You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

October 14, 2007

Bullets Cannot Stop Them

I've come to believe there's literally nothing that can stop the New York Times' zombie-like doggedness in mindlessly repeating claims by the US government as fact. If Iraq couldn't do it, what possibly could? I suspect if "intelligence sources" told Michael Gordon that he, Michael Gordon, was head of Al Qaeda as well as an assassin trained to murder all of America's puppies, this breaking news would be on the front page the next day.

The latest atrocity, by David Sanger and Mark Marzetti, starts off like this:

Israel’s air attack on Syria last month was directed against a site that Israeli and American intelligence analysts judged was a partly constructed nuclear reactor, apparently modeled on one North Korea has used to create its stockpile of nuclear weapons fuel, according to American and foreign officials with access to the intelligence reports.

That's bad but not too bad. They do specify this is just what someone told them. Non-zombies would then examine the government's assertions with the intense skepticism they warrant.

Not the New York Times, though. By paragraph three, the unverified government claims have transformed into fact, as we were are told about "the reactor project." In paragraph four, it is simply "the reactor." Nowhere in the article is there any reference to Iraq, nor to the New York Times role then in disseminating propaganda.

PREVIOUS FINE WORK BY DAVID SANGER: Here's Sanger on September 12, 2002, loyally swallowing the government's crap:

President Bush plans to challenge the United Nations today to enforce resolutions it has passed since 1991 requiring Iraq to "unconditionally accept" the destruction of its chemical and biological weapons and nuclear research facilities...

And on the next day, asking for more:

[Bush's aides] told reporters that the United States would not oppose inspections as long as they occurred in the next few months, without interference from Iraq, and as long as they resulted in the immediate destruction of Mr. Hussein's stocks of chemical and biological weapons and nuclear installations.

Mr. Sanger concluded both articles with a long cry of "Braaaiiiiiiinnnnnssss!"

Posted at October 14, 2007 01:21 PM | TrackBack

Newspapers are conduits through which advertising is delivered to consumers. How dare you suggest they be concerned with facts. Facts is hard work, like presidentin'.

Remember how in college the laziest students enrolled in either business or journalism schools? Give me the cynics who wound up as reporters despite no exposure to jernalism perfessers.

Posted by: cavjam at October 14, 2007 02:23 PM

Yes it's all unverified. But if turned out to be true what would your attitude be?

Most likely you'll be much more outraged about an "unprovoked" attack on Syria's nuclear program than you are over what you see as cynical media manipulation.

Posted by: Perry at October 14, 2007 04:22 PM

In regards to the comment of one Monsieur Scruggs as response to one Perry: Face!

Posted by: Ashley at October 14, 2007 04:57 PM

Perry, there is a country which has used nuclear weapons and has threatened to use them (against North Korea) and hasn't ruled out using them even when it is not under nuclear attack. This country is not Syria.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at October 14, 2007 06:46 PM

Another gem from today's NYT. Elisabeth Bumiller informs us that

"At Leavenworth, officers study Napoleon’s battle plans and Lt. William Calley’s mistakes in the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. "

I hope they also cover Hitler's annoying use of the semicolon in Mein Kampf.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at October 14, 2007 07:50 PM

The laziest students majored in journalism AND history. We, who hear our masters' lies now, are doomed to hear them repeated.

Posted by: horace at October 14, 2007 09:32 PM

Just for fun, go through Sanger's story and highlight phrases such as "American officials say" or "experts believe". I counted about 25. Compare with the number of direct quotes from identified people. I counted two. This is about average for a NY Times story in this genre. Why would anybody with a functioning brain believe any of this?

Posted by: Bob Weber at October 14, 2007 09:57 PM

I wish the lady in The Simpsons who always says "think of the children!" would start to write for the Times. Ha!

Posted by: jonathan versen at October 14, 2007 10:20 PM

I had forgotten the dietary factor, Scruggs.
And sweets are bad for your teef'!

Posted by: Dick Durata at October 14, 2007 11:57 PM

Does anyone know if journos have an official line excusing their use of anonymous official sources? Sourcing from anonymous whistleblowers, regime critics and the like can be justified on the grounds that the source might face penalties for providing the information, and indeed wouldn't do so without the anonymity, but when your source is parrotting the official line what possible justification is there for protecting their identity? The only motivation would seem to be that the "official" doesn't want to be associated on the record with the shite they're spouting, but what ethical principle can the journos have for letting them get away with that?

Posted by: RobW at October 15, 2007 01:07 AM

Just to be clear - I know what the reason is: allowing anonymity ensures access, and if you're only interested in content-provision, filling the gaps between the ads, the accuracy of what you're being told is irrelevant. I was just interested if there was any detail on this issue within the cognitive dissonance corporate media practitioners use to live with themselves.

Posted by: RobW at October 15, 2007 01:10 AM

I seem to recall that after l'affaire Miller the Times instituted a policy on this, requiring reporters to provide to the reader a convicing justification for why the source was anonymous: e.g. "a White House official, who did not want to be named because the report is classified..."

They stuck with that for a month or so, their ombudsman wrote a few columns about it, and then, apparently, the whole thing was forgotten.

Asking the Times to put together a newspaper without anonymous quotes from "Top administration officals" is like asking the Israelites to make bricks without straw.

Posted by: SteveB at October 15, 2007 09:19 AM

Sanger is a member of the council on Foreign Relations. He is just following his masters orders. He spews EXACTLY what they tell him to.

Posted by: silent patriot at October 16, 2007 07:41 PM