Last month, in response to a piece by Thomas Friedman, Rocket Man wrote that there is a serious national debate going on but “the New York Times just isn’t part of it, because it operates at too low a level of information to be useful to knowledgeable news consumers.” This piece by the Times’ Sarah Boxer about the Iraq the Model bloggers confirms Rocket Man’s judgment. It also demonstrates both the bias and the stunning irresponsibility of the author.
Let’s start with the Times’ “low level of information” (commonly known as ignorance). As Jeff Jarvis notes, two of the Iraq the Model bloggers were in this country last month. They met with President Bush and even made it to New York where they were interviewed on WNYC. The visit was reported by Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post and Dan Henninger in the Wall Street Journal, as well as by many major centrist and conservative blogs. Yet, Boxer treats the bloggers existence as a “mystery” that she discovered by searching the internet and selecting a blog that “promised three blogging brothers in one.”
Next, bias. Boxer reports allegations by a minor left-wing fringe blogger that the three “Model” bloggers are working for the CIA. As Jarvis notes, she quotes this blogger at length, but fails to quote the many who questioned this unsupported allegation. Boxer then seizes upon the rather cryptic message of one of the brothers (Ali) about his departure from the blog, which suggested unhappiness with some Americans, but never mentions his follow-up statement in which he made clear that he did not quit because of problems with the U.S. or its policies.
Finally, irresponsibility. Boxer wonders aloud whether Ali is: “A C.I.A. operative? An American posing as an Iraqi? Someone paid by the Defense Department to support the war?” I leave this one to Jarvis:
So here is a reporter from The New York Times — let’s repeat that, The New York Times — speculating in print on whether an Iraqi citizen, whose only apparent weirdness and sin in her eyes is (a) publishing and (b) supporting America, is a CIA or Defense Department plant or an American.
Ms. Boxer, don’t you think you could be putting the life of that person at risk with that kind of speculation? In your own story, you quote Ali — one of the three blogging brothers who started IraqTheModel — saying that “here some people would kill you for just writing to an American.” And yet you go so much farther — blithely, glibly speculating about this same man working for the CIA or the DoD — to sex up your lead and get your story atop the front of the Arts section (I’m in the biz, Boxer, I know how the game is played).
How dare you? Have you no sense of responsibility? Have you no shame?
Ed Cone has more on the subject.
UPDATE by HINDROCKET: Hugh Hewitt makes a great point: If Ali actually were a CIA agent, then Ms. Boxer would be “outing” him, just like Valerie Plame. Only, unlike Ms. Plame, who posed for a Vanity Fair photo shoot, Ali could get shot for real. Do you suppose the Dems will be all over this “scandal”? Try to list all the reasons why they won’t be. One of many is that no one actually thinks Ali is a CIA agent; that’s just the kind of dumb thing they say in the New York Times when they’re trying to insult someone who (unlike most of the Times’ reporters and editors) supports America.