The Magazine

Damned Lies and ‘Fact Checking’ (cont.)

From The Scrapbook

Jan 2, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 16 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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The head of the Arab League’s mission to Syria is General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, a close colleague of Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president who has been charged by the International Criminal Court for crimes of genocide in Darfur. Dabi became chief of military intelligence the day that Bashir came to office in 1989, and in 1996-1999 was head of military operations against the insurgency in what became South Sudan. In other words, the Arab League has sent Assad a man who can explain to the Syrian dictator how best to get away with murder. After all, the ICC may want to get its hands on Dabi’s friend and boss, but Omar al-Bashir still rules Sudan. Wouldn’t Assad like a similar outcome?

“It is past time for the killing & suffering in #Syria to come to an end,” Ambassador Rice tweeted last week. That’s correct​—​but there’s no use in the White House looking to the Arab League to stop it.

Insidious Bias

The Scrapbook has always maintained that the media deny the existence of left-wing bias for a very good reason: It is invisible to them. Most journalists are so successfully indoctrinated, so reflexively liberal, so submerged in the culture of the left, that they simply don’t see what is obvious to everyone else. It’s a little like expecting fish to notice the ocean.

We were reminded of this when we read Joe Nocera’s op-ed column in the New York Times about the financial meltdown. For the past couple of years, Nocera and economists Peter Wallison and Edward Pinto of the American Enterprise Institute have been dueling over the extent of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s culpability in the crisis: Wallison and Pinto assign a fair amount of blame to the hybrid agencies; Nocera thinks their guilt is exaggerated.

The Scrapbook will spare readers details of the column​—​needless to say, Nocera sticks to his guns and, in Times op-ed fashion, persists in characterizing Wallison/Pinto as “loony.” What caught our attention, though, was his rhetorical sleight of hand. Early in the piece, Nocera refers to Wallison and Pinto as resident scholars “at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.” But when he searches for outside validation of his views, he calls upon “David Min, a leading Wallison critic at the Center for American Progress.”

Anybody notice the difference? That’s right: While Peter Wallison and Edward Pinto are employed by “the conservative” AEI, there is no comparable epithet to describe David Min’s employer. It’s just the plain Center for American Progress, an innocent bystander in the ideological wars.

Except, of course, that it isn’t. CAP was founded by ex-Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta and proudly proclaims its left-wing character. The Scrapbook happens to believe that CAP is infinitely more hack-partisan, and considerably less scholarly, than AEI; but that’s beside the point. The left-wingers at the Center for American Progress are entitled to their opinions; Nocera, however, is being underhanded when he pins an ideological label on AEI but fails to do the same for CAP.

Indeed, The Scrapbook is more disappointed than annoyed about this, since Joe Nocera is usually better than the standard Times ideologue. Which goes to show how pervasive, and insidious, that ideological bias can be. 

Indefensible

You might think it hard to find a way to praise a totalitarian regime that urges its starving subjects to do their patriotic duty and eat less, but think again. Writing in the London Times about the death of Kim Jong Il, bestselling author Simon Winchester, who has written some fine books, managed to put a blot on his literary escutcheon:

The State’s founder, Kim Il Sung, claimed that all he wanted for North Korea was to be socialist, and to be left alone. .  .  . Perhaps inevitably, North Korea’s attempt appears to be tottering. But seeing how South Korea has turned out​—​its Koreanness utterly submerged in neon, hip-hop and every imaginable American influence, a romantic can allow himself a small measure of melancholy: North Korea, for all its faults, is undeniably still Korea, a place uniquely representative of an ancient and rather remarkable Asian culture. And that, in a world otherwise rendered so bland, is perhaps no bad thing. 

A country memorably described by the late Christopher Hitchens as a “necrocracy” doesn’t strike us as romantic. Authentic Korean culture has been supplanted in the North by oppressive Maoist and Stalinist precepts far worse than, say, hip-hop. And if being free of outside influences is such a good thing, why did North Korea’s late dictator kidnap people from other countries for his own amusement? We trust Winchester will come to regret defending such a grotesque regime.

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