What's Happened to the Times' Terror Concern? - May 28, 2004 - TimesWatch.org

Times Watch for May 28, 2004

What's Happened to the Times' Terror Concern?

While the Times has been severely critical of Bush for failing to act against terror threats before 9-11, the paper itself is dragging its heels when it comes to laying out the current threats from Al Qaeda.

Yesterday it buried a new terror threat from the administration on page A16 (the Washington Post put it on the front page) and questioned the political timing of the announcement.

And now here's another piece, Alan Cowell's Friday's report from London, that makes only a half-hearted attempt to lay out the case against a terrorist suspect, in this case a radical Islamic cleric arrested in Britain. Cowell's story opens: "The British police arrested a radical Islamic cleric, Abu Hamza al-Masri, early Thursday after the United States requested his extradition to face trial on numerous charges related to alleged terrorist activities."

The story's teaser line then casts aspersions on the arrest: "'Hamza is the real deal," New York's police chief says, despite some doubters." But as journalism professor Cori Dauber notes, Cowell doesn't quote any of those "doubters" and glosses over in a single sentence the fact Hamza is accused of setting up a jihad camp in Oregon in 1999.

Cowell also emphasizes the negative: "Some critics accused the United States of moving against an inconsequential figure to demonstrate progress in fighting terrorists".it remained unclear why the cleric had been arrested at this particular juncture. Asked about the timing of the arrest, [John] Ashcroft said only: 'I don't want to get into the evidence of the case. During trial, the evidence will be clear.' American officials voiced concerns that Mr. Masri's arrest could set off reprisals against Americans in Europe or the United States."

Later Cowell notes: "In a television interview on Thursday after Mr. Masri's arrest, [Sheik Omar al-Bakri] said people like him and his fellow clerics were 'guilty by default' because of a Western campaign against Islam. Even moderate Islamic figures showed some unease at Mr. Masri's detention."

For the rest of Cowell's piece, click here.

" Al Qaeda | Alan Cowell | Terrorism

Sharon and Arafat, "Separated at Birth"

Columnist Nicholas Kristof lumps "right-wing jingoist" Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in with PLO leader Yasir Arafat, snarling that both men share "a bloodstained obduracy, suggesting that they might as well have been twins separated at birth."

Kristof seethes in his Wednesday screed: "Mr. Bush gazes admiringly as Mr. Sharon responds to terrorist attacks by sending troops to bulldoze Palestinian homes and shoot protesters".Indeed, my guess is that Mr. Sharon has done more to undermine Israel's long-term security than Yasir Arafat ever did".Particularly in a new age when terrorist attacks could use W.M.D. to kill perhaps thousands at a time, Israel can achieve safety only through a peace agreement with the Palestinians. A model is the unofficial Geneva accord of last October, reached between courageous Israelis and Palestinians-the very people we should be supporting."

Yet the deal Kristof is referring to (which is also liked by the paper's editorial page) is seen as so pro-Palestinian in Israel that even liberal Ehud Barak (the former Labor Israeli prime minister who participated in Bill Clinton's Camp David "peace" deal) criticized it as "irresponsible and damaging to the State of Israel."

Then Kristof goes for the jugular, literally: "In contrast, Mr. Sharon and Mr. Arafat both display a bloodstained obduracy, suggesting that they might as well have been twins separated at birth. They should be exiled together to some modern St. Helena. Both are hurting their own people by undercutting moderates on the other side."

For the full Kristof, click here.

" Yasir Arafat | Columnists | Israel | Nicholas Kristof | Palestinians | Ariel Sharon

It's Only a Movie, Guys

Can a new environmental disaster movie with a ludicrous premise help the crusade against global warming? Times editorial board member Robert Semple Jr. has his hopes.

Semple writes in a signed editorial Thursday: "Whatever its flaws, 'The Day After Tomorrow' could do more to elevate the issue than any number of Congressional hearings or high-minded tracts." Though Semple admits the film's "relationship to scientific reality tenuous at best," he still approves: "Despite its over-the-top story, the film does leave you with the unnerving feeling that the natural world deserves far more respect than we and our leaders are giving it."

Remember when the media lambasted Dan Quayle for allegedly confusing TV with reality?

For Semple's editorial in full, click here.

" Editorial | Environment | Global Warming | Movies | Robert Semple Jr.

Paul Krugman Takes on "Tyranny of Evenhandedness"

Paul Krugman's Friday column, "To Tell The Truth," is a broadside against the "tyranny of evenhandedness" that makes liberal journalists say nice things about conservatives. Explaining Bush's alleged free ride in the press, he explains: "Another answer is the tyranny of evenhandedness. Moderate and liberal journalists, both reporters and commentators, often bend over backward to say nice things about conservatives."

Is Krugman now conceding the liberal domination of the news media?

Then Krugman suggests people who think like he does are being intimidated into silence: "Finally, let's not overlook the role of intimidation. After 9/11, if you were thinking of saying anything negative about the president, you had to be prepared for an avalanche of hate mail. You had to expect right-wing pundits and publications to do all they could to ruin your reputation, and you had to worry about being denied access to the sort of insider information that is the basis of many journalistic careers."

Somehow, despite all that right-wing intimidation, Krugman has managed to voice his dissent twice a week in the most influential newspaper in the country. Perhaps there's hope for free speech after all.

For the rest of Krugman's latest rant, click here.

" George W. Bush | Columnists | Paul Krugman | Liberal Bias

Anti-Christian Satire "Saved!" Not Cruel Enough

Liberal sensitivities, so exquisitely nuanced when confronted with stereotypes of race and sex, often become coarse and dismissive when Christian beliefs are being mocked, as they are in the new satire "Saved!" opening in theatres today.

In fact, Times movie critic A.O. Scott, who found Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" "an unnerving and painful spectacle," thinks one of the main problems with "Saved!" (he gives it a thumbs-down) is that it's not cruel enough: "Some Christians may object that 'Saved!,' in the end, promotes liberal humanist piety at the expense of religious belief, and there is some truth to this complaint. At the same time, satire can never be evenhanded, and it's possible that this movie would have been better if it had indulged in a little more cruelty. As it is, the picture is unlikely to offend or provoke very many people. Unfortunately, it is also unlikely to satisfy too many, either."

Times Watch hasn't seen the movie, but one bit from a satirical quiz featured on the film's official web site has a distinctly smug, "lets make fun of the Jesus freaks" flavor: "You have failed in the eyes of the Lord. Enjoy your life dedicated to wickedness and evil! We have no pity for you!"

For the rest of Scott's review of "Saved!", click here.

" Movies | Religion | "Saved!" | A.O. Scott

This Should Ease Tensions In Iraq

"Iraqi officials, seen by some Iraqis as puppets of foreign governments, will almost certainly continue to be the targets of assassination attempts after that date." - From a May 28 report from Baghdad by Edward Wong and Christine Hauser.

For the full story from Baghdad, click here.

" Christine Hauser | Iraq War | Edward Wong