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Speaking of Mali and Syria: NYT reporters and editors can hardly show us connections between stories which they don’t see themselves
Posted by DownWithTyranny on February 5th, 2013

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!

Okay, so we see Algeria and Mali over there on the left of the map (which you can click on to enlarge), and Syria is at the upper right, and Afghanistan is way the heck off the map to the right, and the Soviet Union isn’t on the map at all anymore, and Osama bin Laden is, um, still dead. No way they’re connected, is there?

“[I]ncredibly, one [piece] offers an example of what can go wrong when a government — Algeria — cozies up with a bloodthirsty killer and religious fanatic, while the other tells how the US government is in the process of doing exactly the same thing in Syria.”

by Ken

Dave Lindorff has a terrific piece today on his ThisCan’tBeHappening.net “news collective” blog: “Links? We Don’t Do No Stinkin’ Links: Cognitive Dissonance at the New York Times,” which I saw via Nation of Change. It’s about two articles from Saturday’s NYT which he eventually characterizes as “two disjointed and poorly written pieces that add little to the readers’ understanding of these latest hotspots in the Middle East”:

Algeria Sowed Seeds of Hostage Crisis as It Nurtured Warlord” by Adam Nossiter and Neil MacFarquhar

[which] reports on how the Algerian government essentially enabled and encouraged the crisis in neighboring Mali by backing — even hosting in Algiers — an Islamic militant leader and local warlord, Iyad Ag Ghali, who then tried to take over Mali by force, including taking Algerians and other foreigners hostage at an oil drilling site, leading to a deadly Algerian battle and now a war in Mali that has drawn in the old colonial powers. The article talked at length about the risks of working with such militants. The risks for Algeria, that is; not the risks in general of such a practice.

A Rebel Commander in Syria Holds the Reins of War

[which is] a glowing paen to Abdulkader al-Saleh, aka Hajji Marea, a rebel leader in the Syrian civil war. The article paints the man whose nom de guerre is comfortingly (and incorrectly) translated as meaning “the respectable man from Marea” (it actually means “the man from Marea who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca”), is clearly aligned with a radical Muslim group, the Al Nusra Front, which the article notes, is “blacklisted” by the US as a terrorist organization.

Already in these capsule descriptions of Dave’s, I think we can see him nudging these pieces together in ways that seem clearly not have occurred to either the NYT writers or their editors. Dave is mightily ticked off because the paper “managed to run two closely related stories making opposite points in Saturday’s paper without referencing each other,” either in the print edition or online.

Typically, when two articles that are clearly related run in a newspaper, they are run side-by-side, with one appearing as a kind of side-bar to the other. In this case, though, the first article, on the warlord Iyad Ag Ghali, ran on page one, jumping to page eight, while the second, on Hajji Marea, ran on page 9, separated by several other articles in the intervening columns of both pages. Even in the Times‘ online edition, where it is easy — and standard procedure — to include links to relevant other articles, there is no link between these two stories.

Dave offers as an additional criticism what I imagine he would agree is at least in part an explanation for his original one: “Nor do the reporters on either piece include any historical background or context in their reports.”

Thus Times readers are left blissfully unaware of the many examples of blowback that the US has experienced from its decades of such faustian bargains. The most damaging of these, of course, was the CIA’s setting up of the Al Qaeda organization during the Jimmy Carter presidency, when he and his national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski came up with the brilliant idea of encouraging, funding and arming local and foreign Islamic fanatics to foment a civil war in Afghanistan with the goal of undermining the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul and “bleeding” the Soviet Union. Of course, the US-funded and armed Mujahadeen became the Taliban, and among those foreign Islamic fanatics that the CIA- trained and armed to fight the Soviets was Osama Bin Laden and his merry band.

And we know how that turned out.

Surely at least a paragraph reference to that debacle would be in order when one is writing about the latest disastrous Algerian experience with blowback, or about America’s latest support for religious fundamentalist fighters in its campaign to oust Syria’s current government.

Of course, once you remove this background, the connections between the Algeria-Mali and Syrian-warlord stories are a good deal less clear, and it’s not all that surprising that we wind up with this pair of “disjointed and poorly written pieces that add little to the readers’ understanding of these latest hotspots in the Middle East.”

And yet, incredibly, one offers an example of what can go wrong when a government — Algeria — cozies up with a bloodthirsty killer and religious fanatic, while the other tells how the US government is in the process of doing exactly the same thing in Syria.

Hmm, there just might be a story there, don’t you think? Or maybe at least a link.

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