As far as the New York Times (NYT) publisher and executive editor are concerned, Donald Trump’s victory was the result of “an erratic and unpredictable election.” In an unusual letter “To Our Readers,” the two NYT executives suggested that it was perhaps “Donald Trump’s sheer unconventionality” that led their paper “and other news outlets to underestimate his support among American voters.” But not long afterwards, the NYT public editor admitted that there is a “searing level of dissatisfaction out there with many aspects of the coverage,” noting that readers were fed up with the “swirl of like-mindedness” offered by the NYT, and that even “many of the more liberal voters wanted more balanced coverage. Not an echo chamber of liberal intellectualism, but an honest reflection of reality.”
Well, count me in: like many Israelis and supporters of Israel, I’ve often felt that it would be great if the NYT coverage of Israel and the Middle East was more of “an honest reflection of reality.” But as amply documented by the media watchdog CAMERA, the paper has shown a “long-standing pattern of prejudiced reporting and editorializing when it comes to Israel.”
In the “echo chamber of liberal intellectualism,” the world’s only Jewish state exists primarily to be criticized for countless failings. Indeed, if a Trump-like figure had run in Israel, all the echo chamber pundits would have rushed to predict his victory, gleefully reminding everyone of the longstanding echo chamber wisdom that the Jewish state was inexorably sliding rightward into a quasi-fascist quagmire.
So this is perhaps a good time for those of us who usually focus on media bias against Israel to recall that this bias is often due to the same echo chamber that left much of the US mainstream media oblivious to what was going on in the US. As I put it in my Twitter profile when I joined five years ago: “Make no mistake: The punditocracy that gets Israel wrong also gets a lot of other things wrong...”
When it comes to getting Israel wrong, NYT star columnist Nick Kristof has a bit of a record; he has also gotten Israel and the US (and various other issues) wrong at the same time; and as I have argued in a previous post, he also got it wrong when he tried to exploit the plight of last century’s Jewish refugees for the benefit of today’s mostly Muslim refugees. On the other hand, Kristof penned a notable “Confession of Liberal Intolerance” a few months ago, and in his recent column – where he offers “A 12-Step Program for Responding to President-Elect Trump” for readers “[t]raumatized by the election results” – he urges everyone to “resist dwelling in an echo chamber.” But long before Kristof gets around to warning about “dwelling in an echo chamber” in step 8, he shows that his own echo chamber remains largely intact: in step 2, Kristof calls on his readers to “sign up on the Council on American-Islamic Relations [CAIR] website” in order to volunteer “to fight Islamophobia;” and in step 5 he urges “support [for] groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center [SPLC] that fight hate groups.”
To begin with the latter, it is hard to believe that Kristof is unaware that SPLC completely discredited itself when it recently denounced Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali – who are both advocating for reforms to counter Islamism and Muslim extremism – as “anti-Muslim extremists.” By smearing Nawaz and Hirsi Ali, SPLC isn’t fighting hate groups, but joining them.
It is perhaps no coincidence that CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper has reportedly denounced Hirsi Ali as “one of the worst of the worst of Islam haters in America, not only in America but worldwide.” CAIR also claimed credit for pressuring Brandeis University to cancel an honorary degree for Hirsi Ali. In this affair, CAIR clearly showed that it has no lower limit by falsely insinuating that Hirsi Ali had shown “sympathy for [Norwegian] mass murderer Anders Breivik.”
Kristof can hardly be unaware of how controversial CAIR has been since its establishment in 1994. A Salon article from late September 2001 notes that “Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of CAIR, refuses to outright condemn Osama bin Laden;” the article also points out that a former chief of the FBI’s counterterrorism section had stated “that CAIR’s activities ‘effectively give aid to international terrorist groups.’” Moreover, according to Salon,
“CAIR’s founder, Nihad Awad, wrote in the Muslim World Monitor that the World Trade Center trial [for the 1993 WTC terror attack], which ended in the conviction in 1994 of four Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, was ‘a travesty of justice.’ According to Awad — and despite the confessions of the terrorists from the 1993 attack — ‘there is ample evidence indicating that both the Mossad and the Egyptian Intelligence played a role in the explosion.’”
Hooper is still CAIR’s National Communications Director, and Awad is still Executive Director.
The Anti-Defamation League states in a summary of a comprehensive report on CAIR:
“CAIR’s stated commitment to ‘justice and mutual understanding’… is undermined by its anti-Israel agenda. CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad has accused Israel supporters in the U.S. of promoting ‘a culture of hostility towards Islam’ and CAIR chapters continue to partner with various anti-Israel groups that seek to isolate and demonize the Jewish State.
CAIR’s anti-Israel agenda dates back to its founding by leaders of the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), a Hamas affiliated anti-Semitic propaganda organization. While CAIR has denounced specific acts of terrorism in the U.S. and abroad, for many years it refused to unequivocally condemn Palestinian terror organizations and Hezbollah by name […]
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has distanced itself from CAIR over the years. In an April 2009 letter to the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security, the FBI explained that it suspended contact with CAIR because of evidence introduced during the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) trial, demonstrating that CAIR and its founders were part of a group set up by the Muslim Brotherhood to support Hamas.”
While CAIR may by now have come to denounce some “specific acts of terrorism in the U.S. and abroad,” a good recent example of the kind of problematic activism pursued by CAIR is the energetic campaigning of CAIR-Chicago for convicted terrorist murderer Rasmea Odeh. (Detailed reporting on the Odeh case available at Legal Insurrection, see particularly “Rasmea Odeh rightly convicted of Israeli supermarket bombing and U.S. immigration fraud.”)
So despite CAIR’s problematic record – starting from its establishment in 1994 up to today – Nick Kristof is prepared to give the group a prominent endorsement that is probably worth tens of thousands of advertisement dollars. Indeed, CAIR announces on its website that there has been “a tremendous increase in support in terms of volunteers, donations and expressions of solidarity.”
If Nick Kristof ever emerges from his echo chamber, he will perhaps realize that influential NYT columnists telling their readers to sign on to a problematic group like CAIR is actually one of those things that might have helped convince many in “Middle America” that the liberal elites should just be swept away. And no, one doesn’t have to be a racist to oppose CAIR’s vision for America: CAIR wants an America were the courageous activist and writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali is denounced as a loathsome “anti-Muslim bigot” with “hate-filled and extremist views,” while Rasmea Odeh, the convicted terrorist murderer of two Israelis, is celebrated as an admirable “Palestinian American community organizer and women’s leader.”
The question is: did Kristof provide CAIR with a valuable endorsement because he shares their vision for America, or was he just too comfortably ensconced in his echo chamber to know about it?