‘Adbusters’ seeks right of reply to ‘NYT”s smear of anti-Semitism and fails to get it

Israel/Palestine
on 31 Comments

Kalle Lasn here with a story about how the New York Times refused to give Adbusters [which Lasn edits] the right of reply. Here is the chronology of what happened:

1. October 3 letter from Adbusters Kalle Lasn to the editor of the New York Times:

In the wake of the #OCCUPYWALLSTREET movement, the New York Times has twice taken a swipe at Adbusters magazine, originators of the event. David Brooks led the charge in his October 10 column, The Milquetoast Radicals, falsely accusing us of being anti-Jewish. 

In an earlier column, Mr. Brooks said: “Jews are a famously accomplished group. They make up about 0.2 percent of the world population, but 54 percent of the world chess champions, 27 percent of the Nobel physics laureates … 37 percent of Academy Award-winning directors … 51 percent of Pulitzer Prize winners for nonfiction” and so on. And yet, in his October 10 column he found something insidious about an article Adbusters ran seven years ago pointing out that 50 percent of the prominent neocons surrounding the Bush administration were Jewish. Why the double standard, Mr. Brooks? How is this different?

Then on October 17, Joseph Berger’s Cries of Anti-Semitism, but Not at Zuccotti Park, quoted an article in a conservative magazine founded by the American Jewish Committee which alleged that “the main organizer behind the movement — Adbusters editor Kalle Lasn — has a history of anti-Jewish writing.” Mr. Berger, why are you uncritically passing on other people’s allegations? Why didn’t you do your own research and come up with your own conclusions? 

Adbusters is best known for its deconstruction of advertising, discontent with neoclassical economics and provocative takes on hot button geopolitical issues like the Israeli apartheid in Palestine. I invite readers to visit our web site, leaf through our magazine, look up what we’ve said over the past twenty years and decide for themselves if we are motivated by anti-Semitism or a sense of justice.

It seems the real story here is that I have somehow upset the pro-Israel and anti-Palestine stance that the New York Times has taken over many years in some of its editorials, columns and especially with the reporting by Isabel Kershner and Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner. Mr. Bronner is married to an Israeli citizen and has a son who served in the Israeli army. Ms. Kershner also has deep ties to Israel. Their often ahistorical, context-free reporting is partly to blame for what Adbusters has called “the United States of Amnesia.”

I think a cultural shift, a more nuanced and balanced perspective on Israel/Palestine, is in order at one of the great newspapers of the world.

Kalle Lasn Editor in Chief, Adbusters Magazine

2. November 2, New York Times letters department replies:

Mr. Lasn: Your letter as submitted is much too long for our letters column and refers to columns/articles that are now 2 and 3 weeks old. We do acknowledge that you deserve a right of reply, and we’d be willing to consider a much shorter letter that is focused on these two paragraphs: 


“Then on October 17, Joseph Berger’s Cries of Anti-Semitism, but Not at Zuccotti Park, quoted an article in a conservative magazine founded by the American Jewish Committee which alleged that “the main organizer behind the movement – Adbusters editor Kalle Lasn – has a history of anti-Jewish writing.” Mr. Berger, why are you uncritically passing on other people’s allegations? Why didn’t you do your own research and come up with your own conclusions?

Adbusters is best known for its deconstruction of advertising, discontent with neoclassical economics and provocative takes on hot button geopolitical issues like the Israeli apartheid in Palestine. I invite readers to visit our web site, leaf through our magazine, look up what we’ve said over the past twenty years and decide for themselves if we are motivated by anti-Semitism or a sense of justice.”

If you’re agreeable, we can edit your letter along those lines and send it to you for review and approval, as we do with all our letters.

Best,

Sue Mermelstein, Letters Dept.

3. November 2, Kalle Lasn letter:

Ms. Mermelstein, 

David Brooks’ and Joe Bergers references to Adbusters’ and Kalle Lasn’s anti Jewishness and anti Semitism have caused considerable harm to both our reputations in one of the most prestigious newspapers in the world and therefore I do not think your usual strict rules about length and time delay should apply in this case.

I am not prepared to cut references to David Brooks nor the paragraph that points to a pro-Israel and anti-Palestine culture of bias at the Times without which the basic argument in my letter does not make sense.

I am prepared to work with you to crisp up my letter without losing its basic thrust and argument.

I request that you pass this matter by David Brooks, Joseph Berger and your executive editor and explain to them why it is necessary for us to have a full right of reply in order to salvage the reputation of Adbusters and Kalle Lasn which you have damaged and defamed in a journalistically sloppy way.

I request that, not you in the letters department, but your executive editor make a final decision on whether to run our letter.

Please let me know.

Sincerely,

Kalle Lasn,

Editor in Chief, Adbusters magazine

4. November 2, New York Times’ letters editor responds:

Dear Mr. Lasn: 

Thank you for your note to Ms. Mermelstein.

We respect your request for a reply, but we also reserve the right to edit letters in accordance with our standards. We believe that only part of your letter meets those standards. 

It is not up to Mr. Brooks, Mr. Berger or the executive editor to decide whether to run a letter.

Sincerely,

Thomas Feyer, Letters Editor

5. November 2, Lasn letter

Mr. Feyer,

I agree that it is not up to Mr. Brooks or Mr. Berger to decide whether to run the letter — I just thought they should know that a letter has been submitted.

However, given the considerable damage done to the reputations of Adbusters and myself in this matter and the larger political implications this has about the culture of bias at the Times, I think it is appropriate for us to ask for this decision to be made, not by you in the Letters Department, but by your executive editor . . . and I again respectfully ask you to pass this matter by her.

Tell her that we think it would be grossly unfair and against all journalistic standards for the Times not to give Adbusters adequate right of reply in this particular case. 

Sincerely,

Kalle Lasn, Editor in Chief, Adbusters magazine 

6. November 2, Feyer response:

Dear Mr. Lasn: 

There is a wall separating news and opinion at The Times, so the executive editor has no say in what the opinion pages run. 

We are willing to give you a chance to respond, but you have to be willing to be edited according to our standards. Everything that appears in The Times is subject to editing. 

Sincerely,

Thomas Feyer 

7. November 2, Kalle Lasn’s final email, to which there has been no reply:

Mr. Feyer,

I suspect you are refusing to run our letter because it it would once again open up a debate about the anti-Palestine culture at the Times that you do not wish to have. 

Seems you have no problem taking swipes at the reputation of Adbusters, but are now unwilling to give Adbusters our legitimate right of reply.

The “chance to respond” you are giving us is grossly fair . . . it forces us to run a substantially watered down version which leaves out the crux of our argument against Mr. Brooks And Mr. Berger and would thus merely perpetuate the myth that there is something anti Semitic about Adbusters and Kalle Lasn.

I request a legitimate right to respond along the lines of our original letter. You have a right to edit our letter but not to neuter it. 

I hereby demand that you pass this matter by your executive editor.

sincerely, Kalle Lasn

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

31 Responses

  1. tinywriting
    November 5, 2011, 10:28 am

    Oops! ADbusters not ASbusters in your headline!

    • Philip Weiss
      November 5, 2011, 10:34 am

      my bad. fixed, thank you

      • pabelmont
        November 5, 2011, 11:16 am

        Fixed in inner title, but NOT fixed in URL spelling.

      • Philip Weiss
        November 5, 2011, 11:26 am

        thanks pab. you folks are on it

      • Taxi
        November 5, 2011, 11:43 am

        I like ASbusters! LOL!

        What a great opportunity this is to ‘water down’ further the perfidious and malicious accusation of anti-shmanti by zionist gangbangers whenever the subject of justice for Palestine is brought up.

        I think Mr. Lars should use his publication to launch a full-scale-assault campaign against the wretched and nefarious zionist media. Expose after expose, ridicule after ridicule and humiliation after humiliation – a continuous and expanding ‘War of Ideas’ in our nationwide media!

        I also advise Mr. Lasn to sue the pants off his accusers and fast! I’d love to have the definition of anti-jewish/anti-semitic open for discussion in the courts and also to more of the public. I’d love for the public to understand the difference between judaism and zionism: learn it like they had to learn(?) the difference between sunni and shia in the last ten years – well at least they know THERE IS A DIFFERENCE between them, confused as they maybe about the details.

        Not forgetting that, of course, Mr. Lasn better not take the accusation personally and get emotional about it. Water off a duck’s back. The I/P media war is ugly-nasty and you need thick skin and a badass sense of humor for your points to prevail.

        Finally, lol – I frigging loved the exchange! It read like an exciting short Orwellian radio play.

  2. Cliff
    November 5, 2011, 11:10 am

    AntiSemitism busters?!

  3. HRK
    November 5, 2011, 11:26 am

    If their policy is really that unbendable (interesting to find out what the precedent is here), why don’t they print part of the Lasn’s reply and provide a printed web address (or link for the online user) to the rest of Lasn’s comments–which he can post on his own website?

    Note to editors: A little creativity can go a long way toward solving a conflict. Of course, one first has to want to find a creative solution. . . .

  4. American
    November 5, 2011, 11:33 am

    “Jews are a famously accomplished group. They make up about 0.2 percent of the world population, but 54 percent of the world chess champions, 27 percent of the Nobel physics laureates … 37 percent of Academy Award-winning directors … 51 percent of Pulitzer Prize winners for nonfiction” and so on. And yet, in his October 10 column he found something insidious about an article Adbusters ran seven years ago pointing out that 50 percent of the prominent neocons surrounding the Bush administration were Jewish. Why the double standard, Mr. Brooks? How is this different?”

    Hsyterical. The same old Jewish supremacy claims.
    As soon as the congressional bill Schumer got passed asking the pentagon to find Jewish war heros in WWI and WWII is completed we will hear how 90% of all US war heros were Jewish. LOL

    • Kathleen
      November 5, 2011, 2:07 pm

      Did Schumer really do this?

      • American
        November 7, 2011, 10:51 am

        Yea,but I can’t find Schumer’s original one….there have been several,but this is the latest one.
        What is so ridiculous is it asks that any Jews previously receiving any kind of war medal be upgraded to ‘Medal of Honor’ because “anti semitism” might have prevented their getting the Medal of Honor.
        Well duh!….if anti semitism was any reason none of the Jews would have ‘any” medal to begin with.
        This strikes me as how Jews self promote and rewrite their history and accomplishments…otherwise why would they limit it to searching for Jews only who might deserve the Medal of Honor.
        Why wouldn’t it include a review of non Jew minorities also. I find this kind of tribal narcissism and history revision more and more disgusting.

        govtrack.usLog In
        HomeBrowseTrackersAboutUse Our Data
        Congress > Legislation > 2011-2012 (112th Congress) > S.

        Text of S. 1727: William Shemin Jewish World War I Veterans Act

        Oct 18, 2011: Introduced in Senate
        Download PDF
        Full Text on THOMAS
        Oct 18, 2011 – Introduced in Senate. This is the original text of the bill as it was written by its sponsor and submitted to the Senate for consideration. This is the latest version of the bill currently available on GovTrack.

        S 1727 IS

        112th CONGRESS

        1st Session

        S. 1727

        To direct the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of the Navy to conduct a review of military service records of Jewish American veterans of World War I, including those previously awarded a military decoration, to determine whether any of the veterans should be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, and for other purposes.

        IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

        October 18, 2011

        Mr. HELLER (for himself, Mr. BOOZMAN, Mr. BLUNT, and Mrs. MCCASKILL) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services

        ——————————————————————————–
        A BILL

        To direct the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of the Navy to conduct a review of military service records of Jewish American veterans of World War I, including those previously awarded a military decoration, to determine whether any of the veterans should be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, and for other purposes.

        Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

        SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

        This Act may be cited as the ‘William Shemin Jewish World War I Veterans Act’.

        SEC. 2. REVIEW REGARDING AWARD OF MEDAL OF HONOR TO JEWISH AMERICAN WORLD WAR I VETERANS.

        (a) Review Required- The Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of the Navy shall review the service records of each Jewish American World War I veteran described in subsection (b) to determine whether that veteran should be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

        (b) Covered Jewish American War Veterans- The Jewish American World War I veterans whose service records are to be reviewed under subsection (a) are the following:

        (1) Any Jewish American World War I veteran who was previously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, or other military decoration for service during World War I.

        (2) Any other Jewish American World War I veteran whose name is submitted to the Secretary concerned for such purpose by the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America before the end of the one-year period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act.

        (c) Consultations- In carrying out the review under subsection (a), the Secretary concerned shall consult with the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America and with such other veterans service organizations as the Secretary considers appropriate.

        (d) Recommendation Based on Review- If the Secretary concerned determines, based upon the review under subsection (a) of the service records of any Jewish American World War I veteran, that the award of the Medal of Honor to that veteran is warranted, the Secretary shall submit to the President a recommendation that the President award the Medal of Honor posthumously to that veteran.

        (e) Authority To Award Medal of Honor- A Medal of Honor may be awarded posthumously to a Jewish American World War I veteran in accordance with a recommendation of the Secretary concerned under subsection (a).

        (f) Waiver of Time Limitations- An award of the Medal of Honor may be made under subsection (e) without regard to–

        (1) section 3744, 6248, or 8744 of title 10, United States Code; and

        (2) any regulation or other administrative restriction on–

        (A) the time for awarding the Medal of Honor; or

        (B) the awarding of the Medal of Honor for service for which a Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, or other military decoration has been awarded.

        (g) Definitions- In this section:

        (1) The term ‘Jewish American World War I veteran’ means any person who served in the Armed Forces during World War I and identified himself or herself as Jewish on his or her military personnel records.

        (2) The term ‘Secretary concerned’ means–

        (A) the Secretary of the Army, in the case of the Army; and

        (B) the Secretary of the Navy, in the case of the Navy and the Marine Corps.

        (3) The term ‘World War I’ means the period beginning on April 6, 1917, and ending on November 11, 1918.

  5. Scott
    November 5, 2011, 11:44 am

    I had a similar experience with the NY Sun–one of their writers slandered TAC, and I wrote a letter, and Seth Lipsky himself edited it down to nothing. Then they gave me a take it or leave it choice. My sense is that these folks are very reluctant to allow any airing of debate which would shed real light about their use of the anti-Semitism charge.

    • American
      November 5, 2011, 12:02 pm

      I think the zios have pushed the anti semitism thing to the point where now it means Pro America.
      I can see the debate now….Isn’t being anti semitic, anti Israel really being Pro America?
      And the zionist having heart attacks if we frame it that way.
      And someone will sooner or later when they get fed up enough with this anti semitism diversion slur.

      • Chaos4700
        November 5, 2011, 1:07 pm

        It doesn’t help that we have people like Witty and hophmi and DBG insisting that their loyalty to the “Jewish nation” is more important than their status as American citizens.

  6. HRK
    November 5, 2011, 11:46 am

    I should have added to my previous comment:

    Many news organizations do not follow precedent in the following way: they report on evangelical power and give facts and figures but not Jewish pro-Israeli power. This is a double standard. We all deserve equal treatment. We all deserve to know that 60 – 80 percent of the Democratic Party’s funding comes from Jewish sources, many of whom are very pro-Israel. We have to hold journalists’ feet to the fire: If they write in detail (including essential statistics) about the conservative political power of evangelical Christians, for example, then they have to talk about other ethnic/religious groups’ political power. This is not anti-Semitic. This is following the principle of equal treatment and no favoritism. This is a basic minimum and is completely non-negotiable.

    Lasn is absolutely correct to publish statistics on Jewish involvement in the neocons and the neocon/neolib involvement in getting us into war. And if some conservative, pro-Israeli Jewish groups or individuals don’t like that, then their options are limited: they can’t insist indignantly that we talk selectively about the powerful–a lot about other groups, nothing about the conservative pro-Israeli Jews. They can, however (assuming they don’t want to be talked about), decide not to give money to the system so that they’re over-represented by a factor of 30, or they can decide not to push us into war (after concealing their true motives for the war).

  7. yourstruly
    November 5, 2011, 11:51 am

    if adbusters can affort the cost, it might consider placing the letter as an advertisement in one of the nyt’s competitors, say, the wsj? I’d be willing to contribute.

  8. seafoid
    November 5, 2011, 11:59 am

    “Jews are a famously accomplished group. They make up about 0.2 percent of the world population, but 54 percent of the world chess champions, 27 percent of the Nobel physics laureates … 37 percent of Academy Award-winning directors … 51 percent of Pulitzer Prize winners for nonfiction”

    My son the dentist. Doesn’t mean he’s any good any politics.

  9. pabelmont
    November 5, 2011, 12:01 pm

    “American Jewish Committee which alleged that “the main organizer behind the movement — Adbusters editor Kalle Lasn — has a history of anti-Jewish writing.” This means that NYT was quoting AJC and the slur was theirs, not NYT’s (or am I missing something?).

    If NYT stated as a fact that Adbusters has a history of anti-Jewish writing, then Adbusters ought to have the right (IMO) to demand to see the NYT’s evidence and answer it. It is a serious charge.

    Otherwise, if NYT was merely quoting AJC, Adbusters should ask NYT to show the statement by AJC which claims Adbusters/Lasn has a history, etc.

    If AJC did indeed say that, Adbusters/Lasn should demand to see AJC’s evidence of anti-Jewish statements by Adbusters/Lasn.

    If AJC does respond, Adbusters/Lasn should deal with the “evidence” in a short letter to NYT, if appropriate.

    If AJC does not respond, a simple letter to NYT might say, “Adbusters/Lasn asked AJC for the writings by Adbusters/Lasn which might justify the characterization as anti-Jewish. AJC declined to respond. Accordingly, Adbusters/Lasn is justified in saying that AJC has a history of false accusations of anti-Jewish writings, that is, has a history of false accusations of public anti-Semitism.

  10. Les
    November 5, 2011, 12:49 pm

    The Public Editor didn’t appreciate my questions about the criminality of Americans who were in earshot of the torture going on at Abu Ghraib relative to the comments of John Burns, the London Bureau Chief, who said Iraq’s Tariq Aziz should be hanged for “being complicit in tyrannicide.” I ended up being locked out of the Times email system. I wonder if the Times’ archivist knows how much of the paper’s history is not being recorded because of such rejected email.

  11. American
    November 5, 2011, 1:14 pm

    Adbusters should just laugh at them…in print in their mag….and not waste their time with them directly.
    Because really who cares? The public is so over the anti semitism hysteria of the zios.
    All the OWS anti semitism clap trap is about is Israel Firsters trying to destroy OWS because they and Israel can’t afford for the US govenment to get cleaned up or out.

    • Chaos4700
      November 5, 2011, 1:25 pm

      True, and fewer and fewer people are taking the NYT seriously now. Remind me, where were they on the invasion of Iraq, way back when?

  12. Donald
    November 5, 2011, 1:25 pm

    I despise the NYT but I don’t think Mr. Freyer is lying about why they won’t print a long letter–they almost never print long letters and I think there’s a very long list of people who would probably say (and often correctly) they were slandered by the NYT. Either demand a retraction or settle for a short letter or sue their asses if a lawyer says you could win, but don’t expect to see a long letter published.

    There are several problems at the NYT, but I don’t think Freyer is singling out Adbusters because of their political stance. The problem with the letters column is that the letters are too short in general, so that when the NYT botches a story or shows a longstanding pattern of biased reporting there is no recourse, unless you can squeeze your point into one or two or three short paragraphs. It’s not just Adbusters-everyone who despises the NYT for its bias on one issue or another has the same problem. For instance, I was pleasantly surprised to see Dugard’s letter responding to Goldstone the other day as long as it was, but he really needed space equal to or larger than Goldstone’s piece to make all the points he could have made. So Adbusters has a legitimate complaint, but I think you’re aiming your complaint at the wrong people at the NYT.

    The op ed page is the place for long opinion pieces that would help correct NYT bias, but of course the same bias which one sees in the reporting and the editorials is also shown in who gets to publish op ed pieces. The letters column is often the only place were a little bit of truth sneaks in, if it can fit in one or two or three paragraphs.

    • James
      November 5, 2011, 1:39 pm

      i can’t understand why anyone even bothers with the nyt… isn’t it obvious the nyt and the wapo are hopelessly slanted news outlets that don’t serve the interests of the public, but only their owners own agenda??

  13. GalenSword
    November 5, 2011, 1:27 pm

    The NY Times and affiliated newspapers are distributed in the UK. The libel of anti-Semitism can cause material damage to an organization. Adbusters should file a libel suit in the UK against the NY Times. It would probably be worthwhile to attempt penetration of the corporate veil. In any case, the NY Times almost certainly has assets in the UK that could be seized if Adbusters won.

  14. Kathleen
    November 5, 2011, 2:04 pm

    “”Jews are a famously accomplished group. They make up about 0.2 percent of the world population, but 54 percent of the world chess champions, 27 percent of the Nobel physics laureates … 37 percent of Academy Award-winning directors … 51 percent of Pulitzer Prize winners for nonfiction” and so on. ”

    Hey when “your people” are generally only promoting “your people” what would one expect?

  15. split
    November 5, 2011, 2:26 pm

    “50 percent of the prominent neocons surrounding the Bush administration were Jewish” – The percentage of Jewish warmongers pushing for war in open letters to Pres. Clinton and Bush is much higher.

    link to newamericancentury.org
    link to newamericancentury.org

  16. split
    November 5, 2011, 2:33 pm

    “27 percent of the Nobel physics laureates” – Not one, born and educated in Israel despite that an average age of Nobel Price laureate is in upper 40’s.

  17. calm
    November 6, 2011, 7:57 am

    On My Mind; Wall Street Worries
    By A. M. Rosenthal
    January 31, 1987
    link to query.nytimes.com

    “Fear of a particular backlash led to private meetings among some top Jewish figures in the industry, bankers, chief executive officers, heads of brokerages. The central topic was the fact that so many of the men caught cheating or about to be indicted were Jewish. There was concern that the backlash might carry a decided tinge of anti-Semitism. The anti-Jewish arbitrageur jokes are all around the street. “

  18. calm
    November 6, 2011, 8:11 am

    This is the story which put everybody over the edge ….

    A tale of two ghettoes
    AdBusters – Compares Jewish Treatment Palestinian People and Nazi Treatment Of Jews In Germany.
    By Kalle Lasn
    November 02, 2010
    link to dotandcalm.com

  19. VR
    November 6, 2011, 12:26 pm

    Looks like my idea for NYT toilet paper rolls is getting closer and closer to having enough demand…lol

  20. PeaceThroughJustice
    November 6, 2011, 2:28 pm

    David Brooks might want to add this amazing example of Jewish acomplishment to his list–

    Sue Mermelstein, NYT Letters Dept., who works for
    Thomas Feyer, NYT Letters Editor, who works for
    Andrew Rosenthal, NYT Editorial Page Editor, who works for
    Jill Abramson, NYT Executive Editor, who works for
    Arthur Sulzberger, NYT Publisher

  21. Parker East
    November 9, 2011, 10:43 am

    Here is one of my contributions to the movement…. so far. Pass it along. (I address Palestine and the treatment of the Middle East in general at about the halfway point.)

    link to youtube.com

    Worth watching… subscribe if you like it.

    link to youtube.com

Leave a Reply