Thursday, June 29, 2006

Editor of New York Times Answers His Mail

Letter from the editor

On the "treason" issue, that is.

Some highlights (click on title bar to read it in its entirety):

"Some of the incoming mail quotes the angry words of conservative bloggers and TV or radio pundits who say that drawing attention to the government's anti-terror measures is unpatriotic and dangerous. (I could ask, if that's the case, why they are drawing so much attention to the story themselves by yelling about it on the airwaves and the Internet.) Some comes from readers who have considered the story in question and wonder whether publishing such material is wise. And some comes from readers who are grateful for the information and think it is valuable to have a public debate about the lengths to which our government has gone in combatting the threat of terror.

"It's an unusual and powerful thing, this freedom that our founders gave to the press. Who are the editors of The New York Times (or the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and other publications that also ran the banking story) to disregard the wishes of the President and his appointees? And yet the people who invented this country saw an aggressive, independent press as a protective measure against the abuse of power in a democracy, and an essential ingredient for self-government. They rejected the idea that it is wise, or patriotic, to always take the President at his word, or to surrender to the government important decisions about what to publish.
"The press and the government generally start out from opposite corners in such cases. The government would like us to publish only the official line, and some of our elected leaders tend to view anything else as harmful to the national interest. For example, some members of the Administration have argued over the past three years that when our reporters describe sectarian violence and insurgency in Iraq, we risk demoralizing the nation and giving comfort to the enemy. Editors start from the premise that citizens can be entrusted with unpleasant and complicated news, and that the more they know the better they will be able to make their views known to their elected officials. Our default position — our job — is to publish information if we are convinced it is fair and accurate, and our biggest failures have generally been when we failed to dig deep enough or to report fully enough. After The Times played down its advance knowledge of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President Kennedy reportedly said he wished we had published what we knew and perhaps prevented a fiasco. Some of the reporting in The Times and elsewhere prior to the war in Iraq was criticized for not being skeptical enough of the Administration's claims about the Iraqi threat. The question we start with as journalists is not 'why publish?' but 'why would we withhold information of significance?' We have sometimes done so, holding stories or editing out details that could serve those hostile to the U.S. But we need a compelling reason to do so.

"Forgive me, I know this is pretty elementary stuff — but it's the kind of elementary context that sometimes gets lost in the heat of strong disagreements."

Thanks for the reminder, Bill--a significant swath of the electorate seem to have forgotten their civics & history lessons.

He goes on to recap the fact that numerous spying programs have been put in place since 911 without public knowledge, and we citizens can't very well participate in a debate knowledgeably--nor can Congress, as our elected representatives, if those programs are so secret no one knows they exist. And that's a recipe for totalitarianism.

He also points out, too mildly, that it's not as if Bushco themselves didn't broadcast the bank-spying program themselves, long ago (!)--so what are they bitching about so loudly, if that's the case, Demon Princess wants to know?

What they're screaming their heads off about, good Americans, is not that the NYT printed something they already hadn't told the terrorists themselves, but the fact that the spying has been conducted without any sort of oversight at all. That's what they don't want you to know about. The reason they're shouting so loudly & belligerently is to convince you it's all for your own good.

Oh, that & the fact that there are elections coming up which may turn the tide against them, & they're counting on winning again based on the exaggerated threats posed by the War on Terror. Which may also have something to do with a report on the news last night that, although Sunni groups in significant numbers have told the U.S. they want us out of Iraq, the President says we won't withdraw.

After all--there might be more 20-year old degraded & ineffective "WMD's" out there in the desert sands that we haven't yet discovered, & some looney-toon equally ineffective "homegrown terrorists" that we have yet to prosecute for even thinking about it.

And the rest of you are thought criminals if you even dare entertain ideas that maybe overthrowing Saddam & those crazy religious-fanatic muslims out there in general, weren't really the reasons we invaded Iraq at all, & maybe we should stop sacrificing our American soldiers' lives to a stupid, unprovoked stunt of a war in a bid to dominate the Middle East.

I'm jist throwin' the idea out there...


Blogger Malik said...


Great blog!


1:16 PM  
Blogger Demon Princess said...

Thanks, malik! I try...

In case you hadn't noticed, the continued oppression of any press that doesn't fawn over the Bushcons has been a favorite theme with me. Sometimes I just can't believe the abysmally stupid level to which public discourse has descended. So I make all the noise about it that I can.

2:24 PM  
Blogger dusty said...

Bang that drum sista!

Glad to see your post up at BIO :)

11:27 AM  
Blogger Demon Princess said...

Hey, D--you thought criminal, you!

6:56 PM  

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