Conservatives perpetually complain about "liberal media bias," but the socialist MSM are so profoundly corrupt, so far to the left, that "liberal bias" would constitute a profound improvement.
Part III of an Ongoing Series
New Orleans Times-Picayune reporters Brian Thevenot, Gordon Russell, Jeff Duncan and Gwen Filosa; managing editors, news, Peter Kovacs and Dan Shea; and editor Jim Amoss, are the newest winners of the Duranty-Blair Award for Journalistic Infamy, for their September 26, 2005 attempt to “untell” the story of the savage violence that befell New Orleans just before and after Hurricane Katrina made landfall on August 29 of last year.
In parts I
and II, I showed some of the discrepancies between Times-Picayune reporter Brian Thevenot’s September 6, 2005 (hereafter “9/6”) story depicting mayhem and murder in the New Orleans Convention Center, in the days after Katrina made landfall; the September 26, 2005 (hereafter “9/26”) story, that Thevenot co-authored with colleagues Gordon Russell, Jeff Duncan, and Gwen Filosa, and which claimed there had been no violent crime at all in the Convention Center or elsewhere in New Orleans; and Thevenot’s ever-changing stories through two long American Journalism Review articles and various now deceptive, now threatening e-mails he sent to blogger Eric Scheie at Classical Values.
From Walter Duranty to Brian Thevenot
In 1932, Walter Duranty (1884-1957), the New York Times’ Man in Moscow, won the Pulitzer Prize. Duranty not only refused to report on, but denounced true reports on Ukrainian Holocaust engineered by genocidal Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin (1878-1953), not to mention the millions of non-Ukrainians that Stalin had murdered.
In 1981, Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke won a Pulitzer Prize for a story called “Jimmy’s World,” that she had fabricated out of thin air about a non-existent, eight-year-old, black heroin addict in Washington, DC. Eventually, Cooke was caught lying about her education, which raised doubts about her credibility as a reporter. Her bosses at the Post forced her to confess to the hoax, and she resigned from the newspaper, which returned its ill-gotten Pulitzer.
To return to the Times, communism has since mutated into what is variously known as “liberalism,” “progressivism,” “diversity,” “multiculturalism” and “anti-racism.” I call it, racial socialism; David Horowitz dubs it, “neo-communism.”
(Since 911, Horowitz, the author of Hating Whitey, and the innovator who, at his e-zine, Front Page Magazine, introduced the feature, “Politically Incorrect Crimes,”, reporting on black-on-white racial assaults and murders that the national media suppressed or willfully misreported, has severed the neo-com connection between support for al Qaeda and support for anti-white racism, and suspended “Politically Incorrect Crimes.” I suspect that Horowitz has done so in the interest of national unity in face of Islam’s Jihad on America.)
Thus, as William McGowan wrote in Coloring the News: How Crusading for Diversity Has Corrupted American Journalism, when anti-American Pinch Sulzberger ascended to the throne at the New York Times dynasty in 1992, and discriminated against qualified, competent white men, on behalf of unqualified, incompetent and often racist blacks, such as Bob Herbert, Brent Staples, and Lena Williams, Sulzberger “repeatedly stressed that diversity is 'the single most important issue' facing his paper.” Not truth, but “diversity.”
(Since during the Vietnam War, Pinch Sulzberger supported North Vietnamese soldiers and irregulars killing every American G.I. they encountered, and has not to my knowledge changed his political “philosophy,” I am not sure whether “communist” or “traitor” is the most exact description of him. “Racist” will do, in any event.)
When Sulzberger permitted his racist affirmative action hires to pervert news coverage, a scandal became inevitable.
William McGowan observed that in 1993, black Times editorial writer Brent Staples informed his readers that “there was no such thing as ‘political correctness.’” And in 2003, even after white Times executive editor Howell Raines had confessed that he had promoted and protected Jayson Blair based purely on the color of the latter’s skin, racist black Times columnist Bob Herbert insisted that race had nothing at all to do with the Blair case, insisting that black journalists were the victims, not the beneficiaries of racism, and needed to go on the offensive and demand ever more affirmative action.
(The phrase “political correctness” is an old compliment among communists. Circa 1986, I heard “progressive” political aides in New York use it to praise someone’s politics – “He’s very correct.” It was only circa 1989 that anti-communists begin using the term negatively.)
In the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal, neoconservative National Review columnist Stanley Kurtz wrote, "[Pinch] Sulzberger once remarked that if older white males were alienated by the changes he was making to the Times, that would only prove 'we're doing something right.' Clearly, by Pinch's standards, the Times has lately been doing very well indeed."
Despite books and articles that have been published during the reign of the pro-communist “Pinch” Sulzberger Jr., exposing Walter Duranty as one of the most dishonest reporters in the history of American journalism, the Pulitzer Prize Board decided not to revoke Duranty’s Pulitzer, and Sulzberger has refused to return it.
In contrast to Janet Cooke’s 1981 Pulitzer, in 2006, the New Orleans Times-Picayune won a Pulitzer Prize for a story (9/26) in which reporters Brian Thevenot, Gordon Russell, Jeff Duncan and Gwen Filosa took the already reported story of very real New Orleans mayhem in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and “disappeared” it, replacing it with a cover story in which there had been only massive looting and “rumors” of violence, but no actual violence. Thevenot has enjoyed celebrity status, based on 9/26.
For a political analogy to the celebratory treatment of Brian Thevenot, imagine that President Richard Nixon’s Watergate cover-up had been exposed, but instead of Congress forcing him from office, in a special, joint meeting of Congress, it had given him a standing ovation, and New York City Mayor Abe Beame had given him a tickertape parade down Manhattan’s Canyon of Heroes.
But things are even more crooked than they so far seem. For whereas 9/6 reported National Guardsmen saying that they had seen with their own eyes 30-40 corpses warehoused in a Convention Center freezer (in addition to four sheet-covered corpses they showed Thevenot in another area), or denouncing the Guardsmen as liars, Thevenot and his 9/26 colleagues cooked up a new story entirely:
One widely circulated tale, told to The Times-Picayune by a slew of evacuees and two Arkansas National Guardsmen, held that “30 or 40 bodies” were stored in a Convention Center freezer. But a formal Arkansas Guard review of the matter later found that no soldier had actually seen the corpses, and that the information came from rumors in the food line for military, police and rescue workers in front of Harrah's New Orleans Casino, said [Lt. Col. John] Edwards, who conducted the review.
Note that the two anonymous National Guardsmen, who on 9/26 are given a new story, in 9/6 were identified as Mikel Brooks and Phillip Thompson. But in 9/6, Thevenot had also mentioned “several other Guardsmen,” none of whom he named, and all of whom were disappeared in 9/26.
Scheie vs. Thevenot
By contrast, consider the September 27, 2005 article “A Tale of Three Freezers,” by Classical Values blogger Eric Scheie. In “Three Freezers,” Scheie gave his take on Thevenot’s portraits of the Guardsmen in the latter’s 9/6 Times-Picayune and October/November American Journalism Review articles promoting the mass murder (34-44 corpses) story, and in Thevenot’s co-authored, 9/26 Times-Picayune “there-was-no-violence” story.
But the two Arkansas National Guardsmen were Thevenot's sources for the "tale" he now says was based on "rumors." They were presented almost as if they were his war comrades -- the type of people who'd never lie.
[Thevenot:] “They wouldn't take me to the freezer in the next room, which they said contained 30 or 40 bodies, a figure still unconfirmed amid a swirl of urban myths churned up by the storm. ‘I ain't got the stomach for it, even after what I saw in Iraq,’ Brooks told me.
I didn't particularly need or want to see more bodies, either. I'd seen quite enough.
“I could tell Brooks had, too. I'd seen his type of agitated mannerisms before in Iraq, the soldier's mind just clicking, clicking, clicking, the mouth spewing out details of death and anarchy. The scenes of bodies would live in his head for some time. I know they'll live in mine.”
[Scheie:] Reading about scenes that will live in his head for a long time, would you get the impression that this is a tale? Or a rumor? That the reporter has been had? I wouldn't. There's a distinct sense of being there, being led directly through the carnage, of the reporter on the scene being so horrified that the images are literally seared into his memory.
Likewise, returning to the first version (Thevenot's September 6, story, which I was gullible enough to link), one doesn't get a sense of tales or rumors, but gruesome atrocities, factually and courageously reported …
[Thevenot:] Brooks and several other Guardsmen said they had seen between 30 and 40 more bodies in the Convention Center's freezer. "It's not on, but at least you can shut the door," said fellow Guardsman Phillip Thompson.
The scene of rotting bodies inside the Convention Center reflected those in thousands of businesses, schools, homes and shelters across the metropolitan area.
[Scheie:] And now we are told that this scene -- so articulately portrayed by Thevenot, was a tale based on rumors.
I am not impressed. And I am even less impressed by the heavyhanded references to scenes of war carnage which Thevenot repeatedly invoked. It would be one thing had he limited himself to Iraq. After all, he was under stress and he'd been there. But Rwanda?
[Thevenot:] But a week in post-Katrina New Orleans felt like a month in Iraq. Iraq was Iraq. This was home , suddenly plunged into a scene out of "Hotel Rwanda." We've all run out of adequate descriptors, words we couldn't believe appeared on our screens or notepads even as we wrote them: Armageddon, Bedlam, Chaos, Apocalypse, Hell.
[Scheie:] (I don't think I need to get into detail about Rwandan genocide, but Rwanda was not a place where hundreds of people died in flooding from a hurricane.)
Considering that such extreme hyperbole was based on rumors, I'm troubled by Thevenot's claim to ownership of the story:
[Thevenot:]...we've cranked out better journalism in the last two weeks than we have the last two years, and we're getting stronger every day. And Katrina remains our story to own, and we mean to own it.
[Scheie:] Well, he did write it, so I guess it's fair that he should own it.
(Story, tale, rumor, whatever.)
Thevenot’s response to Scheie was to send him one nasty e-mail, in which, as far as I could determine, he lied about having retracted and corrected his 9/6, and one or more e-mails, in which he made a “vague legal threat” against Scheie.
From: "Sports laptop" (firstname.lastname@example.org) To: escheie Subject: Classical Values Date: Sat, 1 Oct 2005 02:47:22 -0500 From Brian Thevenot: Did you somehow miss the portion of the follow-up story in which I debunked my own myth about the 40 bodies in the freezer? Did you not bother to read the whole story? I admitted my own mistake, under my own byline, and in again in interviews with news stations and newspapers that interviewed me about myths at the Dome and Convention Center. And now you purport to expose me after I exposed myself? email@example.com
As for Thevenot’s email or e-mails employing intimidation via a "vague legal threat" – I can’t print them!
It seems that Thevenot lied to Scheie about the law, something I’ve experienced (from lawyers, no less – they’re the worst offenders!), in telling Scheie that the latter may not quote from Thevenot’s threatening e-mails, and coercing a promise out of Scheie not to publish Thevenot’s threats. Thevenot might be on solid ground legally, were traditional delivered letters at issue, but the courts have ruled that no such protection extends to the writer of e-mails, and even then I’m not sure such protection would cover threatening letters.
Blogger and founder of the Media Bloggers Association (MBA), Bob Cox, who has also founded the MBA Legal Defense Project, went to bat for Scheie against Thevenot last year, which is how I initially found out about Thevenot’s thuggery. In an e-mail Scheie sent me on Friday, he confirmed that Thevenot had made a “vague legal threat” against him.
As I wrote to Scheie only hours ago, that this "journalist" would descend to such tactics goes beyond my previous judgment of him. I thought he was a mere pathological liar!
Pulitzer, Which Pulitzer?
According to Bob Cox last October 25, in The National Debate, Brian Thevenot’s October/November AJR story, in which Thevenot reported on savage, murderous violence (i.e., the companion piece to 9/6), was initially touted for a Pulitzer Prize.
In “Exceptional Journalism,” on September 24, 2005, Mary, one of the three lefty bloggers at Pacific Views, also promoted Thevenot’s October-November mayhem-and-murder AJR story for a Pulitzer. Atop Pacific Views’ home page is a statement from Malcolm X:
“You've been had. You've been took. You've been hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray, run amok.”
Can’t argue with that.
But 9/6 was the wrong story, and the violence never happened, or so we were told in 9/26, and so we’ve been told ever since. And so, instead of getting a solo Pulitzer for reporting on wanton violence, Thevenot got to share a Pulitzer for “reporting” that there was no violence.
You might want to re-read the preceding paragraph.
After 9/26 appeared, Pulitzer Prize-winning, lefty journalist Nicholas Lemann (The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America and The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy), who is the dean of Columbia Journalism School – as Bob Cox observed, the world’s most prestigious J-school – asserted that 9/26 was proof that the MSM worked. Columbia is also the home to the Pulitzer Prize Board, on which Lemann and Duranty-Blair laureate Jim Amoss sit.
(And after 9/26 was published, Pacific Views continued its Bush-bashing unabated, without linking to 9/26, or noting the contradictions between it and 9/6.)
Journalism’s Politburo Defends Thevenot – but which Thevenot?
And yet, at the same time that Nicholas Lemann was celebrating 9/26 as having redeemed the MSM, the October/November issue of the AJR was devoted entirely to promoting the reality of the 9/6 story, which Thevenot told in greater “detail” in that issue’s feature story, “Apocalypse in New Orleans.” In AJR editor Rem Rieder’s introduction to the issue, “Playing Big: The media's impressive coverage of hurricane Katrina, in between cheap shots at the Bush administration for everything from botching its response to Katrina (but without a word of criticism for the Democrat politicians, Mayor Ray Nagin and Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who, unlike President Bush, were actually responsible for the emergency response in New Orleans), to WMD to the prosecution of the War in Iraq, and cheap shots at the blogosphere, sang hosannas to Thevenot and his early savagery/child rape/mass murder story.
Then Hurricane Katrina decimated the Gulf Coast and the Bush administration dithered and stumbled. And the MSM rose to the occasion.
Television's powerful images brought home the unfathomable horrors of New Orleans. Newspapers provided incisive and comprehensive coverage. Local radio served as a lifeline for a devastated region.
People were starved for information. And journalists, brave, committed journalists, went out and got it for them, often under harrowing conditions.
As Marc Fisher points out in his excellent overview (see "Essential Again," page 18), suddenly the notion that there is value in having trained professionals on the scene to cover the news didn't seem quite so quaint.
With Katrina, the chasm between the platitudes of the clueless government spokesmen and the ugly reality of New Orleans – the devastation, the misery, the Third World-style chaos – was overwhelming.
And journalists from Ted Koppel to Tim Russert to Shepard Smith were simply unwilling to hold back from calling the bumbling bureaucrats on their pitiful delusions.
And good for them. Because that's the job of journalists – to report the truth. That's not always comfortable. It doesn't always make you the most popular guy in town. But it's the right thing to do. Let's hope Katrina buries forever the notion of false equivalency, the idea that fair and balanced reporting means giving equal weight to opposing positions, regardless of their merit.
The previous paragraph was a dig and an in-joke – anytime a leftist says “fair and balanced,” it is with a snigger. Anyone within earshot must then laugh on cue at the reference to Fox News, or come under ideological suspicion.
Since Thevenot et al., purportedly proved in 9/26 that the “Third World-style chaos” was just the stuff of “rumors,” I have not seen any apologies from Rieder to the “dither[ing],” “stumble[ing]” Bush administration, or to “clueless government spokesmen.” Nor has Rieder retracted his judgment that the since officially discredited, pre-9/26 MSM reporting was “impressive.”
Down in the Gutter, with “High Journalism”
For another example of Rem Rieder’s professional character, in his August/September 2005 puff piece on the retirement of Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll, the only specific L.A. Times story Rieder cited, was the hit piece on Republican candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger the Times published one week before the 2003 gubernatorial recall election, in which the Times sought to swing the election for Democrat Cruz Bustamante, by charging Schwarzenegger with “a history of groping women.”
That story wasn’t journalism, it was Democrat dirty tricks. A supporter of John Carroll who had any sense of right and wrong, would be too embarrassed to even bring up that sordid episode. Not Rem Rieder; he bragged about it!
According to him, many of the people who criticized the hit, had “political axes to grind” (read: were Republicans), but “… Carroll hung tough. The journalism was sound, and important.”
In another “in-joke” in last fall’s “Life After Judy,” the title of which referred to former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, Rieder descended to the level of obscenity and defamation against an MSM journalist, in making another in-joke that retailed the libel first promoted by Times executive editor Bill Keller, who shortly before had insinuated that Miller had slept with (had an “entanglement” with) Cheney-aide and White House source, Lewis “Scooter” Libby.
Once America invaded Iraq, in 2003, the Times brass decided that since Miller had not only failed to sandbag the Bush administration, but was a dangerous counter-revolutionary who supported her own country, she had to be personally and professionally destroyed. Out of political loyalty to the Times, which Rieder in the same piece called “a true national treasure,” he not only defamed Miller, but stooped to comparing her to Jayson Blair. And this was after Miller refused to divulge sources, and spent 85 days in jail on a contempt of court rap, for the Times’ sake. But since she wasn’t “correct,” she lost all claim to humane treatment in the eyes of Keller, Sulzberger, Rieder, et al.
Rem Rieder is above moral scruples; he’s a “trained professional.”
When Rieder refers to MSM journalists as “trained professionals,” we would do well to recall that journalism isn’t a profession at all. Unlike real professions, like architecture or engineering or law or medicine or dentistry or plumbing, which one cannot competently perform without years of training, a talented person can not only be a competent journalist with no training, but the alleged professional training provided by “J schools” is actually an impediment to being an honest and competent journalist.
By the way, rather than being embarrassed by his professional “entanglement” with Brian Thevenot, Rieder not only commissioned Thevenot to write a 5,283-word essay echoing 9/26 in the December/January 2006 AJR (in which Rieder’s column did not address the issue of Thevenot’s contradictions and lies), but has enshrined him as one of the AJR’s stars, commissioning a a self-indulgent, 2,200-word piece on New Orleans one year later from the discredited reporter, which appears in AJR’s August-September 2006 issue.
Six Degrees of Jayson Blair
Note that AJR is, with the Columbia Journalism Review, one of America’s two most prestigious academic journalism journals. To give you an image of just how prestigious they are, in 2000 each received a $1 million grant from the leftists who run the Ford Foundation. Among decent people, the Ford money would be a mark of shame, but is one of the highest honors in the world of journalism.
AJR is published by the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, Jayson Blair’s old school.
My tying of Blair to Merrill may seem like a cheap shot to those with political axes to grind, but in fact, Merrill was thoroughly implicated in the Blair case.
As the Baltimore Sun’sDavid Folkenflik revealed in a February 2004 exposé, “The Making of Jayson Blair,” Blair was racially promoted by politically correct administrative patrons at Merrill, particularly Christopher Callahan and black Baltimore Sun reporter and former Diamondback editor-in-chief, Ivan Penn. Callahan and Penn joined forces to make Blair the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The Diamondback, in spite of Blair’s being unqualified for the job, and protected him when his ethical lapses became apparent, and Blair’s student colleagues blew the whistle on him.
After Blair left Merrill without finishing his degree, he was hired by the New York Times, whose officials did not bother asking him to prove that he had graduated. (Democrat blogger Mickey Kaus quipped that the Times’ negligence was “due diligence, diversity-style.”)
Merrill administrators, who knew Blair hadn’t finished his B.A., misrepresented him as a famous, successful alumnus in a recruiting film, in a story in the school’s alumni magazine, on its Web site, by prominently hanging his photograph in Merrill, and by inviting him back to give a public lecture. Blair was a pathological liar, but then, in the racialized world of socialist J-school and MSM administrators, he was right at home. Even after the truth came out, Blair’s patrons at Merrill were unapologetic.
The Truth is Dead, Long Live the Truth!
As Bob Cox would point out less than one month after 9/26, when the wonderful folks in the MSM, whom Rem Rieder had so effusively praised for getting the Katrina story right in 9/6, made a 180-degree turn in their reporting of the same story, Rieder did not see fit to post a correction to the Web version of his October/November issue. (He still hasn’t.)
Indeed, Cox argued, if there were questions as to the accuracy of Thevenot’s 9/6 story, and getting the truth were paramount, professionalism would have precluded his being on the 9/26 team. (Cox charged Thevenot, who is white, with being another Jayson Blair, who simply made up 9/6 out of whole cloth; at present, I’m not willing to go that far, and lean towards Eric Scheie’s theory, whereby Thevenot certainly lied in 9/26, but not necessarily in 9/6. I differ with Cox not over whether Thevenot is a liar, but rather over when he was lying.)
Back in the October/November 2005 AJR, Rieder wrote of journalism, “It's an important job, a special job, and it's never a bad idea to be reminded of that.”
It is, indeed. But Rieder wasn’t talking about journalism per se. He was talking about being a journalist in the socialist MSM, at the same time that he expressed his contempt for those of us operating outside the socialist mainstream. When Rem Rieder writes of “trained professionals,” he means trained ideological cadres, for that is what journalism schools exist to produce, as they weed out those who are not “politically correct,” and who will thus make for poor cadrists. The AJR is published to serve and to celebrate that world, a world in which a “trained professional” can with apparent certitude trumpet one party line (e.g., Thevenot’s October/November 2005 AJR story), and in the next moment, without blinking an eye or blushing, with apparent certitude trumpet a new party line contradicting the old one (Thevenot’s December/January 2006 AJR story).
Readers of a certain age or of historical learning will recall the agility with which American communists in the late 1930s and early 1940s, went from being rabid “anti-facists” to accepting Nazi Germany to yet again rabid “anti-facists” – and correspondingly, from being adamant “pacifists” to rabidly pro-war – as the policies of the Soviet Union fluctuated. In 1984, George Orwell mocked such opportunism, in the form of “Oceania’s” constantly shifting wartime alliances.
The mentality of today’s socialist MSM and its “J schools” bears a more powerful resemblance to that communist subculture than even the journalism of its day did, except that in the stead of the Moscow-directed American Communist Party, they follow the constantly shifting dictates of the ideology of “anti-racism.”
Award-winning, New York-based freelancer Nicholas Stix founded A Different Drummer magazine (1989-93). Stix has written for Die Suedwest Presse, New York Daily News, New York Post, Newsday, Middle American News, Toogood Reports, Insight, Chronicles, the American Enterprise, Campus Reports, VDARE, the Weekly Standard, Front Page Magazine, Ideas on Liberty, National Review Online and the Illinois Leader. His column also appears at Men's News Daily, MichNews, Intellectual Conservative, Enter Stage Right and OpinioNet. Stix has studied at colleges and universities on two continents, and earned a couple of sheepskins, but he asks that the reader not hold that against him. His day jobs have included washing pots, building Daimler-Benzes on the assembly-line, tackling shoplifters and teaching college, but his favorite job was changing his son's diapers.