June 20, 2006

More Objectivity from the Gray Lady

In his work The Fall, Albert Camus wrote “A single sentence will suffice for modern man: he fornicated and read the papers.” Well, it appears as if an even simpler sentence will suffice for postmodern man: He fornicated.

As everyone in the First World knows, newspapers worldwide have seen a steady decline in readers, whilst the average age of their subscribers is now so high that Metamucil may soon take up most of their advertising space. Well, Metamucil and crematoriums.

This, we fear, has been one of the lamentable results of Al Gore’s World-Wide Web. So many people get their news—or what masquerades as news—from various e-outfits that newspapers are becoming less hip than Gary Bauer. (And that, dear friends, is saying something.)

But, before we blame the “webloggers” for this unfortunate situation, let us not forget that working journalists bear some responsibility as well. Although these fellows and ladies pass themselves off as impartial—nay, Olympian—observers of the world, they often prove slightly less than impartial.

Allow us to turn to a case in point. In the Sunday, June 18 number of The New York Times, an article on “websites” discussing terrorism appeared. Penned by one Robert F. Worth, it packages itself as a guide to various outfits discussing the modern Middle East. To this end, Mr. Worth informs us:

Journalists in Iraq are far too busy with the perils of on-the-ground reporting to sit at screens for hours browsing terrorist Internet traffic. That is why the new array of online expertise has become an essential tip sheet for them. A whole new mini-industry of instantaneous translation and analysis has arisen, and it often erodes the traditional distinctions between credentialed foreign policy analysts and mere amateurs.

So far, so good. But check out this bit of “objectivity” from Mr. Worth:

[Juan] Cole, a strong critic of the Iraq war and of the administration’s grasp of the Middle East, has inspired a range of ferocious critics. Some, like the bloggers Martin Kramer and Tony Badran, maintain at times a virtual running account of their differences with Mr. Cole, under headlines like “Making Cole-Slaw of History” and “Juan-Cology.”

Ah, yes: Completely impartial. Mr. Cole, whom Worth advertises as a professor at the University of Michigan, is a “strong critic” of the Iraq War. Mr. Kramer, whom Worth fails to advertise as a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies from Princeton and a prominent think-tanker, is a “ferocious critic” of Mr. Cole. How very fair! No tilting the deck here!

As anyone who has read Juan Cole’s “weblog” well knows, both he and his detractors are capable of nasty ad hominem attacks. Yet Mr. Worth doesn’t seem to see it that way. Rather, Mr. Cole is the unfairly targeted object of attacks.

Which leads us to wonder: Has Mr. Worth ever read Juan Cole’s “weblog”? Or is he a complete moron? We’re betting on a bit of both.

Posted at June 20, 2006 12:01 AM | TrackBack