Time Magazine and affiliates are misinformation.
Time magazine lavishly rewards journalistic malpractice
Tuesday November 27, 2007
I titled yesterday's post -- regarding the multiple false claims in Joe Klein's latest column -- "Time Magazine's FISA fiasco," because episodes of severe journalistic malfeasance are rarely about one reporter. They typically reflect on the media institution as a whole, and that is absolutely the case for Time Magazine and Klein's latest in a series of abject inaccuracies.
After all, someone edited and approved Klein's error-filled column (we're finding out who and will know shortly); Time -- despite widespread coverage of the massive falsehoods in Klein's article -- still has not bothered to post corrections to the article itself; and Time executives continue to employ and feature Klein even in light of his horrific, even deceitful record.
Though he's one of the most egregious exhibits, the problem is not unique to Klein; it is institutional. Clear facts simply leave no doubt that Time not only tolerates, but actively and lavishly rewards, gross journalistic errors that promote pro-GOP political views.
In April of this year, Gary Kamiya wrote an excellent article for Salon documenting that "the period of time between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq represents one of the greatest collapses in the history of the American media." Let's look at one of the most embarrassing examples of this collapse in order to see how Time functions.
In May, 2002 -- before the media's gullible hysteria over Saddam's weapons kicked into high gear -- Time was way ahead of this ignominious curve, as it published a "news article" entitled "What Saddam's Got." The article was written by its then-music critic, Josh Tyrangiel, and various Time reporters (identified at the end) contributed to its content. The article has to be read to be believed. Even judging by the disgraceful standards of its time, this article stands out for sheer government-worship, uncritical recitation of war-fueling falsehoods, and a completely one-sided presentation of the pro-war case.
(Article continues below)
Excerpts cannot really do justice to this towering monument to journalistic failure, but here, just to provide a (very bitter) taste, are a few representative paragraphs:
When Iraq accepted the terms of the 1991 Gulf War cease-fire, it agreed to "destroy, or render harmless," all its weapons of mass destruction. The last U.N. weapons inspectors left Iraq in December 1998, after obstruction by officials there rendered their work pointless. It is generally agreed that Saddam Hussein has not been behaving himself in their absence. . . .
DOES SADDAM HAVE THE BOMB?
No one has a precise answer. . . . Without ground inspections, those who track Iraq's nuclear development have had to rely on interviews with recent defectors and surveys of suppliers Baghdad has contacted seeking parts. Both suggest that Iraq's nuclear program is back in full swing. . . .
Experts including [Charles] Duelfer and Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, believe Saddam has the sophisticated triggers, weapon housings and everything else he needs to build a nuclear device -- except for a sufficient supply of weapons-grade enriched uranium. Intelligence indicates that he is angling to obtain some on the international black market, but it's not something that your friendly neighborhood arms smuggler can lay hands on right away. So Saddam also is working to enrich his own uranium. That's a major technological challenge, but Iraq is expected to succeed within three to six years, at its current rate of progress.
WHAT ABOUT CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS?
Intelligence about Iraq's capabilities on these fronts is firmer and no less frightening. . . . But Iraq never accounted for all the 100,000 chemical weapons it produced for use in the Iran-Iraq war, and there are fears that thousands of them, filled with either deadly VX or mustard gas, could be squirreled away. . . .
Even if inspectors had found all the materials before they left the country, Iraq has almost certainly made more in the past three years. Thanks to Rihab Taha, a British-educated Iraqi biochemist, nicknamed Dr. Germ by the U.N. inspectors, Saddam still has the best biological expertise in the region.
Chemical and biological agents can wipe out entire populations, but first they must be placed in an effective delivery system, such as a bomb or warhead fitted with an aerosol diffuser that will spread its plagues or poisons before the weapon explodes. Iraq is believed to be working to perfect such delivery systems.
Here's how the article ended:
An internal report from the Iraqi National Congress, the chief Iraqi opposition group, says that during a televised procession at Baghdad's military parade ground last year, new missiles were displayed, including ones that appeared to violate the U.N. ban on long-range missiles that is meant to prevent Iraq from threatening Europe. A chemical weapons unit marched with the missiles that day. As it passed Saddam's reviewing stand, he became noticeably excited, firing several shots into the air. Perhaps the rest of the world should consider those fair warning.
There wasn't a word of skepticism in any of that. This "news article" recited as fact the most dubious claims designed to fuel war hysteria, even highlighting the cartoon villain, "Dr. Germ." Nobody who was opposed to the invasion or who was questioning these claims was quoted. It was pure propaganda from start to finish, almost entirely false in its assertions, and ended by all but advocating a war with Iraq ("Perhaps the rest of the world should consider those fair warning").
What happened to the author of this reckless tripe, Josh Tyrangiel? Did Time chastise him, discipline him, or demote him? Did it engage in any journalism at all to tell its readers how it went so wrong and why it published so-called "news articles" like this that so fundamentally misled the country on such vital questions? No. It did the opposite. Time's Managing Editor, Rick Stengel, promoted Tyrangiel from music critic to Editor of Time.com and Assistant Managing Editor at Time. That's the job he currently holds at Time.
As Bill Moyers said in his superb April, 2007 documentary on the role of the establishment press in enabling Bush's invasion of Iraq:
The story of how high officials misled the country has been told. But they couldn't have done it on their own. They needed a compliant press to pass on their propaganda as news and cheer them on. . . .
Four years after shock and awe, the press has yet to come to terms with its role in enabling the Bush administration to go to war on false pretenses.
Thus, Time has quietly rewarded these practitioners of falsehood-spreading, reckless journalism while failing to account for how it happened -- exactly the template it is following in the case of its latest Klein-inspired FISA debacle.
That Stengel actively rewards the most irresponsible pro-Bush falsehoods is hardly debatable. One of his most prominent acts was to crown Bill Kristol -- whose fictitious rantings make the Tyrangiel article look prophetic -- as Time's new "star columnist" , and then name 2003 war cheerleader Peter Beinart as a foreign policy contributor, alongside Charles Krauthammer. He hired Mark Halperin, best defined by his still cringe-inducing, self-abasing campaign to convince far-right extremists that he's one of them (along with Rove-following statements like this). To "balance" this pile of error-filled GOP reverence, Stengel brought on Michael Kinsley, who has largely (though not exclusively) devoted himself over the last several years to filling the TNR/Joe-Klein "even-Good-Liberal-X-agrees-liberals-are-wrong" role.
Most revealingly of all, Stengel has kept on pro-war, GOP-enabling pundits -- and even hired new ones with far worse records -- while laying off scores of actual reporters. As Moyers said:
It's true, so many of the advocates and apologists for the war are still flourishing in the media. . . .
Bill Kristol and Peter Beinart, for example, are now regular contributors to Time Magazine, which has been laying off dozens of reporters.
Critically, Stengel himself practices exactly the type of no-remorse, error-plagued, GOP-mimicking "journalism" which he so aggressively promotes. Back in March, Stengel went on the Chris Matthews Show and sat around cackling with Norah O'Donnell and Gloria Borger about what they all agreed were the silly, stupid attempts by Democrats to investigate Karl Rove's role in the U.S. attorneys scandal. Stengel issued a flat-out false statement in support of his scorn: "I am so uninterested in the Democrats wanting Karl Rove, because it is so bad for them. . . . That's not what voters want to see."
Stengel's statement was the opposite of the truth. Polls uniformly demonstrated that Americans overwhelmingly favored such investigations and wanted Rove to be compelled to testify. Yet even after Stengel was told of his flagrant falsehood by Ana Marie Cox, he refused to acknowledge error or correct his misstatement. Instead, he issued a completely nonresponsive, dismissive self-defense in the form of an email to Cox which, if anything, repeated his demonstrably false claim about how Americans don't want Democrats to investigate that scandal.
What conclusion does this mountain of evidence permit other than Time not only tolerates, but highly values, outright factual inaccuracies? They seem to cherish not merely falsehoods in general, but falsehoods planted by GOP operatives and designed to promote the government's agenda. They make no effort to correct their most egregious misstatements and often re-affirm them. They hire, reward, and promote the worst, most dishonest purveyors of outright propaganda.
When viewed in this broader context, Time's publication of Klein's FISA article, its failure to correct it, and its ongoing promotion of Klein, all make perfect sense. As Eric Alterman put it, Time has "morphed into a kind of glossy sibling to the Wall Street Journal" whose columnists "distort the public discourse in a Limbaugh-like direction." By and large, Time -- regardless of the reasons (i.e., whether economic or ideological) -- increasingly appears to be not in the business of reporting news but of promoting a specific political agenda that is as fact-free as it is easily identifiable:
UPDATE: The Center for Citizen Media -- jointly affiliated with the University of California, Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University Law School -- has picked up on the Klein/Time story, labeling Klein's behavior "Shameful 'Journalism'," and contending that the "flagrantly inaccurate and misguided Time magazine column by Joe Klein" is "[o]ne of the most amazing episodes in modern American journalism." They concluded: Klein's "work in this case may become Exhibit A for what's wrong with the craft today."
http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/ ... index.html