Ed Driscoll

"We're Not Neutral In This"

In his weekly appearance yesterday on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, Mark Steyn asked a great question of the New York Times:

HH: Now over at Powerline, John Hinderaker has discovered some November, 2005, articles by Eric Lichtblau, the reporter who along with Risen, broke the June 23rd story about the banking surveillance. As late as November of last year, Eric Lichtblau was looking into this. He couldn’t find SWIFT, and he pronounced that through expert’s voices, that we hadn’t made a dent in the al Qaeda’s ability to move money in financed terrorist attacks, and that in fact, SWIFT was invisible to him as recently as seven months ago. I think that’s a very telling article, Mark Steyn, and it goes to the defense they’ve been mounting that their articles hurt no one and helped no terrorist.

MS: Yeah, their defense now of their big scoop is that it wasn’t a scoop, that in fact, everybody knew all this anyway, so they weren’t telling anybody anything they didn’t know. And I think that’s nonsense. You know, Ann Coulter had a very good…she just said it as a throwaway line, really just en passant, and I’m not sure she realized actually quite what a good question it is. She said at some point in a column the other day, how many big al Qaeda secret plans has the New York Times revealed? And I think that’s actually an interesting question. You know, when you go into a New York Times planning meeting, how much of their editorial resources are being devoted to getting inside the enemy? The British press is pretty anti-American, they’re pretty anti-Israeli, they’re anti-all kinds of things. But they still have journalistic instincts. Every week, I read a fascinating story in the London Times or some other paper, in which some guy has gone undercover as a Muslim among the radical Muslims in Yorkshire towns in England, where the July 7th bombers came from. And he’s got all this fascinating material. A guy went undercover at some mosque at Brighton, in England, and came out with all kinds of material. How come nobody at the New York Times seems to be interesting in devoting any editorial energy to exposing what the enemy’s up to? That’s an important question.

It is. And an equally important question is, if this quote from Pinch Sulzberger is correct, does the Times even believe that terrorists are an enemy, and not simply yet another P.C. victim group, as is Reuters’ and CNN’s mindset?

There was an astonishing exchange between the Times’ Bill Keller and CBS’s Bob Schieffer on Sunday’s Face The Nation, that being on television, naturally didn’t receive the follow-up it deserved. Keller said:

I guess I would say if you’re under the impression that the presss [sic] is neutral in this war on terror, or that we’re agnostic–and you could get that impression from some of the criticism–that couldn’t be more wrong. We have people traveling in the front lines with soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ve had people who’ve been murdered in trying to figure out the terrorist threat. You know, we live in cities that are targets, proven targets, for the terrorists. So we–we’re not neutral in this.

(Video here.) Schieffer’s milquetoast follow-up? “All right. Well, we’ll leave it there. Thank you very much. Pleasure to have you.”

This entirely contradicts the previous “neutral”, “objective” stand of the legacy press, especially on war, which this moment from the 1980s crystallized perfectly. So why wasn’t the natural follow-up question not asked by Schieffer: Mr. Keller, if you no longer consider yourself neutral, please tell our viewers where you stand–and whom you stand with. And does that worldview alter based on who is currently in the White House? Because a lot of people–especially your critics on the right–would be very curious to hear your response.