Monday, June 26, 2006

Has the NYT Jumped the Shark? 

Infamously, last Friday the New York Times ran an article (and the LA Times ran a similar piece) exposing the government's program of monitoring certain international banking transactions, conducted in an effort to interdict the financing of terrorist activities. I haven't blogged about it until now because it has me so outraged that I find it difficult to think clearly about the matter.

To me, the primary issue is not so much disclosing national security secrets to the enemy, although that's bad enough. What really fries my eggs is the incredible arrogance that the NYT and LAT and their senior management and editors exhibit by appointing themselves the supreme arbiter of what should and should not be disclosed. Um, excuse me, guys, but isn't that why we elect a president and members of congress? Much smarter and more knowledgable people than I apparently have similar thoughts.

I don't subscribe to either rag, so I can't protest by cancelling my subscription; and I feel that writing a letter to the editor will have the same effect as yelling at Niagara Falls to stop flowing. I mean, after all, if Pinch and Bill and Eric and James and their equivalents at the LAT won't listen to the administration's pleas not to run the story, why would they listen to a mere citizen from the hinterlands? (As reference, in that famous Saul Steinberg New Yorker cover from March 1976, I'm located about as far toward the upper left corner as you can get before hitting the Pacific or Mexico.)

Those guys really need to have their chain jerked. What I would like to see, but probably won't, is a sharp dropoff of advertising in both the NYT and the LAT. If patriotic businesses were to spend their advertising budgets in any medium but those two publications, I think there's a possibility that it might engender some changes. They are, after all, businesses, and must earn a profit to remain viable. And it's not like either paper is the only place to advertise in their primary markets.

In the meantime, I really really hope that the Attorney General investigates this matter and prosecutes to the fullest anyone who has committed a crime by illegally disclosing or publishing national security secrets. (As an aside, it seems to me the Pinch and Bill crowd must feel pretty comfortable that they won't be subjected to the same kind of treatment that the creators and publishers of certain cartoons have experienced as a result of, er, public displeasure.)

UPDATE: Tom Maguire analyzes Times Editor Bill Keller's "explanation" of why he ran the story.

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