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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Worse Than Judy Miller

In a useful reminder that, as bad as it was (and leading to tens of thousands of deaths or more), the NYT media malpractice in the run-up to the Iraq war still was not as terrible, and consequential, as its performance on issues related to the Holocaust.  The Times just posted a guide to that (for teachers and students and other readers), calling this "The Century's Bitterest Journalistic Failure," though I'm not sure if "bitterest" does it justice.  They also quote from Max Frankel's landmark 2001 coming to terms, such as:
And then there was failure: none greater than the staggering, staining failure of The New York Times to depict Hitler’s methodical extermination of the Jews of Europe as a horror beyond all other horrors in World War II — a Nazi war within the war crying out for illumination.
The annihilation of six million Jews would not for many years become distinctively known as the Holocaust. But its essence became knowable fast enough, from ominous Nazi threats and undisputed eyewitness reports collected by American correspondents, agents and informants. Indeed, a large number of those reports appeared in The Times. But they were mostly buried inside its gray and stolid pages, never featured, analyzed or rendered truly comprehensible.
Yet what they printed made clear that the editors did not long mistrust the ghastly reports. They presented them as true within months of Hitler’s secret resolve in 1941 to proceed to the ”final solution” of his fantasized ”Jewish problem.”  Why, then, were the terrifying tales almost hidden in the back pages? Like most — though not all — American media, and most of official Washington, The Times drowned its reports about the fate of Jews in the flood of wartime news. Its neglect was far from unique and its reach was not then fully national, but as the premier American source of wartime news, it surely influenced the judgment of other news purveyors.
Then there's a whole book about this. 


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