Mainstream News Media
September 20, 2001
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A news article in today's New York Times proclaims, "The drumbeat for war, so loud in the rest of the country, is barely audible on the streets of New York."
If the drumbeat for war is barely audible on the streets of New York, then the Times is deaf.
The evidence the newspaper marshals for its claim is that, "In interviews with two dozen New Yorkers, most people said the desire for peace outweighed any impulse for vengeance, even among those directly affected by the destruction of the World Trade Center." That's a poorly constructed sentence -- it seems to mean that two dozen New Yorkers conducted the interviews, or that "most people" were interviewed by two dozen people. A more clear and accurate way of writing the sentence would have been, "Most of two dozen New Yorkers interviewed said . . . ."
Beyond the writing problem, there's a statistical problem. There's just no way that 24 interviews are a meaningful or accurate statistical sample of the 8 million people who live in New York City. Even if you selected the 24 people by randomly dialing a telephone, it still wouldn't be an accurate sample. The Times doesn't disclose how it chose which 24 people to interview, but the signs aren't encouraging. There are eight people whose names are given in the article. Of the six whose ages are given, none is older than 40. One of them is identified not as a New Yorker but as "a political science professor at Northern Arizona University." Six of the eight are women. None is a blue-collar worker. None is from the Bronx or from Staten Island. One is a self-described pacifist, one is a teacher at a crunchy private school that caters to the children of Range Rover liberals, another is a minister at a church whose Web site is responding to the terrorist attack by touting a petition promoting the "inalienable human right to live in a world free" of "nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, or any weapons of indiscriminate destruction."
There's also a wording problem. If the Times reporter is running around asking, "Does your desire for peace outweigh your desire for vengeance?" of course the drumbeat for war is going to be barely audible. The war against terrorism, properly conceived, is not merely about vengeance, but about assuring peace by destroying the terrorists and the infrastructure that supports them. There will be a lot more peace after America fights and decisively wins a war against terrorists and the states that sponsor them.
It's true that New York is more liberal than the rest of the country. But the city was also a target of last week's terrorist attack. It just defies common sense to believe, as the Times claims, that while polls show that nearly 90 percent of the country supports military retaliation against the terrorists, in New York "most people" oppose such retaliation.
The Times article says that "Some of those opposed to military action say their voices are not being heard by Washington or the mainstream news media."
Well, guess the New York Times doesn't count as "the mainstream news media."
Can't Spell: A front-page article in today's New York Times reports on efforts to block the terrorists' access to money. The article quotes "Senator John Kerrey, a Massachusetts Democrat." The senator spells his name "Kerry," with no "e." The one with an "e" is Bob Kerrey, who was the one from Nebraska.
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