secularism - has declared in its editorial of this morning that Pope Benedict "needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology," for having quoted a 14th century Christian emperor who said:
“Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
The Times is only being fair and balanced, I suppose. After all, hardly a week goes by that you can't pick up the paper and read an editorial condemning this or that mullah, imam or ayatollah for the latest fatwa ordering the death of such-and-such infidel or the destruction of entire countries found to be an annoyance. Or not.
There are moments when you wonder why, when some legislative initiatives are absolutely doomed to defeat, that liberal newspapers publicize liberal lobbying that’s totally in vain – except for the publicity. Thursday’s New York Times promised on its front page an article on how "gay groups" are once again pushing for a repeal of the military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy, instituted in the Clinton administration. One "centrist" group told the Times said the proposal has "zero chance" of passing, but Lizette Alvarez wrote a story completely promoting the pro-gay point of view. Shocking.
The gay group in question here is not the usual one, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, but rather the group called "Soulforce," led by Mel White, the gay former aide to Jerry Falwell. Alvarez set the stage right where the gay left wanted it, at a Wisconsin recruiting office:
Imagine the scenario where Ken Mehlman, Republican National Committee Chair, was not able to raise but about half the amount of money that the DNC was raising. Imagine then, a situation where multiple, outside GOP supporting organizations were hastily created in an urgent effort to raise the money that Mehlman was failing to raise just to compete in the advertising wars of the upcoming 2006 midterms.
...then imagine the MSM not taking the time to gleefully point out the Republican Chairman's dismal record. Imagine finding them silent that it is even happening.
"Enlightenment absolutists like Ms. Hirsi Ali and Mr. van Gogh turned apoplectic at any efforts to appease or accommodate Muslims on, say, gay rights or women’s rights, and they were not alone in their fears."
For a media that likes to complain about the incivility and personal attacks that Republicans have supposedly injected into our politics over the past generation, the networks' reactions to former Texas Governor Ann Richards underscore journalists' partisan approach to what is fair and what is foul.
In 1988, then-Texas state treasurer Richards laced her keynote address at the Democratic National Convention with a series of nasty, mocking attacks on then-Vice President George H. W. Bush. Instead of deploring her descent into the “politics of personal destruction” — as they might have if the speechmaker were a conservative Republican and the target was a liberal Democrat — the media elite swooned, with then-CBS anchor Dan Rather admiring her “scalpel-style attack” on the Republican presidential candidate.
Remembering Ann Richards this morning, all three broadcast network shows re-visited her ridicule of Bush, admiring it as “biting wit” and “fun-loving spirit,” with ABC’s Diane Sawyer touting Richards as the “sassy, funny homemaker who became Texas governor.” ABC, CBS and NBC all played the same sarcastic soundbite of Richards from 18 years ago. “Poor George. He can’t help it. He was born with a silver-foot in his mouth.”
If you look hard, you can see the Democratic optimism about the fall elections fading, off the front pages of the newspapers. On the bottom of the front page of a separate "Campaign 2006" section of The Washington Post today (they call it page A23), you can read the account by Jim VandeHei and Chris Cillizza about Democrats getting worried about superior GOP turnout programs. (I can't guarantee you won't be sickened by the GOP establishment siding aggressively against the conservative in this race.)
Raymond Hernandez reported in the New York Times that giddy Democratic optimism about wresting four or five House seats from the GOP in New York state is fading fast...
Great media bias busters think alike. TimesWatch.org's Clay Waters and I separately wrote articles on The New York Times's Melanie Warner and her latest foray into bashing the American food industry. In the September 13 Times, she takes on salt.