These ‘Times’ demand Robert Mackey

on 21 Comments

The New York Times has become notorious for its thoroughly pro-Israel reporting on Israel/Palestine. So it was somewhat of a shock to read recent entries on the Times’ "Lede" blog, authored by Robert Mackey, and see actual reporting and blogging that doesn’t take Israeli claims at face-value in the aftermath of the Israeli raid on the flotilla.

Mackey’s most recent post highlighted filmmaker Iara Lee’s unedited video from aboard the flotilla. He posted the full one-hour clip on the blog.

In an earlier posting, Mackey’s headline read, “Turkish Doctor Describes Treating Israeli Commandos During Raid,” highlighting two photos that show just that, therefore undermining the Israeli claim that they were met by a “lynch” mob intent on killing the commandos. Mackey even links to Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah’s blog, giving credit where it’s due, for Abunimah has been doing great work on the flotilla aftermath and, specifically, on the “lynching” claims. Linking to someone like Abunimah is not par for the course for the Times (has the Times ever assigned this writer an Op-Ed or a book review?) and I applaud Mackey for doing so.

Mackey also devoted a separate post to the testimony of two activists aboard the flotilla who were listed on the Israeli Defense Forces’ website as “active terror operatives.” Mackey casts skepticism on the Israeli claim, noting that there were factual errors in the IDF’s bios, and gives space to Fatima Mohammadi, an American citizen born in Tehran, who strongly denied the claim that she was a “terrorist.”

All of which leaves an obvious question: Why are there such stark differences between the Times’ online work at the "Lede" blog and its pathetic reporting in print? Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner deny space to Palestinian voices, let alone Palestinian analysts and activists like Abunimah who buck the conventional wisdom on Israel/Palestine.

Bronner’s article today on the blockade of Gaza includes the usual distortions the Times propagates on Israel/Palestine and Gaza. Imagine that article if Mackey became the Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief? And imagine the effect that Mackey’s getting print space– with free rein to cast substantial doubt on Israeli propaganda and quote smart people like Abunimah– would have on the bankrupt discourse in our mainstream media generally on these issues.

Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt suggested Bronner should be put in a different position than his current one as Jerusalem bureau chief at least for the duration of his son’s service in the IDF. That’s what should happen, and I have a good idea who should replace him.

21 Responses

  1. MRW
    June 11, 2010, 10:05 pm

    Good piece, Alex.

  2. Ethan Heitner
    June 11, 2010, 10:08 pm

    Man, have you seen Mackey in the trenches, responding to commenters, pointing out blatant factual inaccuracies? What a mensch, as Phil would say.
    What a good reporter. What a decent human being trying to do a tough fucking job.

    Admittedly, the heroic reporter in the trenches of the blog commentary is a little less romantic than the actual trenches of the war zone, but still, the man might be up for a journalistic silver star for bravery.

    • melka
      June 12, 2010, 7:34 am

      I noticed that. Not sure is gonna win any war, though, he’s surrounded by a myriad of pro-israel commenters. You might be armed with the best material, if they are hundreds, it’s gonna be hard. The roles are inverted this time, I guess.

  3. Avi
    June 11, 2010, 11:24 pm

    Alex, this is a good article.


  4. hayate
    June 12, 2010, 12:04 am

    “All of which leaves an obvious question: Why are there such stark differences between the Times’ online work at the “Lede” blog and its pathetic reporting in print?”

    How many read the former and how many read the latter?

    • hayate
      June 12, 2010, 12:16 am

      I should clarify that. During the several months of “color revolution” in the Ukraine, the UK guardian printed 3 very good articles/op-ed pieces debunking that covert regime change op. But every day, in their news section, frequently on the front page, they had stories (and I do mean “stories”) from their “corespondent in Kiev” repeating the orange propaganda. What stuck stuck most in the minds of their readership, 3 decent investigative commentaries/articles that provided facts, or 50-100 propaganda pieces of pure bs?

      The few good, informative articles get buried underneath the manure. The few informative articles give the rag a aura of credibility (sometimes with just a specific audience) while the propaganda is what lingers in the minds of the majority. And that’s what really counts.

      • Avi
        June 12, 2010, 12:25 am

        I agree. At the same time, it’s also important to bear in mind that the cumulative effect that Israel’s crimes have had is irreparable. No, not forever, but surely for several years or decades. Israel’s stigma as a brutal oppressor is going to be hard to shake.

      • hayate
        June 12, 2010, 1:14 am

        I agree.

  5. Richard Parker
    June 12, 2010, 2:06 am

    Robert Mackey is excellent, no doubt about it. I complained in a comment on the Hurriyet series of photos of captured Israeli soldiers that a crucial one, showing a passenger medic tending an Israeli soldier, was missing. It was not in the original series published by Hurriyet, but another published by Haber (and credited so by Ali Abunimah). I spent over an hour trying to trace it back to source, but it was impossible to penetrate Haber’s junk tabloid coverage, so I gave up.

    Robert Mackey not only took time to respond to my comment directly, but the very next day came up with the missing photo (I can only say he must have experience with junk tabloid coverage, working, as he does, for the NYT.)

    I have made the Lede one of my ‘go-to’ sources, but have reservations that if I and other Mondoweissers over-publicise him, he will be descended upon by the lobby, and lose his excellent position for first-class journalism.

    • Sumud
      June 12, 2010, 2:54 am

      I did exactly the same RP – when I saw the medical care photo care photo was missing I also commented on it as did about 5 others including yourself. He gave a plausible reason for his action in response to comments. After some time he then responded in two parts – first by updating the original story with a text link and hat tip to Ali Abunimah – which I grumbled about here as being insufficient because you had to click through to see the photo. Shortly after he had an entirely new post with the photo visible.

      As a result of his flotilla coverage, I say kudos to Mackey. He’s been writing on Israel’s media manipulation from almost day one.

  6. pabelmont
    June 12, 2010, 4:55 am

    I love the part about the “bios” for alleged terrorists were incorrect, as the alleged terrorist argued (in print). Well, good for AT (alleged terrorist), being (still) alive and all.
    Congratulations especially as, in the USA and Israeli human-and-civil-rights-go-to-Hell revised system of law and practice, AT should have been LATE (Lousy Alleged Terrorist Exterminated) killed by anti-terrorist forces on–quite possibly deliberately false, carelessly false, etc.–allegation of terrorism, without arrest, lawyers, evidence, cross-examination, trial, due process, etc., etc., etc.
    Phil — I’d pick-up on this theme of false allegations of terrorism being used as bases for military actions (including blatantly illegal such actions, like the Mavi Marmara boarding) on the basis of false (because ill-considered) “evidence”.
    Also, the use of false (no fact-checking) material used in editorializing, on hate-media, etc. The whole no-response-possible because you’ve already been killed (military) or character-assassinated (hate-media).

  7. tommy
    June 12, 2010, 10:26 am

    Mackey also responds to comments. A couple of months ago he had a report on the popularity of kafiyeh’s and I commented I wear mine to Trader Joes. Another commenter replied I should be arrested for terrorism and Mackey replied to the militant Zionist that sarcasm is not a terrorist act.

    • annie
      June 12, 2010, 2:32 pm

      yesterday i went to hear Toubab Krewe, guy on percussion wearing kafiyeh. palestine.

    • decentjew
      June 12, 2010, 3:02 pm

      ..beg to differ with the comments here. Mackey vehemently denied a pro-Israel bias on the part of the Times. I posted a follow up, including a link to the If We Knew site, with its detailed, quantitative accounting of NY Times’ extreme bias. The comment was never posted.

      You don’t get a regular gig writing about Israel-Palestine for the NY Times unless you are one of them. I consider that a solid fact until I see any real evidence to the contrary. Prior to the mavi marmara massacre, Times coverage of the flotilla humanitarian aid effort was nonexistent. There are so many cases to choose from, that, as I said to Mackey, claims of Times’ objectivity are transparently ludicrous to any honest, informed person. The fact that they refuse to acknowledge what most consider a truism, only solidifies the point.

      • sherbrsi
        June 12, 2010, 3:16 pm

        I agree with decentjew.

        An online blog maintained by some author with a seemingly independent perspective hardly compensates for the NYT’s decidedly Zionist reporting on the conflict.

        Dissenting pieces are allowed in such publications if only to give the illusion of diversity of opinion. When you get down to it, I reckon that Mackey isn’t that fundamentally different from the rest of the NYT’s Hasbara writers.

  8. lobewyper
    June 12, 2010, 3:16 pm

    To echo decentjew, Jerome Slater has blogged extensively on the bias of the NYT and I believe he would agree that “claims of Times’ objectivity are transparently ludicrous.” The point at issue seems to me to be this particular blog and ensuing commentary by Mackey, and I think he has been much more objective than the NYT has been historically. If so, he deserves some credit.

    • decentjew
      June 12, 2010, 3:41 pm

      agree with lobewyper..albeit, grudgingly.

      I think real objectivity would oblige the NY Times, in its assessment of the the attack on the Mavi Marmara, to compare this assault with other comparable incidents, namely, other acts of piracy at sea. It would have to address whether the right to attack a civilian vessel in international waters in this way is reserved exclusively for the Israelis, while unequivocally forbidden to anyone else. And so on.

      We’re so far from genuine objectivity, that if it ever occurred in the NY Times, we’d faint.

  9. lobewyper
    June 12, 2010, 4:47 pm


    That’s why I blog, in hopes that I someday will have that fainting spell!

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