Pipes and Emerson
April 6, 2001
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An article in the metro section of today's New York Times gives ridiculous weight and prominence to complaints by extremist anti-Israel groups against a Muslim scholar. The Times describes these groups as "prominent," and delivers to readers in all apparent seriousness the complaints against the scholar: "As evidence, some of them point to Mr. Duran's association with some controversial figures in Muslim-American circles. These include Steven Emerson, a journalist who made a television documentary accusing some Muslim-American groups of acting as fronts for terrorist organizations, and Daniel Pipes, the director of the Middle East Forum in Philadelphia, who has been identified with pro-Israeli positions."
This is a newsworthy story, but for reasons other than the ones the Times is writing about. The news is that these "prominent" Muslim groups are so extreme that even mere "association" with figures like Mr. Emerson and Mr. Pipes is enough to make a scholar unacceptable to them. The Times article doesn't mention that Mr. Emerson was a major source for the recent Times series on Osama Bin Laden, and the Times also doesn't mention that Mr. Pipes has contributed to the Times op-ed page. And what a strange phrase: "has been identified with pro-Israeli positions." Has "been identified" by whom? What are the positions? Pipes' main position, from Smartertimes.com's reading of many of his books and articles, is that Israel has a right to exist in peace within secure borders as a Jewish homeland. By that standard, the United Nations Security Council and the U.S. State Department have "been identified with pro-Israeli positions."
The article quotes the Muslim scholar dismissing his critics as a "small minority of radicals and militants" who are not interested in getting along with Jews. The Times, by placing the article on the front of the metro section, by describing the scholar's critics as "prominent," and by treating the comments of the critics so uncritically and respectfully, essentially sides against the scholar on this point.
Finally, for a kind of third-party opinion opposing the Muslim scholar, the Times relies on Yvonne Haddad, whom it describes as "a Christian who is professor of history of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations at Georgetown University." But if the Times is going to note that Mr. Pipes "has been identified with pro-Israeli positions," shouldn't it also then note that Ms. Haddad has been identified with anti-Israeli positions? Here's Ms. Haddad in a July 2000 press release from the hard-left "Institute for Public Accuracy": "What the Palestinians need is independence, not autonomy. Their leaders should not be strong-armed into accepting mini-reservations. . . .There has to be a real Arab Jerusalem. Any agreement should provide for re-settlement of Palestinian refugees and compensation to them; otherwise there will not be any peace, because the current situation is based on injustice."
Inexplicably: A dispatch in the metro section of today's New York Times reports on the appearance of New York mayoral candidates, including Michael Bloomberg, at a lunch sponsored by an abortion rights group. The Times reports, "Inexplicably, Mr. Bloomberg, who has not officially declared his candidacy, told reporters: 'You shouldn't turn this into a political thing. Why don't you focus on something to raise money for women's reproductive rights? Maybe that would be a little more useful.'"
Since the Times news department is of the opinion that Mr. Bloomberg's comments are "inexplicable," perhaps Smartertimes.com can help by offering a few possible explanations. Mr. Bloomberg could not be really running for mayor. He could be really running, but he could subconsciously not want to run, and therefore he could be saying silly things to the press to sabotage his own candidacy. He could genuinely believe that the press's focus on politics was distracting from the intended message of the event. He could believe the press is unpopular and that he can win votes by insulting it. He could believe that one reason the press is unpopular and that he can win votes by insulting it is that it inserts unwarranted editorial comments like "inexplicably" before the quotes of politicians in news articles that are ostensibly nonpartisan and unbiased.
Iran's Isolation: This is from a dispatch from Moscow in the international section of today's New York Times: "While critics point to the danger of selling arms that could be turned on Russia, Mr. Putin contends that Moscow can help Iran out of its isolation, something the United States has long sought to achieve." That's just false. The United States has imposed a trade embargo and secondary oil sanctions against Iran. The United States has long sought to achieve the end of Iran's sponsorship of terrorism, its programs to acquire weapons of mass destruction, its human rights abuses and its efforts to undermine peace in the Middle East. An end to isolation has been offered as an incentive for taking those steps. But to describe helping Iran out of its isolation as an American foreign policy goal in the absence of those other factors is just misleading to readers. The actual American foreign policy, until Iran changes its behavior, has been to isolate Iran, not to help it out of its isolation.
Cuba Scholarships: The New York Times, in its "world briefing" column, today reprints what is essentially a Castro press release. The item begins, "Eight United States students from poor families began studying medicine in Cuba yesterday thanks to six-year full scholarships offered by President Fidel Castro." Nothing in the article says anything about how backward the Cuban medical system is compared to America's, or how scholarships are available to poor medical students in America. The item might as well have been written by Herbert Matthews.
Tripping on Tripp: An article in the "national briefing" column of today's New York Times incompletely states the results of a court ruling yesterday involving Sexgate scandal figure Linda Tripp. The section of an AP dispatch printed by the Times reports that a federal judge ruled that Ms. Tripp can't sue the White House. But other non-Times coverage, including a Reuters dispatch, noted that the judge ruled that Ms. Tripp could go ahead with the portion of her suit that is directed against the Pentagon and unnamed former Clinton administration officials. While the Times headline was "Judge Rules Against Linda Tripp," the headline on the Reuters story was "Judge Allows Linda Tripp to Sue Over 'Harassment.'"
Oakes's Engagement: The New York Times obituary of John B. Oakes says, "The recipient of many awards, he was widely praised for personal integrity and for what admirers called the courage of his editorials in defense of civil liberties, human rights, and an engaged foreign policy, particularly their early opposition to the war in Vietnam."
What an odd turn of phrase -- "an engaged foreign policy, particularly their early opposition to the war in Vietnam." It seemed to quite a few people back then that opposition to the war in Vietnam was advocating an American foreign policy that was disengaged.
Weekend Excursion: The Weekend section of today's New York Times suggests a "weekend excursion" to New Haven. Smartertimes.com tried really hard to avoid snickering at this in Harvard-style condescension, but the temptation was ultimately irresistible. It's still not clear to Smartertimes.com, after reading the article, why anyone who lives in New York City would take a "weekend excursion" to New Haven.
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