Friday, December 14, 2007

Whispers and whisperers

In the New York Times, they run with a front page story sourced to 'belief' which Raymond Bonner should damn well know better than to run with. The thrust is that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is behind attacks in England. It's laughable. It's laughable as a front page story, it's laughable in terms of 'sourcing,' most of all it's laughable because this would be, to steal from Jimmy Breslin, The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight. But this is a front page story, this garbage. Bonner is credited for the article along with wife Jane Perlez and Eric Schmitt. There are no facts, just whispers. And no one thought a moment to ask: What would be the motive?

Why England? Sunday's supposed to see a handover. Or are we not aware of that or just pretending we're not? The UK is overstretched in Afghanistan and is pulling out of Iraq.

Eight paragraphs on the front page and not one named source or even quote. You have to flip inside the paper, A 16, to get the first quoted whisper ("Two other American counter-terrorism officials . . . one of them" is the source for the first not-on-the-record quote) -- in paragraph nine of the article. The on the record quotes comes in paragraph 13 and it's 'sourced' to the Times of London (megaphone effect?). Believing that the Times of London could break the state's secret act in England without retribution? Or are we dumb Americans not supposed to be aware of that? After naming an individual of interest (tarring and feathering him) they present his attorney for a one sentence paragraph of 'no comment' (paragraph 18). Then they continue to offer 'insight' on the individual via someone "who knew him when they both lived in Cambridge" -- the individual is Shiraz Maher who now admits he was "a member of the radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir" which should raise questions:

(1) Who hooked him up with the Times of New York?
(2) What deal has he cut with British authorities?
(3) Who vouches for Maher?

Paragraph twenty-four (the last paragraph) presents an 'authority,' Bruce Hoffman of Georgetown University. 'Authority' because Hoffman's quote has nothing to do with the story the Times pretends to break but does serve to give the appearance to the casual reader that Hoffman's vouching for their story. The article's entitled "British Inquiry in Failed Plots Points to Iraq's Qaeda Group" and it's really Raymond Bonner, Jane Perlez, Eric Schmitt and the whisperers they're protecting who do the pointing.

Bonner's been stationed in Australia and, for those who missed it, did DAMN LITTLE. Bonner gets a hands-off approach because, back in the eighties, he was under attack (and quit the paper) for reporting the truth from Latin America. But what has Bonner done since then? Considering David Hicks and a host of other Australian related stories, Bonner has done damn little this decade. His wife, Perlez, made clear where she stood on Iraq with her nonsense attempting to pass for a review. Unlike a media watchdoggie, we called Perlez' nonsense out in real time (not weeks later, we called it out the day it happened) and that's because we weren't freaking over the fact that she was married to 'hero' Bonner. Heroic acts from two decades ago don't give you a pass for bad reporting this decade.

Bonner & crew aren't offering reporting. They're offering advocacy and don't even have the guts to upfront who is doing the advocating. This is a journalistic embarrassment and it would be great if a media watchdog could call it out in real time and not weeks later the way a watchdoggie waited on Perlez's nonsense.

Because Bonner told the truth in the 80s may mean some watchdogs took him as their lawfully wedded spouse for life but we don't play that game here. If you offer crap you get called out on it and we don't wait weeks to weigh in. Nor do we avoid crediting others. Nor do we traffic in passed on e-mails. (We also don't present an online only article as appearing in print -- but we don't need to provide the Times with even more reasons to laugh at badly organized e-mail campaigns.) We also don't play silent while others who did the work get no credit. When that crap started on Plamegate with BuzzFlash not getting their share of the credit, we called it out here. Others seem to not only have a problem with crediting, they also have a problem with standards and, for the record, Jess can be reached at anytime an owed apology wants to come in.

Media watchdogs who don't grasp that Bonner's done very little this decade but continued to be paid by the paper make themselves look as stupid as a spouse who is serially cheated on and wants to act surprised by the latest infidelity. The reality is the attacks on Bonner reinforced the 'game' that is played in the MSM and the fact that he continues to work with the paper as a reporter (not as a columnist where others in the past have headed and used the space to tell truths in the form of opinion) should not lead to any surprises that Bonner internalized the process. He just needed to be hit over the nose with a rolled up newspaper a few times to get with the program. For those who missed it, that it one of the long-standing critiques of MSM, that reporters take their cues from the top and that those who are made an example send a message to other reporters -- they also send a message to the ones made an example of.

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