May 17, 2002
Mr. Thomas Friedman
The New York Times
Dear Mr. Friedman:
In your May 12 column, you described the Internet as "an open sewer: an electronic conduit for untreated, unfiltered
information." Alas, I must agree. How can one deny such a description of a medium that swills out "Free Republic" and Matt Drudge."
And yet, I must confess that I am a confirmed internet sewer-rat. I have been driven to the internet because the corporate media in general, and the
New York Times in particular, have abandoned their journalistic integrity and have become obedient sycophants of an illegitimate and unelected regime.
Yes, there is a superabundance of "untreated, unfiltered information" on the internet. But sadly, so too in the established media. For example, the "Whitewater affair," which found first light at the New York Times, and which, after eight years and $50 million was finally determined to be without foundation. So too, "Filegate," "Travelgate," and so on. Following this, there were the groundless slanders of Al Gore who, in fact, never claimed to have "invented the internet" or to have "discovered" the Love Canal scandal. These were accompanied by a complete indifference to George Bush’s manifest disqualifications for high office. The numerous felonies that gave Florida and the 2000 election to Bush (e.g., the "yuppie riot" at the Miami elections office, and the "deselection" of tens of thousands of eligible voters, and much, much more) were downplayed, and instead we were told in a
November, 2001 New York Times headline that a "Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices Did not Cast the Deciding Vote." And the lies and spin continue, with the false accusation that the Clinton team "trashed" the White House, that Ken Lay was a guest in the Clinton White House, and most recently, that Bill Clinton was seriously considering an "Oprah style" talk
The list of spin, lies, and deceptions in the media is long: too long to enumerate in this space. (For more, see my
"Following the Light" ).
Accordingly, the credibility of the establishment media has been squandered and forfeited. "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!" And so, in desperation, I turn to the internet. There, I carefully and critically pick and choose among the few remaining journalistic voices worth reading – in the
New York Times, Frank Rich, Paul Krugman, and yes, occasionally, Tom Friedman. Also, through such "gateway" sites as "Smirking Chimp," "Media Whores Online" "Truthout," and "Bushwatch," I read opinion and news from independent, progressive and foreign sources. (The BBC and the CBC now give me the responsible journalism that I once found at the
New York Times).
Slogging through "the open sewer" of the internet is admittedly not a pleasant experience. However, as practicing philosopher I suspect that I may have a better than average BS detector, and so I am willing to pick out the few gems amongst the rubbish. And in fact, there is really no acceptable alternative.
Not unless and until the New York Times and the other once-great journalistic institutions display again the courage, independence and integrity
of Ed Murrow vs. Joe McCarthy, of Cronkite vs. the Viet-Nam War, of the Washington Post and Watergate, of the New York Times and the Pentagon Papers.
I see no evidence that this will happen any time soon.
"The Online Gadfly"
June 3, 2002
Hon. Richard Gephardt
Congress of the United States
Dear Mr. Gephardt,
Recently you said on a CNN sound bite "I never, ever, ever, thought that anybody, including the President, did anything up to September 11 other than their best." (Verbatim from video tape).
Did John Ashcroft "do his best" when he put terrorism at the bottom of his priority list, below child pornography, drug control, relaxation of gun controls, and interference with state "right to die" laws?
Did Donald Rumsfeld "do his best" when he refused to transfer $800 Million from
missile defense to anti-terrorism?
Did Dick Cheney "do his best" when he dismissed the Hart-Rudman report, with scarcely a word of comment, much less evidence of ever studying it?
Did George Bush "do his best" when he proposed a cut of $58 million from the FBI counter-terrorism budget? Did he "do his best" when he disregarded numerous warnings from intelligence agencies, most notably a briefing memo on August 6, and chose instead to spend an extended vacation at his Crawford Ranch?
The list of Bush Administration nonfeasance is long, and you are surely much more aware of the particulars on that list than I am.
Yet you say that you "never, ever, ever, thought that anybody, including the President, did anything up to September 11 other than their best."
Mr. Gephardt, you are reportedly a "leader of the opposition." If so, then
And if you are unwilling to do so, then please step aside in favor of someone who is.
"The Online Gadfly"