The New York Times printed a special section on the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center terror attacks: “The Reckoning: America and the World a Decade After 9/11.”
Though the 40-page section was mostly respectful, focusing on the victims and personal remembrances of that horrible day, there was some scattered politicized reporting within the section, and some objectionable editorializing elsewhere in the Times September 11 edition.
A subsection entitled “Muslims Now” was highlighted by Andrea Elliott’s long article, “Young Muslims Come of Age.” Elliott saw “public opposition to mosques, rising hate crimes and proposed legislation aimed” aimed at Muslims.
Remziya Suleyman hardly noticed the rain as she stood in April under the shelter of a black umbrella in Nashville, waiting for the rally to begin. She had imagined this moment for months, yet her mouth fell open as a bus from Knoxville pulled up, and then one from Memphis, delivering the first of hundreds of Muslims to her charge.
Many had never voted, much less marched. In their native lands -- countries like Syria, Somalia and Iran -- protests brought dangerous repercussions. But here in Tennessee, a place long considered safe harbor for Muslim immigrants, they were confronting a new tempest: public opposition to mosques, rising hate crimes and proposed legislation aimed, they felt, at marginalizing people of their faith.
As hate crimes against Muslims soared, the youngest recoiled at first, keeping a low profile, said Lori Peek, a sociologist at Colorado State University and author of “Behind the Backlash: Muslim Americans After 9/11.”
Suleyman participated in a protest at the state capitol building in Tennessee:
They lined the hallways of the state Capitol, where lawmakers were deliberating on an antiterrorism statute that, in its original wording, singled out shariah, or Islamic law, as a security threat -- the latest effort in a national movement fueled by rising antipathy toward Muslims. Under mounting criticism, Tennessee’s lawmakers had removed all references to Islam, but Muslim leaders were still nervous the statute would lead to unfair treatment.
But Newsbuster Noel Sheppard rounded up some actual hate crime statistics last year and found no rampant Islamaphobia in America; in fact, FBI data indicates hate crimes against Jews are ten times more common than hate crimes against Muslims.
Sunday’s lead editorial, “Loss and Hope” turned from expressing sadness for the lives lost that day to a jeremiad against the “rise in xenophobia, and “a weakening of...civil liberties” that followed.
But America has not been enlarged in the years that have passed. Based on false pretexts, we were drawn into a misdirected war that has exacted enormous costs in lives and money. Our civic life is tainted by a rise in xenophobia that betrays our best ideals. As we prepared for a war on terrorism, we gave in to a weakening of the civil liberties that have been the foundation of our culture.
Former Executive Editor Bill Keller, who supported the invasion of Iraq, with caveats, confessed in a self-absorbed Sunday Review column (“My Unfinished 9/11 Business – A hard look at why I wanted war") that the Iraq War “was a monumental blunder”
Keller, in a revealing sidelight, admitted Times journalists were feeling pressured by the left. It would certainly account for the slant of the paper’s forthcoming coverage.
The remedy for bad journalism is more and better journalism. Reporters at The Times made amends for the credulous prewar stories with investigations of the bad intelligence and with brave, relentless and illuminating coverage of the war and occupation. But what The Times writes casts a long shadow. For years, our early stories hyping Iraq’s menace (and to a lesser extent what people like me wrote on the opinion pages) fed a suspicion, especially on the left, that we were not to be trusted.
John F. Burns, a correspondent who chronicled the tyranny of Hussein while the man was still in power and stayed on to cover the invasion and aftermath, recalls the reflexive hostility he encountered as a Times reporter on trips home. “We were all liars, warmongers, lapdogs of Bush and Cheney and so forth,” he told me.
“Whatever we wrote -- no matter what it was, and no matter how well documented -- was dismissed as Bush propaganda,” added Dexter Filkins, who covered the battlefields and politics of Afghanistan and Iraq for The Times before moving last January to The New Yorker. “That was probably going to happen anyway, but the paper’s real failings gave those criticisms more credibility -- and longer legs -- than they deserved. Remember that the right-wingers (and a lot of the military) hated us at the time, too, since the war had started to go badly from the get-go, and we were reporting that.”