Sunday, February 27, 2011

9-11 and our little dust-up with The Ostrich

Regular readers know that two posts have appeared in recent days regarding editorial ‘differences’ with the award winning Ostrich, or NOTWIUN in this case, if you prefer.

It got us to thinking of past examples of questionable and inconsistent execution of op-ed page policies on their part.  And a particularly infuriating example from the past came to mind.

Have you ever submitted a letter or commentary to the NOTWIUN?  If so, have you ever had it published the very next day?  In our prior life, we submitted perhaps a hundred or so such items to the editors, and we can’t recall ever once having an item published the next day.

Strangely enough, there are those instances where it can happen.  You may recall that on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, four hijacked airliners crashed into American targets: the Twin Towers in New York City at 8:46 and 9:03 am; the Pentagon at 9:37 am; and a field in Pennsylvania at 10:03 am (this was not the target, obviously.)

Do you remember not being able to make sense of what was happening, and being unable to comprehend its awful scale and profound consequences?  It would take days, and weeks, and months, and even years for it all to sink in.

For most of us, that is.  One well-known member of the local peace community was able to make sense of it all immediately, and draft and submit a letter to The Ostrich in time for it to be printed in the next day’s edition (Wednesday, September 12, 2001).  Body counts, the extent of destruction, and other consequences of the terrorist acts were barely becoming known, yet this prescient writer had already figured it all out, written it up, and sent it on in.

Here’s what she said in that letter:

Now will we learn?
Rosalie Tyler Paul, Georgetown

To the editor:

U.S. determination to control the world through military force, in the name of protecting our economic interests, has brought us to this dreaded day of retaliation. Violence breeds violence and will continue to do so until a wise nation decides to try another way.

Can this awful experience help us learn to care more for humanity and beauty than for money? Can we finally learn to use our "power" to nurture and protect all people and the Earth we depend upon for life?

We have a choice as a nation, we have a choice as citizens, to insist on leadership that comes from the spirit rather than the pocketbook.

Let us give up our support of one side against another for our own benefit. Let us not, for instance, support Israel against Palestine because Israel provides a military base in the Middle East. Let us blame only our own greed and misuse of power.

Surely we can now see that no missile defense system is of any use against terrorist attack. Let us put those billions of dollars to work on education and health care, job training, public transportation, renewable energy sources, sustainable economic and environmental practices.

What breathtaking insights into the cause of the attacks, and who they were committed by, in a matter of just a few hours!  Why it’s almost as if the writer knew about the plan before it was implemented.

As for us, we were struck by the incredible insensitivity of the writer, that as thousands were dying, the only thing that came to her mind was to criticize her country and its grieving, bewildered, and shocked citizens.  Insensitivity exceeded only by the editorial judgment that would conclude that publishing such a diatribe only 24 hours after the events was the right thing to do for their readers. 

We can only imagine the furious effort to substantiate the writer’s claims, before using the letter to spit in the face of readers that painful Wednesday.  Probably just as furious as in innumerable other cases of verifying letter writer’s claims.  Oh hell, it was a slow news day, right?  And as they say these days, ‘it fit the narrative’ of the editorial board.

The record is strewn with such examples of award-defying journalistic achievements.  We’ll have more to say about that in a few days; so just be patient.

And we’ll save the story about how one editor sand-bagged me on behalf of Johnny Protocols for another time.  And the same for the time another editor accepted an award for writing a commentary that had, in fact, been written and submitted by a reader.

They’re both real doozies, but they don’t quite rise to the level of the current discussion.

Or should we say sink?

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