Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Terrorism...What terrorism? - I wonder where the New York Times will bury the German terror plot story, given where the Times saw fit to place news about the JFK Airport plot. (Devoted NYT readers will recall that the June 3, 2007 story was buried on page 30 in the national edition, and page 37 in the New York metro edition.)

The Times must have figured out that they stepped in it - and deep. About a week later, the public editor commented on the controversy that resulted from the paper's decision.

My own view is that The Times story was very well reported and written. It quickly made clear that the accused men were a long way from action and that despite the apocalyptic comments of the U.S. attorney, their ability to carry out an attack on the airport was very much open to question.

But instead of being a reason to put the story inside, I think this was a compelling reason to keep it on Page 1. This reporting put the story in an appropriate perspective, far calmer than the day's television coverage. Giving the story subdued play on the front page — toward the bottom, with a single-column headline — would have told readers that The Times knew what they were concerned about, that there was something real here, but that it wasn't anywhere near happening and there was no need for alarm.
For his part, Clark Hoyt went on to note that "[n]ewspapers cannot take sometimes overheated rhetoric from public officials at face value."

That's rich.

If Mr. Hoyt is to be taken at face value, then the same principle should apply to the newspaper's treatment of statements from public officials as it regards topics such as global warming. But at every turn, the Times has erred on the side of hyperbole and alarmism, as its own record would indicate. One could be forgiven for feeling a twinge of skepticism when the Times uncritically paraphrases NASA scientist James E. Hansen in a July 16, 2006 article to the effect that we have 10 years to "alter the trajectory of global greenhouse emissions" before it is too late.

Moreover, given the paper's reporting of Dr. Hansen's prediction that global average surface temperatures for 2003 would be higher than those in 1998 versus the recent corrections that were made to the temperature records (as discussed elsewhere), it would be hoped that the Times would apply a bit of healthy journalistic skepticism to any further "overheated rhetoric" from Dr. Hansen.

As for myself, I hope that I can be forgiven for ascribing a darker motive to the Times' relative sanguineness vis-a-vis terrorism versus the clamor that global climate change inspires in the editorial suites. My personal sense is - as Mark Stein so correctly described it in a December 2003 Wall Street Journal op-ed - that the Left resents the idea of war in Iraq or a struggle against the existential threat of Islamic terror, in as much as it distracts from their "ushering in the era of lots and lots of itsy bits of small government."
They loved the '90s because you never heard a thing about macho stuff like war: it was all micro-politics, new regulations for this, new entitlements for that--education, environment, "social justice." For hard-core Democrats, the whole war thing is an unwelcome intrusion on what large numbers of people had assumed to be a permanent post-Martian politics.
To be sure, it might well be easier for liberals to get Americans exercised over gay marriage, "equal" pay for men and women, climate change or any other component of their micro-agenda. But given what is at stake - both here and around the globe - it behooves the civilized world to rally around the only cause that really matters at this point. For all of the other "rights" that the Left so assiduously defends are contingent on the right to exist unmolested by those who would eliminate us without prejudice were they so able.

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