Dear Commenter: I Dredge Through The New York Times for More Than Pageviews

Categories: Schutze

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Yesterday a commenter accused me of dredging through The New York Times every morning to find a pretext for some kind of inflammatory ditty here on Lawn whose only purpose is to stir up a hornet's nest of clicks. Yeah, I can see how somebody could get that impression. But, what do you want me to do? Certainly not give up my morning Times!

Here's the problem. I happen to think The Dallas Morning News, for all my ragging, is probably one of the nation's better dailies. I might change that to possibly, just to make it a shade more irritatingly patronizing, because I do enjoy irritating them (and it's soooo easy). But the News is a good paper. I read it every day. Takes me about four minutes.

The difference between the Times and the rest of them is that every day in the Times there is some arresting, well-done story or op-ed piece or editorial that takes you down two or three levels deeper into the news than what you're going to get anywhere else. What do I mean deeper? Smarter.

Today, for example, the Times offers an op-ed piece by two academics, Asli U. Bali, an acting professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Aziz F. Rana, an assistant professor of law at Cornell, arguing that military intervention in Syria is probably the worst of all possible choices.

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Whoring for pageviews? Us? Never!
They provide a kind of cursory sketch of the ethnic, religious and tribal divisions in Syria to make the case that all of the players there want to leap for each other's throats. No matter who may emerge on top with the help of foreign guns and money, as opposed to negotiation, the outcome will be some form of annihilation.

Right now, the United States is pledged to help raise $100 million in aid for the rebels. Aid being fungible and rebels being desperate, we should think of that money as $100 million worth of guns.

But guns for whom? What outcome do we think we'll be buying with our bullets, or God forbid, our blood?

This stuff has been on my mind since a recent phone conversation with an old newspaper buddy, Rone Tempest, a retired foreign correspondent with lots of shoe-leather experience in the Middle East and Asia. Tempest said he had been talking to other fellow former foreign correspondents who were bemoaning the tendency of most American media to portray Syria as a cowboy tableau of white hats versus black hats, completely ignoring the complicated interplay of tribal and religious factors actually driving events there.

In particular, almost no one covering Syria wants to talk about the fact that President Bashar al-Assad is leader of a minority within a minority, an Alawite among Shias in a nation that is 74 percent Sunni.

If you watch Anderson Cooper every night, Assad is just some kind of totally incomprehensible nut-case son-of-a-bitch who loves to kill people. And, by the way, he may be all of that. But he is also the leader of a tiny subgroup that knows it is going to get scrubbed off the face of the planet the moment it loses power.

This is the OK Corral for Assad, because it's the OK Corral. His choices are 1) Shoot first, or 2) throw down your gun and say, "Shoot me."

The authors of today's op-ed piece wind up saying that diplomacy and negotiation -- which means dealing directly with Assad -- are the only tools that can pull Syria back from a bottomless blood bath:

If we are really interested in protecting the civilian population -- rather than using this as a strategic opportunity to flip regional alliances -- the benefits of a negotiated transition are clear. It may not reinforce our geopolitical position, but it will help safeguard ordinary Syrians caught in the cross-fire.

It's a tough one for those of us who lack the shoe leather, the personal connection or the academic expertise to understand it in a more intimate way. All I know is this: I watch Anderson Cooper's personal posturing on global geopolitics -- a lot of people are getting hurt in a lot of places, and I, Anderson Cooper, am going to stamp my foot right to make it stop -- and I come away wanting to take a shower. It's sleazy exploitative theater.

Why do I watch him? Funny. I hadn't asked myself that question. I guess there must a moment in every day when I'm in the mood for sleazy exploitative theater.

I don't think The Dallas Morning News is sleazy exploitative theater. It just isn't enough. It's he-said she-said -- superficiality masquerading as objectivity.

Either way, a simplistic construction of what's going on in Syria -- Assad is Bad Bad Leroy Brown and the rebels are Robin Hood's Merry Band -- is a siren song that will lure this country into another stupid, stupid war. We've just done two of those. We need another one?

The Times. Sorry, commenter. Gotta have it. Gotta have it all, I guess.

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25 comments
sandra crenshaw
sandra crenshaw

fo long, the DMN will be knocking on your door to come over and let you run the paper. quit fattening frogs to feed snakes or you won't have anything to write about on Unfair Park.

Dalguy
Dalguy

Anderson Cooper is gray hair over black T shirt, nothing else.

Tim Covington
Tim Covington

Jim, the op-ed in the NYT is the same conclusion that friends of mine who are actively serving and are veterans came to when the entire Syria thing started up. The problem is, for the majority of the US public attacking another country is a great way to boost the approval ratings of whichever administration is currently in power. One of the questions we have to ask when ousting the government of another country is "Will we get a better government after we leave there?" Usually, the answer is no.

Just sayin
Just sayin

How much $$$ does the observer waste on schizer's pay?

ctbrd1019
ctbrd1019

Depend on who you ask it could be all of it or none of it.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

The DMN is good for an occasional read..like the guy w/ a IV in his arm eight days after leaving parkland (DO should've picked up on that story besides "your favorite frozen foods" or "sprinkler man" BTW) but most of the good op-ed is paywalled, which is a serious determent to everyone

Mervis
Mervis

The paywall is a serious determent only if you can't figure out how to click, cut and paste, right click search with Google and click again. Now you don't have to figure it out.

So you think Reitz and crew should have covered the IV story in City of Ate?

James M. Moroney III
James M. Moroney III

Memo to Robert W. Mong Jr.:

May I remind you that the cuecat did not have a right-clink option.Go take your, " we will put it behind a pay wall ass," and man the Northwest Hwy wall until I fire off the fireworks.

James

Paul
Paul

 Does this come under the heading of "Don't argue with someone who buys paper by the ton and ink by the barrel"?

Nunya
Nunya

Oh wow! Thanks for that!

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Honestly, yes..thats news, showing that a local hospital system is broken and so inept they cant even remember if they pulled someone IV line...Not some jackass doing "The Sprinkler" at the Rangers Game...put that in Sportatorium Tone..

lorlee
lorlee

Okay, so how many of us would have kept it in for 8 days.  Most of us probably would have noticed and gone back to give it back to them rather than wait 8 days to make a scene at the Commissioner's Court.    But heck, he got the publicity he apparently wanted -- rather than showing some common sense.

Phelps
Phelps

Stop watching him.  Haven't watched CNN in forever.  It's not good reporting and the opinion is even worse.

Joe Tone
Joe Tone

Coming next week: Jim reads the Wall Street Journal while wearing his hat cam!

Montemalone
Montemalone

Just keep him away from the op/ed pages. It's enough to make any sane person scream.

Heywood U Buzzoff
Heywood U Buzzoff

Yes, Syria is going to be another bloody mess that US Taxpayers will find their money going to finance the mess.  Sadly in the past fifty years, Presidents have decided that we needed to go to Vietnam, Grenada, Iraq, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan with unclear missions and got nebulous results. 

But the News is a good paper?  Have you been sniffing your Cue-Cat again, Jimbo? 

Tim Covington
Tim Covington

Well, when we went to the following places, it was a very clear mission:1. Grenada - get the Cubans out of there (they were building a military airstrip) and secure the safety of US citizens who were there studying medicine. I would say we were successful.2. Iraq 1 - We went to kick Iraq out of Kuwait and make sure they didn't do it again. Again, I would say we were successful.

When using military force, the key is to have very clearly defined goals that are achievable in a relatively short time frame. Conquering countries (Afghanistan and Iraq 2) are not so easily done.

JimS
JimS

Iraq 2: destroy wepaons of mass destruction. Oops. They don't have any. Double-oops: we knew that before we went in, but we lied about it.Afghanistan: make the Afghan people have a different culture and like us. Pay them a bounty if their kids get blown up by drones. Be shocked and angry when they don't like us. Shoot them. 

Geopolitics is the reason
Geopolitics is the reason

Jim,

We are in Afghanistan for ONE reason alone.......because it is right between IRAN (several reasons to have a presence next door to them) and PAKISTAN. Pakistan has hundreds (or more) nuclear warheads, and the government could fall to the military at any time. I think there are plenty of examples of corruption in Pakistan's government so I won't list them here.

The "hunt for bin laden" was a cover for the real reason.....setting up a foothold between two very dangerous places.

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