The pragmatic NY Times
Right from the start--its very title--this NY Times article is a good example of what's wrong with the paper.
Are there any incorrect facts in the piece? I doubt it. My guess is that, strictly speaking, it contains not a single lie. But the wording, the shading, and the placement of information are all quite stunning in their subtle bias.
To start with the title, "Pragmatic Hamas figure is likely to be next premier"--that's a little bit like calling Goehring pragmatic as compared to Hitler. It's true, but somewhat irrelevant. In this case, the Times offers not single example of Ismail Haniya's "pragmatic" views. In fact, it doesn't even identify who finds him so very pragmatic:
Hamas plans to nominate Ismail Haniya, viewed as one of its less radical leaders, for prime minister.
Does the Times see fit to report anything about the policies he advocates, his past, or his attitude towards certain little details such as the right of the state of Israel to exist, of the suicide bombers, and of the Second Intifada? Just this, which occurs towards the end of the lengthy article rather than the beginning (is the Times counting on the fact that its readership might not get that far?):
Mr. Haniya, 42, has good relations with other Palestinian factions. He was at the top of the Hamas election list and has been viewed as the most important Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, the group's stronghold, since the parliamentary election. While considered to be part of the more pragmatic side of Hamas, he endorses its fundamental positions.
So, he endorses all the fundamental (is that a pun?) Hamas postions. Boy, I'd dearly love to know what "pragmatic" could mean in that context. More willing to pretend to be reasonable, in order to get concessions, like the very pragmatic Mr. Arafat? I really don't know what the Times means, and I read the article a few times in a vain effort to find out, since they saw fit to highlight the word in the headline.
There's food for thought in almost every paragraph of the article, I'm afraid. But I'll just highlight a few. The opening paragraph is a good example:
The militant group Hamas on Thursday appeared poised to name its candidate for Palestinian prime minister, while Israel's Defense Ministry drew up sanctions likely to be imposed after the new Palestinian parliament dominated by Hamas is sworn in on Saturday.
So (from the headline) we've got the "pragmatic" (read: "reasonable?") Prime Minister elect of the "militant" (surely if any group richly deserved the appellation "terrorist" instead, it would be Hamas) Hamas, and then the Israelis preparing those nasty sanctions, without even giving the pragmatic militant a chance! How vengeful of them!
The next few parapraphs focus on what form the sanctions will take, without giving further background about Hamas except that the Israelis consider it a terrorist group and say that they will not transfer money to terrorists. An example of what the Israelis are planning:
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz held talks about possible restrictions to be imposed to reduce Israel's already limited contact with the Palestinians. The measures would include preventing Palestinian workers from entering Israel and making it even more difficult for Palestinians and their goods to move between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Then there's a delicately nuanced paragraph about Europe:
The European Union, the largest single donor to the Palestinians, prefers a wait-and-see approach before any punitive measures are imposed. That position was reaffirmed Thursday by Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, who met with Ms. Livni. After the Palestinians began an uprising against Israel in late 2000 their economy crashed, and they depend heavily on roughly $1 billion in annual aid.
Aren't those Europeans kind and forgiving compared to the punitive Israelis? But it's the last sentence in the paragraph that is especially masterful in what it says--and what it doesn't say. Yes, after refusing the offers made at Camp David and launching the murderous and repellent Intifada (oh, I forgot, let's just use the Palestinians' own definition of the Intifada: "uprising"--they're just freedom fighters), the Palestinian economy fell on hard times. But let's not explicitly blame that on the Infitada and what it did to relations with Israel.
And then there's this (still with me?), the next to last paragraph of the piece. Note that the Times finally calls Hamas a terrorist organization, perhaps long after most people have stopped reading:
Israel, the United States and the European Union regard Hamas as a terrorist organization. Israel, which has been hit by dozens of Hamas suicide bombings, is seeking to isolate the group internationally.
Oops, my error. I guess the Times doesn't call Hamas a terrorist organization after all. It reports that Israel, the US, and the European Union regard Hamas as a terrorist organization. At least the Times does acknowledge that Hamas is responsible for suicide bombings--almost at the end of the lengthy article.
This may all seem needlessly picky, a fuss about semantics. But as a former believer in the NY Times as the paper of record, I can attest to the power of such subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) shadings to shape opinion. There is no doubt that, whatever faults they may have, the writers and editors of the Times know the meaning of words. I cannot believe that they are not purposeful in their choice of exactly which words to use, and how and when to use them--and which ones to leave out.