Saturday, September 12, 2009

Record Low on 9/11 (and I'm not talking weather)

Its failings notwithstanding, there is much to be said in favor of journalism in that by giving us the opinion of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.
Oscar Wilde

It’s always a good idea to believe everything you read in the papers; it makes them so much more interesting. Author undetermined.

In an extraordinary combined display of duplicity, irresponsibility, insensitivity, and horrible judgment, our local newspaper yesterday ran a commentary called “A skeptic’s view of the 9/11 attacks,” by Steven Shaw of Brunswick.

In his “truther” essay, Shaw asserts:

“To probe the facts of that day is to discover abundant evidence of a fraud of mind-boggling proportions: that a faction within our own government must have been central to the planning and execution of the attacks.”

In so doing, Shaw joins ranks with Van Jones, the recently departed “Green Jobs Czar” in the Obama administration, and with untold millions who are willing to strain credulity beyond all human limits and dismiss what more lucid thinkers consider common sense. But when your very self-image depends on proving that George Bush and Dick Cheney are first cousins of Lucifer, you’ll grasp at any straw.

I’m reminded of September 12, 2001; the day after the attack. On that day, in the midst of great national fright, the Times Record ran a letter by Rosalie Tyler Paul, a leader in the local PeaceWorks coalition. In her letter, Tyler Paul confidently stated that the attack was our fault, (and as I recall, that we deserved it.)

I was taken aback by the clearly unsubstantiated claim, but even more, by the Times Record publishing such a toxic and insensitive letter while bodies were still being pulled from the wreckage. That single event elevated my view of the Times Record to a new low. It opened my eyes on their editorial policy and the local zeitgeist in a way that is permanently burned in.

I've had many items published in the Times Record, and often they have demanded that I document or otherwise substantiate my assertions. Most recently, on the last item I wrote on Oxford Aviation, they came at me from all levels in the organization to challenge my effort.

From this experience, I was supposed to take away that they are scrupulous and diligent in making sure that anything they publish, specifically on the op-ed page, is ‘vetted’ for accuracy before publishing.

What a crock, if you’ll pardon a bit of “other side” language. I could cite case after case of official/professional/paid columns (Doug Rooks, various members of our Legislature, Paul Krugman, and others) where “healthy journalistic skepticism” was still putting on its pants when the paper went to the presses. And if you are a citizen or public contributor whose values and claims align with the editors, skepticism can’t even find its pants, let alone put them on.

The double standard is indisputable to anyone who reads critically and has had experience knocking heads with the editors and the “editorial board.”

That said, running Shaw’s piece in the prized central position on the “weekend edition” op-ed page, and on the very anniversary of the event, demonstrates an especially insensitive “in your face” attitude on the part of the editors. I can imagine many readers turned to the page while watching news coverage of the poignant memorial events taking place on the anniversary of this tragic event. How thoughtful of the Times Record to run an item that spit in their face, in a manner of speaking, as their hearts ached for those who were lost.

I have no doubt that in this area, there will be throngs who disagree with me, because they agree with Shaw. For my money, however, this is a new low in journalistic ethics and judgment at the Times Record.

I won’t link to the Shaw commentary. Most who follow Other Side would be repulsed by it, and those who agree with Shaw will have already read and framed it, or looked it up at the very least. If you think that promoting such theories is rare around here, you would be wrong. Our own community cable TV carries frequent content provided by PeaceWorks, including various academics theorizing on the “truther” view.

So in a rather sad commentary in itself, the Times Record is, in a way, mirroring the judgment, ideology, and sensitivity of the local “community.”

(editor’s note: Side has a reputation for a sharp tongue, and does not deny such tendencies. At the moment, however, said tongue is quite bloody from being bitten, and bitten hard.)


  1. If Times Record decided to filter out what some consider insensitive articles like Stephen Shaw's 9/11 "Truth" then your articles that appear oh-so-frequently would be [happily] obliterated as well.

    Since when, Pem, have you questioned your own ideas and opinions? Was it half a decade ago when you were a teen? For the wisest of people do not make their ideas 100% concrete. The smartest men are those who are willing to sit down and listen to others' ideas.

    Yet, you continue to simply state the same garrulous ideas over and over, expecting your message to implant itself as a very researched, correct answer.

    Before you cast EVERYONE on the left side's opinion in the trash, maybe you should read into things, do some research. Research goes both ways, you don't look up only what you want to know.

    So what if someone questions what the news said about 9/11? "TERRORISTS DID IT!" was the first idea implanted in our minds, and it stuck.

    If anyone is satisfied with the evidence presented following such a tragedy, then they have some petty levels of curiosity and are used to believing what they are told.

    Pem Schaeffer, I ENJOY reading my hometown paper, The Times Record. I enjoy the coverage of local events and happenings.

    Your letters, however, are the reason that papers implemented a policy that allows only one reader submission per month.

    Your blog is disgusting and your rhetoric does not help your ideas appear educated or intelligent.

  2. Thanks for the compliments, Mike.

    Glad to hear you visit regularly.

    You need to work on your age guessing skills, though.

  3. So, "Mike", did we "deserve" it?