Blatant bias in NYT article

Imagine that the police in your town used pre-emptive arrests, psychological operations, misinformation, and infiltration of grassroots groups to control dissent and protest. What word would you use to describe that action?

The words intimidation and suppression come to my mind. But if you're a headline writer at The  New York Times, the word of choice to describe these un-American activities is ... calming:

Police Memos Say Arrest Tactics Calmed Protest

by Jim Dwyer

New York City police commanders discussed how they  had used "proactive arrests" at political demonstrations in 2002.

 Sounds reassuring, eh? See, the cops were just trying  to calm things down.

And those "discussions"? Those were actually in private, internal memoranda, brought to light only as a result of a lawsuit. By using the word "discussed" in the lede, the casual skimmer of the article might think this information came as a result of some up-front, open dialogue with the public.

More after the jump...

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About Gerrymandering: Good Politics Is Good Policy

Gerrymandering has shaped American politics since February 11, 1812, when the Massachusetts legislature enacted a law to redistrict the state. A bill was proposed, and passed, by the majority Democratic Party over the vehement protests of the minority Federalists. In the following election, the Federalists garnered over 1,000 more votes than the Democrats, an outcome that resulted in sending 29 Democrats and 11 Federalists to the state senate.


Hence, the Democrats seized more than two thirds of the state senate but received fewer votes than the Federalists. In response to these events, The Boston Gazette, invented the term "gerrymander" after Elbridge Gerry, the Democratic governor, and the salamander, which the most convoluted district supposedly resembled. The politics of gerrymandering only grew in absurdity.

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NYT Review of Crashing the Gates

More reviews for Crashing the Gates:

This comically depressing glimpse of today's Democratic Party is recounted in "Crashing the Gate," a smart new book by two leading bloggers. Democrats have complained about their national leadership at least since Will Rogers wisecracked, "I am not a member of any organized political party -- I am a Democrat." But in their book, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of the liberal blog dailykos.com, and Jerome Armstrong, founder of myDD.com, give these complaints a 21st-century spin.

The authors argue for the importance of the "netroots," or Internet grass roots, which have been a growing political force since Moveon.org, which now has more than three million members, formed in 1998. The netroots came of age in 2004, providing much of the money and energy behind Howard Dean's campaign.

The netroots' power comes from the same network effect that made eBay a retailing phenomenon. Far-flung political activists now join together on sites like dailykos.com, and inject themselves into matters that used to be settled behind closed doors. The netroots helped make Mr. Dean head of the Democratic National Committee, over several establishment candidates. Now, they are backing Ned Lamont in a primary challenge to Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who is about as popular among liberal bloggers as a computer virus.

Much of the authors' criticism of the party establishment is dead-on. They rail against political consultants who take 15 percent commissions on media buys while giving bad advice. They are especially incensed by what they see as the self-defeating role of special interests, notably Naral Pro-Choice America's decision to endorse Senator Lincoln Chafee, a Rhode Island Republican, over two pro-abortion-rights Democrats. If Mr. Chafee wins, he could ensure that the Republican Party, which has an aggressive anti-abortion agenda, keeps control of the Senate.

To solve the consultant problem, the authors urge more hires from outside the Washington Beltway and lower fees. To rein in special interests, they point to two successful models. In Colorado, a few wealthy donors called in the groups before the 2004 election and prodded them to cooperate. Ken Salazar was elected senator, one of only two Democratic pick-ups. In Montana, Brian Schweitzer threw out the interest groups' questionnaires and spoke directly to Montana voters. The same day that Montanans gave President Bush 59 percent of their votes, they elected Mr. Schweitzer governor.

The reviewer then says the netroots are going to have to do policy eventually.  Come on, that's boring!

If you haven't read it yet, it's good.  And the Amazon reviews have amusingly descended into a flamewar.

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New York Times = Unaccountable, Bloggers = Accountable

I'm with Atrios.  This attack on bloggers by the New York Times is a clear 'blogger ethics panel' moment.  Atrios writes:

The public relations industry existed long before bloggers came along and they had reporters' phone numbers long before they had the email addresses of bloggers. Barely edited press releases have long been published, especially at smaller newspapers. I get press releases and information from all over the place all the time. Obviously disclosure is a nice idea if there are any financial relationships, a practice not always followed by our hallowed 4th estate, but if people want to devote their blogs to throwing up Wal Mart press releases they're free.

The main reason stories like this are even written is that contrary to popular opinnion the internet often provides a lot more transparency even when there are efforts to hide it. Astroturfing operations of various kinds through all media are nothing new, they're just usually harder to track. If Wal Mart pays 50 people to call talk radio all day and extol its virtues would anyone know?

Atrios is right.  The structure of the internet makes this stuff much harder to hide.  Blogs aren't transparent because bloggers are nice people, they are transparent because of Google, links, comments, and the low cost of entry.  Journalistic ethics are often treated as if Google, links, comments, and blogger don't exist.  They do.  And it's about time journalists update their mindsets rather than screeching 'internet scary'.

Let's put it another way.  If I found a major error in a Times story, I could email the public editor or Bill Keller, and it would be up to them whether to do anything.  If I found that Atrios wrote something incorrect, I could put it on my blog, his blog, email him, email right-wingers or start a new blog in five minutes called 'AtriosWatch'.  And he would notice, as would others.

The same is true in PR-land.  So what if bloggers reiterate what Walmart wants them to say?  It's not like you can only information on Walmart from right-wing bloggers.  It's not like you can't disprove them.  Why is the New York Times so afraid of the internet?  Is it because if the Times actually made itself accountable to the public it purports to serve then Adam Nagourney-style 'Dems are divided according to Tom Vilsack' opinion journalism would be revealed as the shallow bloviating it is?

UPDATE: Andrea Batista Schlesinger has more.

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Bumiller to write Condi Bio

According to Editor And Publisher, Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller will be taking a year off to write a bio of Condi Rice.

This is interesting for a couple of reasons:  

1) Bumiller's reporting has occasionally been cited by bloggers for passing on Republican memes.  Is the fact that Condi wants Bumiller to write her bio indicate she believes she'd get more than a fair shake?  

2) Is the timing of this effort intended to coincide with a potential bid by Rice for higher office?  

I've been very skeptical in the past that she'd actually run, but this news certainly gives me pause.

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