Wednesday, June 01, 2005


What Hath NYT Wrought?

The New York Times ran a front-page story yesterday, describing how the CIA has been battling terrorists using American charter flight companies -- and naming names.

I don't mean to be rude. But are they fucking insane???

What's next? "In a new development, police say they are close to arresting Mr. Idinnadooit, the notorious gangster and murderer. An anonymous source revealed that the gangster's hideout has been found at 45th and Main, and police SWAT teams will be on the scene shortly."

Bill Roggio, over at Winds of Change, treats the issue with great seriousness, as he should. (Hat tip: Instapundit.) As he points out, it doesn't matter if the CIA is now forced to switch to other, less secure charter companies... because the terrorists will assume it. We can therefore expect other charter companies to be targeted, just on the off-chance that a CIA operative might be aboard. (As such, a great many civilians are now at greater risk than they were yesterday. Thanks a million, NYT.)

What on Earth was the NYT thinking, running with that story? Has it not occurred to them that American journalists, in the eyes of al Qaeda, are Americans, and just as susceptible to attack as anyone else? Or do they think of themselves as "citizens of the world", in some bizarre beholden-to-nobody-but-my-editor twist of loyalty?

Don't get me wrong; I don't want American journalists to ignore stories that are damaging to the President and his administration, regardless of who's in power at the time. The muckrakers are needed; always have been, and always will be. But there are limits, and those limits are higher during wartime. (Perhaps I should say: they ought to be higher in wartime... unless your paper's circulation is more important to you than the lives of your neighbor's sons.)

I expect a sense of responsibility, from the journalists, for the stories they run... and I don't think I'm out of line to expect just a little loyalty from them, to the country that has enabled them to earn a living the way they do.

James Lileks sums it up succinctly:
Like I keep saying, it’s not their war. It's a war, to be observed dispassionately. And many don’t believe it’s a war at all.
I do wish they'd figure it out. Yes, it is a war, and yes, it is our war... and until they realize that, good and brave people are going to die for them -- and because of them.

More from Lileks:
I can’t tell you how many emails I get accusing me of mad foamy paranoia for thinking that Iran and / or North Korea would want to slip a teeny nuke to some Islamicist cell so they could drive it up Broadway.

Well, if it occurs to me, who loves this country, I imagine it occurs to those who hate it.

(Hat tip: Hugh Hewitt.)

My sympathies to the employees of Aero Contractors. I do hope that none of you die because of this miserable excuse for "journalism".

UPDATE: A quick Google search shows that Daily Kos had this story a day before NYT hit the newsstands... and scooped them. Clearly he has no sense of morals or propriety either.

UPDATE II: Frederick Turner at Tech Central Station has thought this through more thoroughly than I have, and speaks his thoughts eloquently. He spells out the possible motivations the NYT might have had, one by one, and one by one he demolishes them all. Check it out; it's well worth reading.

UPDATE III: Hmm, looks like someone's been reading my mail: "When I'm reporting, I'm a citizen of the world." -- Bob Franken, CNN. Exactly so, big guy. But you're ignoring the question of context. If you're writing an expose about corruption in the office of the White House Chief of Staff, then yes, it makes perfect sense to treat White House sources with skepticism. But why should that cover all your reporting? Are you assuming that White House sources are never trustworthy? -- and do you extend the same treatment to your other sources?

It's a rhetorical question; of course you don't. A reporter can never get anywhere by not trusting anybody. Some sources are more to be trusted than others, in specific areas of knowledge, and those sources are treated accordingly. (If you're writing a story about a small-town school in Iowa, and you know a 25-year teacher there, he's a good source for that story. He's not that good a source, necessarily, for your other story about fishing in Puget Sound. And the same works backwards as well -- if you mistrust a government official on the subject of a particular scandal, because there's a chance she's implicated in that scandal, that doesn't mean she must never be used as a source for any other story. It just means you need to be careful, and use common sense to determine what is or is not trustworthy.)

Personally, I think that reporters are more inclined to give an even break to places, and people, that they don't know much about. Speaking stereotypically, they might see two jungle natives fighting each other with spears and say, "This is not necessarily indicative of a warlike culture; I just don't know them that well, so I must not leap to conclusions." But American journalists know America quite well... and so my feeling is that they bend over backwards a bit, to avoid showing favoritism to the country they know best.

(This doesn't account for America-bashing foreign journalists, of course. But I think it explains a little of the press bias we're seeing these days.)

To Bob Franken, I'd like to reply thus: just remember where your offices are located. America has been damn good to you and to your profession... and deserves, at least, the benefit of the doubt when it comes to attack journalism.

You don't have to write puff pieces, extolling what a wonderful place America is. But you shouldn't assume, by default, that America is wrong unless proven right.


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