Tuesday, May 17, 2005


I hope it's as apparent to readers as it is to me that the flap over Newsweek is all about censorship and intimidation.

It's an attempt to discredit Bush's opponents, and also to further leverage the "tit-for-tat" technique of equating right-wing nonsense with the honest truth. Open support for White House talking points has always run into the issue of, well, their factuality, and the knowledge that sooner or later the truth will come out. The "balancing" game helps with that, but sooner or later people will notice that one side is getting all the flack, and the other isn't, and begin to make up their own minds.

If it can be reversed, however, then the admissions of fault on one side can be matched up against the hardheaded repetition of the other, and the conclusion will be that the latter must be correct. On individual issues, all it takes is one small mistake to open up a crack in credibility and the whole thing dies. That's what Newsweek provided, even though it's well known that torture techniques involving the desecration of the Koran take place. Torture will continue, but reportage of it is enormously weakened in the United States, because the media will be terrified of being burned again.

(Sure, Bush's arguments may not be credible, but a growing variation on the old Microsoft truism is in play: nobody gets fired for buying Bush.)

What's truly worrisome is the allegations that people died due to Newsweek's reportage. I'm smelling "more in sorrow than in anger" censorship here, a new and improved "loose lips sink ships" aimed at Wrongspeak. Every reporter who finds out how brutal the treatment of prisoners has become will be hounded by those saying that he could kill people. Some of those people will be editors. Others will be shareholders. Others will be winger bloggers, who won't care whether or not it's true or not if it contradicts the party line.

We all know where this is headed, including those who are backing Bush. I guess the question is whether it's really worth it. The question I'd ask of instapundit et al is this: What happens when it's the "libertarians" in the firing line?

"At first they came for the liberals..."

Edit: On the other hand, it's odd to see a putatively liberal Canadian like Warren Kinsella torpedo his credibility like this:

This is appalling. Not only they did they "get it wrong," they actually contributed to DEATHS of people around the globe. This is one of those rare instances where the Muslim community, and the U.S. military, have a shared interest in putting behind bars any of the journalists and editors associated with this extraordinary libel. But, thanks to the absurdities of the First Amendment, that isn't likely to happen anytime soon.
Needless to say, I imagine that most Canadian liberals are a little more sensible than this. Hate speech is one thing, but this is quite another. What is Kinsella thinking?

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