From Californian voters to New York journalists: Recall fever!

friedman.75.gifEric “What Liberal Media?” Alterman‘s favorite whipping boy, Howard “I was on K Street!” Kurtz at the Washington Post, writes today about a movement that is underway to revoke a 1932 Pulitzer Prize awarded to Walter Duranty of the New York Times.
According to Kurtz’s piece in the Post (notably, the Times’ chief competitor in the annual race for Pulitzers), the paper of record’s new executive editor, Bill Keller, yesterday acknowledged that Duranty’s reporting on Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union in the early 1930s was egregiously in violation of journalistic standards and
“pretty dreadful . . . . It was a parroting of propaganda.”
After a review conducted by a history professor, Keller said, the Times essentially told the board in a letter that “it’s up to you to decide whether to take it back. We can’t unaward it. Here’s our assessment of the guy’s work: His work was clearly not prizeworthy.”
Columbia University professor Mark von Hagen said he found that the Moscow correspondent’s 1931 work “was a disgrace to the New York Times. There’s no one there who disagrees with me. They acknowledged that his is some of the worst journalism they ever published.”

Good to hear it. Duranty’s defense — if not outright praise — of Stalin’s gulag (one of the most shameful events of the past century, though Howard Kurtz doesn’t actually invoke it by name) was inexcusable, and perhaps indirectly led to the propagation of these forced labor camps and detention centers.
So, if the Times is looking to clean house and rid itself of potentially disgraceful awards given to those who “parrot propaganda,” we humbly look forward to the revocation of op-ed columnist Thomas L. Friedman‘s 2002 award. Friedman, after all, received his award based largely on his passionate writing on the events of September 11th, and more specifically, his defense of the present administration’s War on Terror™. Friedman’s most recent book, Longitudes and Attitudes (2002), is a compendium of these award-winning columns, and includes his twice-weekly musings on topics as diverse as why the bombing of Afghanistan was a just act, to why the bombing of Iraq was a just act, to…well, you get the idea. If the Bush administration wanted a viewpoint put forward, Friedman spent the past year providing justification for their actions.

Oh, and then there are his writings on the after effects of September 11th, as detailed by Geoffrey Wheatcroft in the Times’ September 2002 book review of their own columnist’s material:
“To begin with, Friedman is more often right than not. He was profoundly right in saying that Sept. 11 was an appalling crime that had no conceivable justification, or even any real origin in oppression and injustice. That might not sound like such an amazing insight, but it quite eluded the ”America had it coming” left in Europe and on some campuses in the United States.”
Except the Times’ audience wasn’t limited to this dissenting audience of European leftist academics, who had nary a voice to begin with; in those waning days after 9/11, the average American was in a state of shock and confusion, and not saddled with the self-loathing of the left. The paper of record, in Ground Zero’s hometown, no less, spoke to the nation at large, and had the opportunity not only to reassure us of our need for security but to further educate and enlighten the public as to options we may have had in moving forward from that tragedy. Instead, we had Friedman laying the groundwork for Bush’s war of binaries (good vs. evil), the PATRIOT act, and the seizure of civil rights across the country.
“It was a parroting of propaganda,” if you will. See you in 70 years, Tom!

6 replies on “From Californian voters to New York journalists: Recall fever!”

I think you’re a bit harsh on Friedman. I will concede that roughly half the time, Tom seems to be sending dispatches from dateline: Magicland. I often wish that he would do his thinking in private before writing his “musings” down and publishing them in the Cheltenham Times. But the other half of the time, he makes interesting arguments. I don’t always agree with him, but I think he’s worth reading. After all, he correctly cautioned that if we “broke” Iraq, we would “buy” it. And he has written well on Israel, especially before 9/11 (when he did it more often). Plus, he was openly ambivalent about Iraq before it went down (although he has rationalized it post hoc).

my point, in a sense….friedman rarely if ever says anything novel or revelatory, and seems to instead follow the day-to-day thought patterns of whatever mode of thought is in vogue or politically fashinable at that precise moment in time; he seems to merely express what’s on the tip of the tongue of the mythical ‘average american’, and as such, almost makes his existence in the op-ed section null and void. why read an editorial if it merely reinforces what you already think/know?

See, now what about Tom’s latest screed? I don’t think that recommending that NATO should expand to include Egypt, Iraq and Israel is “conventional wisdom.” It seems rather “novel” (if not “revelatory”) to me.
Of course, he does undercut his credibility by referring to the Turkish army as a “guardian of democracy.” That’s kinda like calling the Saudi monarchy as the “guardian of women,” because not letting them drive cars saves them from collisions.

hmmm, on the contrary, it does in fact come off as a sort of CW….iraq, of course, being an american colony now, and sanction free; israel being the sole M.E. democracy (a term which ought to have been trademarked by now, methinks), and egypt has been playing nice now for some time. i would suspect the only resistance to this sort of ‘expansion’ would come from those, like the US, you might argue, that would like nato disbanded.

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