The front page of today’s NY Times features an article entitled “Big Coffers and a Rising Voice Lift a New Conservative Group.” It’s about the rise of Freedom Watch, formed to combat the anti-surge movement and the propaganda clout of MoveOn.
It’s a masterful demonstration of the Times’ ability to publish a piece purporting to be objective (don’t all Times articles purport to be objective?) and yet subtly shaded by what is left out more than what is put in—or the placement of whatever might be included.
Here’s the beginning of the second paragraph of the article:
Founded this summer by a dozen wealthy conservatives, the nonprofit group is set apart from most advocacy groups by the immense wealth of its core group of benefactors…
If Freedom Watch was founded to counter MoveOn, the latter is one advocacy group it’s most certainly not set apart from by the immense wealth of its core group of benefactors. MoveOn has some rather deep pockets as well—the benefactor in question being George Soros, no slouch in the wealth department himself.
The Times article is a substantial one—1664 words long, according to my computer. And yet it goes on for most of its length describing the wealth of Freedom Watch’s founders and their connections to the Bush Administration (and wouldn’t it be odd if a group of wealthy Republicans with strong political interests didn’t have some sort of ties to that Administration?), hinting strongly that the group is a mere front for the nefarious Bush. At the same time, it intially describes MoveOn only as a nine-year old group “which vehemently opposes the Iraq War” and whose influence is “derived in large part from its grass-roots efforts.”
What of controversial billionaire MoveOn benefactor Soros? Well, he finally does get mentioned—about 1,100 words into the article. By that time many if not most readers have probably deserted the piece, having gotten the gist of it and Moved On, as it were.
This is the way the Times finally refers to Soros, in a single bland sentence:
Like Freedom’s Watch, MoveOn had its origins in an attempt by wealthy political donors, including George Soros, to shape the debate in Washington.
And what of that other rather cumbersome and awkward elephant in the room, the Times’ own participation in the fray—the “Petraeus Betray Us” ad placed by MoveOn in its pages, receiving a cut-rate deal (probably due, no doubt, to the poverty of the group compared to behemoths like Freedom Watch [/sarcasm off])? Well, the Times does get around to mentioning it, way way down in the article’s final paragraphs, modestly referring to itself in the third person:
Freedom’s Watch also pounced on MoveOn.org’s full-page “General Betray Us” advertisement published Sept. 10 in The New York Times. Mr. Bush called the advertisement “disgusting.” Both chambers of Congress passed resolutions condemning the advertisement. The New York Times was also embroiled in the debate after giving MoveOn a discounted price for the advertisement, which the newspaper later acknowledged was a mistake. MoveOn has since agreed to pay the difference.
All’s well that ends well, right?
Meanwhile, Freedom Watch’s founders are not going away any time soon. In a closing sentence that may strike a tiny bit of fear into the hearts of the Times editors, former Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, a member and benefactor of Freedom Watch, is quoted as saying, “We will still be here after George Bush is gone.”
I wonder if the same could be said for the Times.