Occupy the Media

By From the December 2011 - January 2012 issue

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times was dazzled when he visited Occupy Wall Street in early October. "The protest reminded me a bit of Tahrir Square in Cairo," Kristof exulted. "There is the same cohort of alienated young people, and the same savvy use of Twitter and other social media to recruit more participants."

The quinquagenarian Kristof is quite the fogy if he finds it amazing that 20-something Americans are able to figure out how to use Twitter. But that wasn't the least impressive element of Occupy Wall Street as Kristof described it. "Where the movement falters is in its demands," he wrote:

It doesn't really have any. The participants pursue causes that are sometimes quixotic--like the protester who calls for removing Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill because of his brutality to American Indians.


History’s Smallest Monster

By From the November 2011 issue

At 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001, terrorists destroyed a hijacked plane by crashing it into the north tower of the World Trade Center. At 8:41 a.m. on September 11, 2011, former Enron adviser Paul Krugman destroyed whatever was left of his reputation. "Is it just me, or are the 9/11 commemorations oddly subdued?" Krugman began his post on the New York Times website. "Actually, I don't think it's me, and it's not really that odd."

Of course the commemorations were subdued. Some of the victims of 9/11 were children, and most of the adults were in the prime of life. In the normal course of events, they would still be with their loved ones 10 years later. Thus the anniversary rituals recalled losses that were sudden and that remain immediate. Ecclesiastes teaches that "there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…a time to mourn and a time to dance." Americans danced in May, when Osama bin Laden was finally killed, but September 11 was a time to mourn.

That's not what Krugman had in mind. For him, it is never time to be silent and always time to hate:


After Osama

By From the October 2011 issue

IT WAS early may, and the president was riding high. Politico reported: "Killing Osama bin Laden isn't just an important moment in Barack Obama's presidency-- it's the moment of his presidency, those around Obama say." A New York Times editorial rejoiced that "Mr. Obama's risky and audacious decision to attack the Bin Laden compound in Pakistan has demolished the notion that he cannot make tough decisions." The editorial's title: "The Myth of Mr. Obama's Weakness."

Three months later, Obama looked as weak as any president since Jimmy Carter, or maybe in living memory. Like a leaky balloon, he kept getting smaller. The story was told in the news headlines about an August 11 speech in Holland, Michigan. New York Times: "Obama Urges Voters to Scold Republicans." Associated Press: "Obama: Something Is Wrong With Country's Politics." "President Obama: 'I'm Frustrated.'" Later that day, at a New York fund-raiser, Obama recounted having told audiences on the hustings: "You deserve better than you've been getting out of Washington over the last 2½ months--for that matter, for the last 2½ years." Message: I failed.


Keep Rockin’

By From the September 2011 issue

The so-called mainstream media are unreliable defenders of press freedom. A case in point: the Los Angeles Times in July published an op-ed piece with the astonishing title "Tabloids Don't Deserve the 1st Amendment." The news peg was the phone-hacking scandal at the now-defunct British paper News of the World (owned by News Corp., as is my employer, the Wall Street Journal). But Britain doesn't have the First Amendment, and author Jeffrey Shapiro's target was American supermarket tabloids. Years ago he worked for one of them, the Globe.


The Birth of a Notion

By From the July/August 2011 issue

“Let me introduce you to Jerome Corsi,” read the promotional e-mail. “This week he released a new book that the publisher says will be a bestseller ‘of historic proportions.’”

Corsi’s book, Where’s the Birth Certificate? The Case That Barack Obama Is Not Eligible to Be President, was ill-timed, to say the least. Its official publication date was May 17, the day before that e-mail went out. On April 27, the White House had released a copy of President Obama’s original long-form Hawaiian birth certificate.

It revealed that the future president was born Barack Hussein Muhammad Jihad Guevara Manson Obama on July 4, 1976, in Pyongyang, North Korea. Not only is he not a natural-born citizen, he’s not even old enough to be president. And his mother, Ethel Rosenberg, listed her religion as “Stalinist.”


Online Journalism’s Golden Age

By From the June 2011 issue

The New York Times erected its long-awaited online paywall in late March. In theory, that means you can no longer read the Times online without paying a subscription fee of $195 to $455 a year.

But like America's southern border, the Times's wall is porous. "Visitors get 20 free articles...each calendar month on," the site explained. "In addition," a report noted, "non-subscribers will have access to articles found through search (limited to five per day from major search engines), blogs and social networks like Facebook and Twitter, even if they have exceeded their 20-article reading limit."

Mashable added: "The Times confirmed a report that it had dropped its case against @freeNYTimes, a Twitter feed designed to help readers circumvent the forthcoming paywall." The Times says it objected to the site's use of its logo, which has been removed.


‘Civility’ Was Always Dead

By From the May 2011 issue

Remember when the New York Times was lecturing us about "civility"? Neither do I, but I wrote about it recently ("A Week in the Death of the New York Times," TAS, March 2011). In January the Times seized on the Tucson massacre to blame "Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media" for "the gale of anger" that had "produced violent threats against scores of politicians and infected the political mainstream with violent imagery"-even though it was clear that suspect Jared Loughner had no recognizable political motive.

By "supporters in the media," the Times seemed mostly to mean people at Fox News Channel. At a National Press Club event January 31, Times executive editor Bill Keller was asked about the competitive threat from the Wall Street Journal. He ducked the question and talked instead about the Journal's corporate cousin:


Actual Malice

By From the April 2011 issue

The editors of the New York Times must have been happy to get some "conservative" support for their smear campaign against Supreme Court justices. It came in the form of a letter to the editor from Bruce Fein, an eccentric libertarian who once served in the Reagan Justice Department, published February 11:

Justice Antonin Scalia galloped beyond the farthest boundaries of judicial propriety in secretly meeting on Capitol Hill to discuss the Constitution with Tea Party members of Congress saddled with a co-equal duty to assess the constitutionality of legislative action. If there are better ways to destroy public confidence in judicial impartiality, they do not readily come to mind....

Don't be surprised if a Tea Party member soon speaks on the floor of the House urging repeal of the health care reform law's individual mandate because Justice Scalia secretly advised that it exceeds the powers of Congress.



By From the February 2011 issue

WHAT WENT WRONG? How did Barack Obama lose Middle America? As Time magazine's Mark Halperin wrote on December 6, five weeks after the November elections:

The coalition that got Barack Obama elected President just two years ago has been shattered.… A survey of the political landscape shows that many groups who were part of the 2008-09 Obama coalition have turned on him.… With unemployment high and promising to stay there, it is nearly impossible in the short term for Obama to shift opinion and be seen as a successful President.… Even if the President somehow sloughs off that Spock-like laconic demeanor and dispatches his fired-up-and-ready-to-go persona, he isn't going to be able to change many of the dynamics that have weakened him.

Halperin had been bearish on the president for months. On September 9, he wrote: