Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The New York Times smears Iraqi bloggers 

The mainstream media has disgraced itself again - this time in the form of Sarah Boxer's piece in the "New York Times" about Iraq the Model and its offshoot Free Iraqi.

The same media, which took months to catch on to the Swift Vets for Truth story, and then mostly to merely parrot John Kerry's condemnations rather than investigate the allegations themselves; the same media, which had to be dragged kicking and screaming into covering the Rathergate scandal, because the controversy was started by - God forbid - (right-wing) bloggers; the same media has now built a major quasi-investigative article on the "grassy knoll" theorizing of one minor left-wing blogger and hunches and opinions of his anonymous commenters. Great work.

The smear is nothing knew - the Fadhil brothers (Omar and Mohammed at Iraq the Model, and Ali now at Free Iraqi) must be paid CIA operatives, because as we all know, no "real" Iraqi could possibly support the liberation of their own country by the Americans. I blogged about this sort of ignorant condescension before, but I still see red every time it pop its ugly head - as it does in Boxer's opening paragraph:
"When I telephoned a man named Ali Fadhil in Baghdad last week, I wondered who might answer. A C.I.A. operative? An American posing as an Iraqi? Someone paid by the Defense Department to support the war? Or simply an Iraqi with some mixed feelings about the American presence in Iraq? Until he picked up the phone, he was just a ghost on the Internet."
Boxer at least does interview Ali (but not Omar or Mohammed) to let him put his case across, but even then she can't help herself with this charming ending:
" 'Me and my brothers,' [Ali] said, 'we generally agree on Iraq and the future.' (He is helping his brother Mohammed, who is running on the Iraqi Pro-Democracy Party ticket in the Jan. 30 election.) But there is one important difference: 'My brothers have confidence in the American administration. I have my questions.'

"Now that seems genuine."
Now that seems offensive - an Iraqi can only seem "genuine" if he shares the liberal media elite's doubts about the liberation of Iraq. God forbid that anyone could possibly be happy that Saddam's gone and Iraq now has a chance for a better future - such people must obviously be frauds, or better still, frauds on American payroll.

Boxer's article, needless to say, generated a storm of anger on the right side of blogosphere:

Instapundit: "A miserable performance across the board."

Powerline: "[Boxer's piece] demonstrates both the bias and the stunning irresponsibility of the author."

Jeff Jarvis: "Irresponsible, sloppy, lazy, inaccurate, incomplete, exploitive, biased, and -- worst of all -- dangerous, putting the lives of its subjects at risk." Read the whole mega-post.

NZ Bear: "When I telephoned a woman named Sarah Boxer in New York last week, I wondered who might answer. A DNC flack? A hack posing as a journalist? Someone paid by The New York Times to craft hatchet-jobs on Iraqis who dare to express thanks to America for deposing Saddam? Or simply a lazy writer with some confused ideas about fact-checking and objectivity? Until she picked up the phone, she was just a ghost on the page."

Hugh Hewitt: "If [Ali] is not a CIA operative, then there is no defense for Boxer's incredible indifference to the man's safety. If he is, then what's the difference between him and Valerie Plame, except that Plame was never in any danger following publication of her name and affiliation?"

In Boxer's defence, she was not the first one to reveal the brothers' full identity - their surname has been reasonably widely known on the internet for quite some time now. Perpetuating a totally unsubstantiated political smear might not (so we pray) get Omar, Ali and Mohammed into harm's way, but if that's the best that can be said in defence of the "NYT"'s tendentious reporting, then the newspaper of record has sunk even lower than I expected.

The "New York Times": All the "news" that - if you're lucky - might not get you killed, but it's certainly still fit to smear.


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