The Best of the Web
The Internet may not change the world, but it sure is doing a good job of covering the war.
11:01 PM, Dec 6, 2001 • By DAVID BROOKS
THE INTERNET has had a good war. Every day I find truckloads of absolutely essential information as I do my early afternoon web surfing. I start with The Weekly Standard website (modesty forbids me from touting my own colleagues' work), then I move on to harvest the daily thoughts of two people who should get Congressional Medals of Honor for their wartime service to the nation, Andrew Sullivan and James Taranto.
Yesterday, for example, at AndrewSullivan.com, I got directed to a devastating rebuttal of a front page New York Times piece by Fox Butterfield. According to Butterfield, "The Justice Department has refused to let the FBI check its records to determine whether any of the 1,200 people detained after the Sept. 11 attacks had bought guns." This is the sort of story that will set liberals aflame. See, they will say, in order to placate the NRA, the administration is undermining homeland security.
But Sullivan leads us to another outstanding site, InstaPundit.Com, on which Glenn Reynolds highlights a fact that Butterfield conveniently left out of his story: U.S. law specifically forbids the Justice Department from allowing such checks. According to Reynolds, the law allows law enforcement to trace a firearm captured at a crime scene, but it does not allow officials to go fishing through the gun records in search of somebody who owns a gun and might have committed a crime. If true, this explodes the whole ideological intent of Butterfield's story.
Reynolds does something else. He reprints the section of the penal code that governs this situation (the way I read it, the language is less open and shut than Reynolds makes out). He also provides some historical background on Butterfield. Those of us in the media know that Butterfield is someone who often lets his ideology shape his reporting, but there's no reason others shouldn't know this. The web links it all together.
Next I turn to Admiral Taranto, who supervises the Best of the Web section of OpinionJournal. There I learn that the Yale Daily News has published an editorial calling on the university to reinstate an ROTC program. I also learn that the Paris City Council has named Mumia Abu-Jamal an "honorary citizen" of that fair city. Mumia killed a Philadelphia policeman in cold blood, you'll recall. I learn that Saudi Arabia is liberalizing its laws to allow women to possess identity cards (though they still need permission from their "guardian" to travel abroad), and I learn that a Wisconsin jail has hired a Wiccan as prison chaplain. This is stuff you need to know.
My tour through cyberland habitually includes a stop at the Hotline World Extra, which is a compendium of everything that has been written, said, or thought about the war in Afghanistan over the past 24 hours. The Hotline has a domestic edition which is a depressingly exhaustive bible of the pundit class and carries a hefty subscription fee. But the war edition is free. There's always a stop at Bloomberg, where I can check up on what Weekly Standard contributing editor Andrew Ferguson is thinking. This week he's analyzing why John Ashcroft inspires such unreasoning enmity among Washington scribes. I also go to the London Spectator, which not only gives away the entire magazine on its website, but this week accomplishes the impossible. In the entire history of the English people, going back to the days of Ethelred the Unready, no publication has ever written an editorial in praise of an Israeli government official. Yet there it is in the Spectator: "Why Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is Right."
You see the most amazing things on the Internet.
David Brooks is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard.