WikiLeaks, The New York Times, and Double Standards

When ideology forces editorial decisions.

The New York Times, like so many other left-leaning old media outlets, forever denies that ideology plays any part in the way it makes its editorial decisions. Instead, editors and columnists continually climb onto the lofty pedestal of purity and declare they are merely employing the highest journalistic standards. Given several high profile scandals that rocked the Times in recent years, that pedestal was already in serious need of repair. Now, with their ideologically-driven duplicity on full display with their extensive coverage of the latest WikiLeaks release, one cannot help but wonder how editors at the Times can continue to look at themselves in their mirrors.

Ironically, it was a year ago when the Times decided that a bit of news that rocked the rest of the world was not fit to print in their hallowed pages. When the "climategate" scandal broke in late November of 2009, the Times took a pass. How does one ignore a story that involves the heart and soul of what is supposedly the greatest crisis our planet has ever faced? How did the Times – a publication always so very eager to sniff out the very hint of a scandal involving conservatives, Republicans or corporations – convince itself that it shouldn’t investigate this one? The answer involves a two-step exercise in self-deception. First, you have to convince yourself that the reason that you’re ignoring the story has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that it’s at odds with your cherished worldview. Then, you have to invent some pseudo-logical contrivance to explain why you didn’t have to – couldn’t – deal with the uncomfortable story.

When climategate first broke, Andy Revkin, then the environmental editor at the Times, explained his paper’s non-coverage of the climategate story this way:

The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here.

Many readers howled, wondering why The New York Times would publish illegally-obtained material like the Pentagon Papers, but was too squeamish to talk about climategate documents that were available to anyone in the world with access to the Internet. New York Times public ombudsman Clark Hoyt tried to explain how his employer had split this particular hair a few days later:

[T]he decision, which was driven by advice from a Times attorney. The lawyer, George Freeman, told me that there is a large legal distinction between government documents like the Pentagon Papers, which The Times published over the objections of the Nixon administration, and e-mail between private individuals, even if they may receive some government money for their work. He said the Constitution protects the publication of leaked government information, as long as it is newsworthy and the media did not obtain it illegally. But the purloined e-mail, he said, was covered by copyright law in the United States and Britain.

While an attorney usually makes for a convenient shield, Times attorney George Freeman provided scant cover in this instance. There was nothing “private” about correspondence between the scientists at the heart of climategate. That’s not my opinion, that’s what the scientists themselves said. In order to duck Freedom of Information Act requests, the official position of the climategate scientists was that their work and their correspondence belonged to the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and, accordingly, the scientists could not release documents that were essentially IPCC property. Clearly, if correspondence between two diplomats is not private in the Times’ eyes, it’s ludicrous to suggest that correspondence between two scientists working for a governmental organization like the IPCC is somehow different.

Even if one accepts the Times’ tortuous logic regarding the e-mails between government-funded academics corresponding about government-funded research, that doesn’t explain why the paper ignored the rest of the climategate leaks. The most fascinating, and most damning, portion of the release involved data files that clearly showed how flawed IPCC research was and how far the organization had strayed from the scientific method. Those data files were used to form public policy and shape public opinion every bit as much as the Pentagon Papers were used to form public policy and shape public opinion during the Viet Nam war. Yet, the Times spent no time examining those files or calling upon independent experts to decipher their meaning. Instead, they found their escape route and they ran toward it with gusto.

Now, the Times finds itself in the privileged position of being one of the select media outlets that WikiLeaks has graced with the early release of State Department files and correspondence that it stole. Clearly, Julian Assange knows that The New York Times is so reliably ideologically hamstrung that it will readily comply with his desires: to publish what he has stolen and to thus help create the chaos he so fervently hopes for. The Times sniffed that it redacted some names and consulted with the government before publishing the latest document cache, and that’s great, but it’s rather beside the point. Consulting with the government does not equate to cooperating with the government. The latest WikiLeaks document dump imperils our interests, endangers our allies and emboldens our enemies. It will be very difficult for the intelligence community and diplomatic corps of the United States to regain the trust of spies and diplomats in allied nations now that they know how fragile our internal security is. There’s a word that describes actions that imperil America’s interests, endanger American allies and embolden America’s enemies. That word is espionage, and those found guilty of espionage are usually locked away for a long, long time.

Julian Assange and his accomplices at WikiLeaks need to be caught and tried for espionage. Do The New York Times and the other media outlets aiding and abetting Assange deserve the same fate? That’s a question best answered by attorneys. But, even if it cannot be proven that the Times knowingly undermined the interests of the United States, there should be no doubt that the paper has long ago unfurled its left-wing banner for all to see. For there’s not really a double standard at The New York Times; there is, rather, an easily-understood single standard. If a story fits into their ideology, Times editors will be happy to run with it to the ends of the earth. If not, they will conclude oh-so-sadly that they have finally, remarkably found news that’s not actually fit to print.