Meet Deeq Salad Mursel, Somalia’s new national pollster and spokesman. How do we know? Why the New York Times told us so in its January 10 edition. It ran an article about the U.S. air strike the previous day on a cluster of Islamist fighters trying to flee the country near the Kenya border.
The strike was widely reported as having been successful in killing several of the Islamists. Apparently, Ethiopian intelligence sources had provided the U.S. with information that a number of Islamist leaders — routed by the Ethiopian and Somali armies several days earlier — were going into the bush by convoy to escape capture. The air raid apparently killed about a dozen of them. U.S. military sources were careful not to claim proof that the dead included one or more leaders of the U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, but were clearly hoping they would be able to do so in due course.
Would you have had any hint of all this from the Times‘s headline? No. It read: “Airstrike Rekindles Somalis’ Anger at the U.S.” So that was the real story. And what proof do we have that this was the outcome? Why, none other than Deeq Salad Mursel, a Mogadishu taxi driver. Mr. Mursel is quoted as saying, “They’re just trying to get revenge for what we did to them in 1993” (referring to the Black Hawk Down incident). That is the only reference to and “evidence” of “Somalis’ anger” in the entire article — and it occurs in the fourth paragraph.
We can infer from the headline and Mr. Mursel’s quotation that he has quit his day job with the taxi and is now busily counting noses as the national pollster and, once armed with a scientifically-random samples’ opinions, has been anointed by the fledgling government of Somali to speak for all its citizens.
Or can we? This is only the most recent and obvious example of the Times‘s inclination to slant headlines to fit its agenda. It has long organized its daily story budget to fit its agenda which is, broadly speaking, opposed to the projection of U.S. power; opposed to Republican presidents and administrations and for the expansion of federal government power. Story headlines are not written by the reporters of a story, but by editors, the same editors who work on the day’s story budget. Story selection and the weight given to those selected are complemented by headlines that fit the same political/policy agenda.
The Times hasn’t hesitated to release classified information about efforts to identify and locate terrorists. The editors, from their lofty perches, have deemed it more important to publish the information than to catch and/or stop terrorists at their trade.
Many newspaper editors are thin-skinned, none more than those of the Times. They consider themselves to be above reproach; models of rectitude. Even when the egregious Jayson Blair wrote invented stories a few years ago, it took weeks of exposure and pressure before the then-editor, Howell Raines, stepped down.
All this might not matter so much if the “big three” broadcast networks did not base their own evening news story selection and slant on what they read in the Times each morning. And, many newspapers across the country rely on the Times news service to provide them with national and international stories.
For 30 years or more pollsters have been tracking the votes of “elite media” reporters and editors in presidential elections. Time after time these polls show that their votes for the Democrat have been in the 90 percent range. Human nature being what it is, is it likely that these people will set aside their personal views of politics and the world and select and write stories and headlines that are free from bias? It is likely only if one believes in the tooth fairy.
The New York Times‘s motto has long been “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” It’s time to update it to fit today’s reality: “All the News That’s Fit to Print–and Some That Isn’t, but Fits Our View of the World.”