Monday, July 18, 2011

Seven Errors in One NY Times Editorial

The Prima Donna of the MSM is the Grey Lady of the New York Times, whose motto is “All the News That’s Fit to Print”.  The term ‘news’ includes their editorial opinion, normally to be limited to the editorial pages but frankly found throughout the paper in several forms, not the least of which is the list of stories which they consider to be news – along with their particular slant – as well as the stories which remain unpublished.  This presupposes that the editorial board has the power to make such a judgment on the behalf of the ‘masses’, as they are affectionally known, or ‘low-sloping foreheads’.  But while they are entitled to their own opinion, they are not entitled to their own facts.

The idea of competition has largely vanished in print media, though there are some newer and quality examples of newspapers, such as the Washington Times, that take on the entrenched liberal print media.  There is also the blooming of web logs or ‘blogs’ that provide media that can “fact-check your ass” (in words apparently coined by Ken Layne), such as the famous example of the destruction of the fraudulent and forged story of the National Guard service of George W Bush, perpetrated by Dan Rather, Mary Mapes and others in the news section of CBS despite their attempt to stonewall the criticism with claims that their critics were not legitimate journalists, further focusing on the fact that the word 'journalist' has no meaning today beyond 'a person employed by a news outlet'.

Yesterday saw a good example of how the movement continues to hold the press accountable, in a posting by Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare, taking on an editorial in the pages of The New York Times Sunday Review in ‘Terrorism and the Law’.  To quote Wittes:
I am not sure how I stumbled into the role of unpaid fact-checker for the New York Times editorial page on matters of law and security.  But as long as the Times keeps publishing editorials like this one, there needs to be some correction mechanism somewhere.  And since the Times itself insists both on making serial factual errors and on not ever correcting any of them, the sad burden seems to fall on me.  The Times, of course, has policies about correcting factual errors – not to mention presumably about not publishing facts its writers know to be false.
Nice touch that.  A story that is false and known to be false by its teller is part of the definition of fraud.

Wittes takes apart the story, involving the detention and interrogation of Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, and nails the writers on seven factual errors contained in the article (he takes no stance on their opinion).  I won’t dilute the importance of the critique by trying to condense it, but I instead ask you to read the whole post.  (The AUMF referenced in the post is the Authorization for Use of Military Force of 18 September 2001.) Wittes concludes in part:
These sorts of mistakes are altogether avoidable.  There is nothing about the Times’ normative position against non-criminal detention that requires that it serially publish statements that are not true.  Plenty of detention foes manage to express their opposition to the practice without making up facts.  And the Times needn’t misinform its readers about basic facts either in order to argue its points.  But its editorial writers don’t seem remotely interested in exploring how they can make their points in a fashion consistent with the realities they are supposedly bound to report.
Read the whole thing.  The law is not what the New York Times wishes it to be, and Wittes does an admirable job of holding them to the truth of the law.

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