Sunday, October 14, 2012

Margaret Sullivan Moves into the Center Ring

--"Now there are two Irish women," Mrs. Buce remarked over breakfast.

--Two what? 

Oh, right. She's reading the Sunday New York Times, in particular Maureen Dowd, whose weekend offering often provokes at Chez Buce a fullscale dramatic oral rendition.  But, two?

--Ah.  Mrs. Buce had happened on Margaret Sullivan, the New York Times' new public editor, who has already proven she is her own woman, in a kerfuffle last week about indecorous tweets.     Here is Ms. Sullivan today, trolling for much bigger fish: in particular the creepy/unsettling story of the drone attacks, and the general question of whether our President has, or ought to have, the right to knock off  targets or bystanders at the end of the earth on his own say-so. 

Sullivan starts small with a crisp summary of the (reported) record to date: between 282 and 535 civilians, including more 60 children.  She reviews the journalism, including the masterly report last spring by the Times' own Scott Shane and Jo Becker.  

But then--but then the point is not to pat two Times reporters on the back for a piece of work they signed off on nearly five months ago.  Sullivan's real point emerges as twofold: one, this is a hell of a story, not nearly fully enough explored; and two, the Times is one of those not on it:
Since the article in May, its reporting has not aggressively challenged the administration’s description of those killed as “militants” — itself an undefined term. And it has been criticized for giving administration officials the cover of anonymity when they suggest that critics of drones are terrorist sympathizers.  ...
With its vast talent and resources, The Times has a responsibility to lead the way in covering this topic as aggressively and as forcefully as possible, and to keep pushing for transparency so that Americans can understand just what their government is doing.
All this is on point and worthwhile but conceptually, it's not a lot different from clucking about the misspelling the name of the mayor of Pokipsie Pookepsie, Phoughkeepsie.  Far more interesting are ten intervening paragraphs in which Sullivan takes it upon herself to summarize just how creepy/unsettling this whole drone business is: not only an underreported story but rather also a story that would be a lot more unsettling if it got the kind of coverage it deserves.   Here if not before, Ms. Sullivan makes clear that she has got a bully pulpit and is going to use it.  

How long is her term of office, is it two years [no, it's four--ed.]?  My guess is there is someone in the bowels of the Times' overstuffed management echelon who is already marking dates on his calendar.  Meanwhile for Sullivan's full "drone" column, go here.


dilbert dogbert said...

My brain works in weird ways so I am wondering if what bothers people is the word "drone", a remotely piloted vehicle, or the president acting outside the constitutional limits of his powers? Are folks just wakening to what presidents do with their "war powers"?
Or, are folks aware of the war powers, but are concerned that acts under those powers are getting us in a world of hurt down the road?
The dilbert wonders.

Anonymous said...

NYT amplifies the govt.'s claims without challenge and you're putting that on par with misspelling a name? So whether a drone hits a military target or an innocent person who is minding his/her own business is of no consequence? Because I have news for you, the latter happens time and again - HUNDREDS of innocent people have died - but you wouldn't know that if you read the Times. In the matter of the drone war (as in many other areas), the Times is happy to print agitprop instead of news. Why doesn't that bother you? What's wrong with you?

Anonymous said...

These "acts" are killing hundreds of innocent people and spreading terror among targeted populations, all under cover of secrecy. It's not that complicated.

Getting 'us' in a world of hurt? You can't think that's the point?

That said... if you have to ask whether being bombed provokes hostility and hatred toward the attacker, I don't know what to say to you.

dilbert dogbert said...

I guess my living through WW2 and terror bombing by both sides (Napalm and two nukes in Japan plus German bombing of cities replied by bombing of German cities), North Korea, Vietnam free fire zones, makes me think all modern wars are fought against civilians.
Maybe the "Drone" controversy will change that?