Friday, May 27, 2005

Has Jayson Blair returned to the Times, where is Bill Clinton and does the Times hate Northern Ireland?

Has Jayson Blair returned to the New York Times?

Where has former president Bill Clinton been this week?

Does the Times hate Northern Ireland?

Those are interesting questions.

They all came about when Krista noted a "World Briefing" on May 25th.

Krista: Did you see the paragraph? What is that about?

Here's the paragraph (from "World Briefing" and by Brian Lavery) that Krista's referring to:

The Irish Republican Army continues to recruit and train new members and maintain an arsenal, and it retains the ability to return to a full-scale terror war, according to a report by the Independent Monitoring Commission, a watchdog group set up by the British and Irish governments last year to check paramilitary groups in the province. The 59-page report found that both republican and loyalists groups were involved in crime and that loyalists were responsible for four times as many shootings as republican groups. The report "presents a disturbing picture," the Irish government said in a statement, and Britain's secretary for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain, demanded "crystal clarity from the I.R.A." on ending it's activities. The four-member commission offered faint praise to Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Fein, the I.R.A.'s political wing, for publicly urging the I.R.A. to seek an alternative to armed struggle. If the I.R.A. disbands, Mr. Adams "will have demonstrated leadership of a high order," it said.

The first interesting thing that stood out about the paragraph was that there was a much longer article that didn't appear in the national edition of the paper (my guess is the longer article didn't appear in print -- I could be wrong). The longer article (also by Brian Lavery) is dated May 24th online and entitled "I.R.A. Is Still Armed and Dangerous, Official Report Says." Again, it didn't make the print edition of the national paper. (If someone wants to argue that, please note the page number, I've been over the May 24th edition -- and am saving it in case someone wants to argue it "must" be in the paper.)

It didn't make the national edition on May 25th. Some may argue (and they could be right) that the earlier story was just too much even for the New York Times which becomes the New York Tantrum on the subject of Northern Ireland. Yes, on at least one topic the Timid can become the Tantrum. And the original article is a little more even handed (a little -- it also defines terms that readers new, or not well versed, need defined such as who are the "loyalists").

Let's deal with a basic first. The Times (Lavery or "Lavery" if what made it into print reflects editorial input and not Lavery's own writing -- something Times reporters have e-mailed to complain about) gets it wrong even on the basics. It's not a 59 page report. Look, I'm the last to slam anyone on math but the page numbers are printed on each page. We're talking about the Independent Monitoring Commission's Fifth Report (available online in PDF format). The last five pages are "annex" -- e.g. "appendix." The text is 54 pages and I'm having difficulty remembering another time that the Times has padded out a report by including the appendix in the page count.

Let's note something else, the non-published story addresses the membership of the committee. It's four people and one of them is a "a former deputy director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency among them." We're speaking of Richard "Dick" Kerr and you can read his online bio if you're interested. For some reason, the Times wasn't interested in printing that aspect of the story. Strange.

Equally strange is what made it into print -- a huge misrepresentation of the report. When Krista e-mailed, I found the report online (translation, it's really easy to find The Fifth Report). It's not the way the Times painted it. I couldn't believe Lavery would so distort it.

So what's going on here?

I have no idea. Lavery's original article was a bit more even handed. Someone decided to reduce it to a "World Briefing." Is Jayson Blair back on the Times' staff but now working as an editor?

What else, for instance, could explain the closing sentence of what appeared in print (and it appears in the unprinted, longer version as well):

If the I.R.A. disbands, Mr. Adams "will have demonstrated leadership of a high order," it said.

The Fifth Report doesn't say that. Excuse me, they do say "will have demonstrated leadership of a high order." That does appear in the report (page 48). But the start of that sentence does not refer to disbanding the I.R.A. The start of the sentence refers to the goals outlined in Gerry Adams' April 6, 2005 speech. In that speech, he called for the I.R.A. to give up arms and dedicate themselves to political goals. He did not call for them to disband.

The Times hasn't run a correction on that statement. Let's be really clear, The Fifth Report does not say what the Times says it said.

(For the record, page 48 of The Fifth Report reads: "In his statement of 6 April 2005 as President of Sinn Fein Gerry Adams indicated views related to some of the considerations we raised earlier in this Section and if he is able to develop this and to deliver as he seems to have suggest he will have demonstrated leadership of a high order." His speech didn't raise that. Nor did the commission say "the IRA needs to disband." They took the same position Adams took in his speech.)

You can read Gerry Adams speech here. The source is CounterPunch (that's where the link takes you). As a result, some might say (visitors), "Oh, they've left out something! You know those damn lefties!"

Well, let's give you another source. But before you go to that link (a U.S. government site), let's note that our State Department didn't interpret the speech the way Lavery or "Lavery" does.

06 April 2005
United States Welcomes Sinn Fein Call for IRA To Abandon Violence
The United States welcomes the April 6 statement issued by Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams calling for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) "to renounce violence and rely on purely political and democratic means," according to State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
"We await concrete actions by the IRA to support the policy advocated by Mr. Adams," said Boucher.

After that statement, Adams' speech is reprinted. Note that this is the site for our embassy in England.

Adams speech did not call for the IRA to disband. Read it and you'll see that. Note Boucher's comments and you'll see that our government's reading of the speech didn't see it as a call for the IRA "to disband." For some reason Lavery (or "Lavery") pulls a section of a sentence in The Fifth Report to create the idea that the Independent Monitoring Commission said they'd praise Adams if the IRA disbanded.

How did the false announcement that the IMC was suggesting they'd praise Adams if the IRA disbanded make it into print?

If you're a visitor (welcome) you may be a little confused. But members long ago brought up the attitude of hostility that the paper has shown to Northern Ireland. We've dealt with that many times before.

In terms of editorials, the Saturday before St. Patrick's Day is still something shocking.

I say "shocking" because the peace in Ireland is tentative. And the paper presents itself as socially responsible. But in that editorial as well as in the slew of articles, the Times pushed an agenda with distortions of reality (and I'll stand by that claim) that shocked a lot of people because it was akin to throwing gas on smoldering fire. That wasn't "socially responsible." It was the sort of thing you'd expect from the New York Post, but not the Grey Lady.

Or at least not from the image the Times promotes for itself. Anyone who read the Times during the Clinton era is quite aware that the image isn't quite valid. Check out Bob Somerby's The Daily Howler for multitude of examples. Here we'll just note that Paul Krugman was discouraged from using "lie" (in any of its forms) while speaking of the Bully Boy in the 2000 campaign but it was fine to report on the "lies" of Al Gore. Forget for a moment that we're speaking about the Bully Boy and Gore. Just think about how the "staid" Timid was willing to nix a candidate being called a liar but perfectly happy to let a sitting vice-president be called that. It doesn't really jibe with the paper's promoted image. But it happened and it happens.

And for some reason, it's perfectly okay to be one sided in editorials and reporting (AND REPORTING) in the Times on the issue of Northern Ireland.

Some might wonder if that's little harsh. I don't think it is. When Krista e-mailed about the story, I replied to her that I'm sure the report popping up in the World Briefing had something to do with what was going on in Ireland that week and that I doubted the Times would tell their readers about that.

What am I talking about?

Where the hell has Bill Clinton been?

If you read the Times, you don't know he's been in Ireland. You also don't know that he met with Gerry Adams (the vile Gerry Adams to judge by the Tantrum's coverage).

This wasn't a hop-off-the-plane-take-a-photo-and-leave visit. Nor was it even a one day visit.
So why didn't the Times tell you about it?

Our former president feels the need to visit to Ireland and you'd think that would rate something, at least a paragraph. But if you got your news only from the New York Times, you never learned of his visit.

Now what else happened Tuesday, May 24th? That's when Lavery's original report was filed (and the paragraph appeared in print on the 25th). That's when the meeting took place.

It's a little strange that, when noting a report on the situation in Ireland, they can't work in a sentence to say, "Hey, Bill Clinton's there right now."

It took something like nineteen days (check my math) to report on the Downing memo but they're ready to go to print the next day with the "59 page" report from the Independent Monitoring Commission? (The report was released on the 24th of May.)

(Report on does not mean "mention in passing." Until Douglas Jehl reported on it, it wasn't reported on it. Paul Krugman did do an op-ed on it but I'm referring to the reporting in the paper. Douglas Jehl's "British Memo on U.S. Plans for Iraq War Fuels Critics" was the first reporting on the memo in the Times. The Sunday Times of London broke the story "The secret Downing Street memo" May 1st, Jehl's article ran in the New York Times on May 20th. )

If people are questioning the coverage of Northern Ireland in the Times, that's why.

It makes no sense at all that the Times has never informed readers that Bill Clinton's been in Ireland. It makes no sense at all that they run with a report on the situation that comes out the day Bill Clinton is meeting with Gerry Adams and the Times can't tell you about the meeting.

I don't know what the New York Tantrum's problem is with Adams and Sinn Fein or why they've used terms like 'bully.' (Used in their screeching editorial before St. Patrick's Day.) Possibly with Arafat dead and still nursing their red face over the "He's gone! He's gone! And the people want him gone!" reporting (and editorializing) on Hugo Chavez in 2002, they now need a new fall guy.

But it's pretty shameful and it's past time that the Tantrum was called on their childlike behavior. In March, when the war on Adams and Sinn Fein was in full bloom at the Tantrum, a lot of people took a pass on commenting on the realities at play in the area. (CounterPunch was one of the few to note it.) So maybe the Tantrum thinks it can still play readers?

And maybe this will continue to for sometime. I don't know. I know there were e-mails asking why we were bothered about it in the first place?

We were bothered about it in the first place because Dominick raised the issue. If you've forgotten, that's when the Tantrum was telling you it was all over for Adams and Sinn Fein was sure to see a huge defeat in the upcoming elections. Dominick has family there and that's not what they were seeing. I phoned people I knew (college professors and reporters) and that's not how they saw it. It's how the Tantrum saw it.

A "G.K." e-mailed me to tell me "You will be so humiliated when The New York Times is once again proven right!"

The elections have been held, the Tantrum was wrong.

They pushed a story that no one I spoke to saw. They pushed a story that went against everything I had ever learned about the area (for undergraduate and graduate work, Ireland was one of the few non-Latin American countries I emphasized).

I don't know how the paper got away with it at the time. But it still continues and I really hope people are noticing it. (I know we've noticed, and will continue to note it, in this community. But I'm speaking of outside this community which basically means, domestically, CounterPunch and only CounterPunch. If you saw it somewhere else, please e-mail the site. We'd be happy to spotlight articles on this topic.)

Bill Clinton truly achieved something with the Good Friday Accord (my opinion). For some reason, the Tantrum's decided that a war on Adams and Sinn Fein is in their best interest. It's not in the interest of the area. We stated back then that there was not the huge move away that the Tantrum was reporting. (And the elections proved our assertion correct.) But the Tantrum didn't get called on it after.

And the behavior continues. It wants to stamp its feet and scream like an angry toddler.

I have no idea why that is.

But anyone who knows about the area realizes that the Tantrum's coverage is questionable.
Reporting, not editorials, have maintained one line on the area for some time now. And if it were a realistic one, that would be fine. The claims that Newsweek caused rioting over their Koran story was nonsense, my opinion, because they were reporting what they were told. If there's a problem, big if because I don't think Newsweek is as influential in that area as the fright wing would have you believe, the problem wasn't with Newsweek, it was with the actions that took place. Newsweek just reported on the actions.

And there are some in Northern Ireland whom the the Tantrum's coverage has represented. They aren't in the majority and there's never been the groundswell that the Tantrum has claimed was present. Which is why to so many members of this community (including Eli and Krista) the Tantrum's coverage has read like a war on Northern Ireland.

I don't think any member has argued (and I haven't) that only good news needs to be printed. I feel I need to put that in for any visitor that stumbles across this. The issue is that the Tantrum has repeatedly misrepresented what was happening in Northern Ireland.

This week we saw the non-reporting of Bill Clinton's visit. (Omission.) We saw the Tantrum skew the reporting on the Fifth Report the Independent Monitoring Commission.

If the I.R.A. disbands, Mr. Adams "will have demonstrated leadership of a high order," it said.

The second section of the sentence (the quote) is from the report. The report did not say the IRA needed to disband. (Nor did Adams.) The Tantrum has been suggesting that -- in reporting and in their Saturday editorial preceeding Saint Patrick's Day.

Something's going on here and it needs to be noticed. We dropped all coverage of this the week of Saint Patrick's Day because if the Tantrum's distortions were going to take hold, it would be that week when even our lazy broadcast media will do a story on Ireland. All the members who wrote in during that week were advised that we were not mentioning here because we weren't going to promote the Tantrum's agenda in a week where any controversy could allow their agenda to take hold.

It never took hold. (One story the Tantrum pushed made it to CNN on St. Patrick's Day. A friend who barely pays attention to any news saw it during lunch and called to ask what was going on?) But for whatever reason the Tantrum is pushing one side of a story and presenting it as the majority opinion. (Perhaps the majority opinion of people at the Tantrum?)

Their reporting on this is akin to Judith Miller's grudge f**king of the United Nations. I think it's something people should be aware of.

I tried to pull this entry together the night of the 24th but, as I told Krista in an e-mail, it wasn't coming together. Last night it didn't either. I'm sorry Krista had to wait so long for this entry.
No, I don't think Jayson Blair's been hired by the Times as an editor. But to get to the point where I could write about this in something approaching a calm manner (and make a joke) took some time. I have no idea why this issue of coverage in the Times hasn't led to more discussion.
It's pretty important when you consider the history of the area and how much unrest has gone on there.

The Times reporting has been skewed and wrong (and in the case of Sinn Fein being 'over,' proven wrong by the elections). They give the impression that they're reporting on the will of the majority in Northern Ireland and that's frankly not the case. If they know something that others don't, they'd do well to print it flat out and quit allowing innuendo and slams to pass for reporting.

Bill Clinton was very interested and active in the peace process in the area (and obviously remains interested and active as evidenced by his visit). The Bully Boy, from the start, has shown no interest. While it's true that the Times spins in the wind, ever changing position to back up whatever the current position of the current State Department holds on a country, they've gone beyond what our State Department (at least publicly) expresses about the area.

A number of you e-mailed Daniel Okrent repeatedly in March about this issue. No surprise, Okrent's response was the silence that greeted anything that wasn't "what I want to write about." He's gone now (thankfully). Maybe the new public editor will address it?

I have no idea. But complaints to the Times haven't led to it being addressed. ("Big surprise" as Wally noted after he received no response to his e-mails on the topic.) It's really strange to see the Grey Lady so actively go from New York Timid to New York Tantrum.

The e-mail address for this site is

[Note: Shirely e-mailed about the link to the Times' "World Briefing" not working. It's been corrected. Hopefully. I'll make sure after this posts.]