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Don’t expect this NYT ethicist to talk about the Nakba

on 18 Comments

The entrepreneurial New York Times business reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin announced two days ago that he has brought on a new partner, Dov Seidman, an expert on apologizing, to his online shop at the Times:

Beginning on Tuesday, Mr. Seidman and I are starting “Apology Watch” on the DealBook website ( and on Twitter using the hashtag #ApologyWatch.

Seidman, who promptly showed up on NPR to explain his work, is a New Age neoliberal who lays on hands at Davos. His column announcing the Times partnership bore the faint odor of snake oil, explaining that apologies must reflect real contrition, and that our leaders must address those they have harmed to achieve “redemption.”

Apologizers need to conduct a “moral audit” by looking themselves in the mirror and asking, “How did I get here and how did I drift from the person I aspire to be?” They must encourage feedback from the aggrieved….

Let’s commit to demanding more from business and public figures — and from ourselves — when contrition is being pursued. It will not be easy. But by returning to a search for redemption that accepts its difficulty, we can rediscover its real possibility.

Seidman likes politics. His twitter feed invokes Martin Luther King Jr. and America’s civil rights struggle, and deals with suppressed historical abuses.

Police apologized for brushing 1998 domestic abuse case under carpet, saying it is now victim-focused

He faults Jennifer Lopez for performing for the dictator of Turkmenistan. He says that all countries today are “morally and ethically interdependent” and that our “interconnected world shifts power to individuals.” He says it’s moving that a mere vegetable-peddler started the Arab Spring.

And then there are those brave women in Saudi Arabia:

Saudi Women Rise Up. Different approach to Arab Spring: limited protest that could ripple into unlimited equality

“Unlimited equality” might give some hope to Palestinians facing government-supported pricetag attacks by Jewish settlers who can vote while they can’t. But in looking over Seidman’s writings, I see not a word about the Nakba or Palestinian human rights. And given some of his statements, I have to believe this NYT ethicist won’t go near Palestinian grievances.

Seidman grew up in the US and Israel. Haaretz reports that he aspired to work for Israel’s Foreign Ministry but ended up interning for former Supreme Court justice Aharon Barak. He often quotes Shimon Peres’s wisdom, with this wise addition: “The advance of wisdom uncontrollable.” He regularly lauds Elie Wiesel, and calls this Zionist piece by rightwinger Leon Wieseltier profound and poignant. He talks up an Israeli inventor and promotes Israeli companies, and in this interview with the co-author of Startup Nation (which is about the Israeli miracle) says, “It’s great to be at the Israel Democracy institute, and it’s great to feel that I am at home.”

If I were cynical, I’d wonder how Dov Seidman got his Belgian loafers in the door over there at The New York Times, and I’d read a lot into Andrew Ross Sorkin’s glowing profile of Haim Saban. But that would be cynical. It’s surely just the restless search for meaning that paid off. Like the time Seidman found it

Profoundly meaningful to contribute to Tom Friedman’s column on “Why Mandela Was Unique”

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18 Responses

  1. annie
    February 6, 2014, 12:18 pm

    when you tweet this story please add the hashtag #ApologyWatch so it will rise to the top of this thread:

    (or, you could retweet this: )

    then dov and the nyt might get the message.

    • February 7, 2014, 1:46 am

      sorkin wrote the book”too big to fail”. in it he wrote the very racist statement about how wall st brokerage firms in the early part of the 20th century “were infested with WASPS”‘
      do you think good little puppy dog charlie rose would question him on this on his show? no way!

  2. piotr
    February 6, 2014, 12:18 pm

    There is definitely a market for apology related products as you can check using Google query “I am sorry” and clicking “images” that can be purchased in ready-to-mail envelopes.

    The art of personally delivering apologies is more developed in some cultures then others. For mere 50 dollars (not including shipping) you can get a nice specimen of apologizing intellectual:

    Thinking about it, one could send some of them to Maryland Legislature as a food for thought and inspiration.

  3. Krauss
    February 6, 2014, 12:19 pm

    Look at it from the bright side:

    20 years ago nobody would have even noticed this glaring hypocrisy.

    Today, quite a few.

    Tomorrow? Everyone.

  4. Chu
    February 6, 2014, 1:02 pm

    Ugh, enough with the snake oil salesmen. I was reading on LobeLog, Gareth Porter’s new book ‘Manufactured Crisis’ which is an alternate narrative of the lead up to the war with Iran. He has collected material over the last decade on the efforts of Washington politicians and Israel saying the “US and Israeli policies have been driven by political and bureaucratic interests, not by a rational, objective assessment of available indicators of the motives and intentions of Iranian leaders”.

    It’s odd that few newspapers over the last decade have compared and contrasted the lead up to war in Iraq, with the effort to go to war with Iran (stuxnet was cyber-terrorism). There are plenty of similarities of the players. How one massive Iraq war blunder could almost be relobbied for again without the journalists calling the agents of war into the public eye.

    Lobelog review:

  5. lysias
    February 6, 2014, 1:07 pm

    Mandela was unique.

    Is that a way of telling us that the South African example is no precedent for other places in the world and that we can’t talk about apartheid anywhere else?

    • Rusty Pipes
      Rusty Pipes
      February 6, 2014, 3:44 pm

      Considering his deep admiration for Elie “do not compare” Wiesel, that’s a fair interpretation of why he says “Mandela was unique.”

  6. irmep
    February 6, 2014, 7:07 pm

    Gotta wonder if they will give creative credit to Harry Shearer, who has been doing the “apology of the week” segment for decades as a copyrighted feature of “le show”.

  7. February 7, 2014, 12:07 am

    Forget about these two losers. They only exist to make sure that Americans do not detect what the right-wing thugs in Israel have done to the Palestinians. In Haaretz today Eva Illouz has written an amazing article “47 years a slave: A new perspective on the occupation”
    She says “very few struggles in history have centered on how a nation should treat a third group of people, but there are strong parallels between black slavery and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians”. Bravo – what a superb analogy. Slavery – it is that bad. She goes on to say that in Haaretz on any given day “Half or three quarters of its news items will invariably revolve around the same two topics: people struggling to protect the good name of Israel, and people struggling against its violence and injustices.” Sorkin is the tail-end of an unfortunate aberration in US society. He and Seidman are only trying to protect the good name of Israel. Unfortunately this require denial and at best, dishonesty. CNN etc and most of the MSM are doing the same thing. That is why Mondoweiss is so important.

    • SQ Debris
      SQ Debris
      February 7, 2014, 1:06 pm Slave, definition 2: “one that is completely subservient to a dominating influence.” Language is, outside of Palestine, the battlefield. The rank inequality imposed on Palestinians by the zionist project is a torpedo it aimed at itself. Eva’s analogy has teeth.

  8. seafoid
    February 7, 2014, 5:27 am

    “The BBC has finally admitted that it breached its own impartiality guidelines when it presented a pro-Israel commentator as if he was neutral.

    The finding published yesterday by the BBC Trust, the highest level of complaints adjudication at the broadcaster, relates to appearances made by a commentator called Jonathan Sacerdoti during Israel’s “Operation Pillar of Cloud” bombing of Gaza in November 2012.

    Sacerdoti was described simply as “director of the Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy,” but has a long and ongoing history of pro-Israel campaigning, including a stint as director of public affairs for the Zionist Federation – a fact which was not made clear to viewers.

    Despite previously acknowledging inaccuracy in failing to explain Sacerdoti’s pro-Israel politics to viewers, the BBC has spent over a year denying that this resulted in biased coverage.

    With the help of Spinwatch, I initially filed a complaint almost 14 months ago, as did the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. At first BBC News merely said it recognized “more context could have been given.”

    When the complaint was escalated, it was acknowledged that this response did not go “far enough in acknowledging the shortcomings,” and the BBC conceded that Sacerdoti’s “partisan associations” were clearly relevant since his contributions were “essentially pro-Israeli.”

    But despite admitting that Sacerdoti had been “misleadingly introduced” in a way that “gave no clue as to his orientation and may indeed have contributed to an impression of impartiality,” the Head of Editorial Complaints, Fraser Steel, still found that no breach of impartiality had occurred.

    Serious failings

    Steel dismissed the relevance of impartiality clause 4.4.14 of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines, claiming it was only applicable when producers had assumed an interviewee was neutral, whereas, he said, “Sacerdoti’s viewpoint is well known to program-makers in BBC News.”

    However, when the complaint reached the Trust, it emerged that this was not the case, with the Controller of the BBC News Channel asserting to the contrary, that “In fact [the interviewee’s] background was not fully understood by the producer of the interview and therefore not conveyed to the presenter (and consequently the audience) in clear terms.”

    This picture of events suggests serious failings on the part of BBC producers and likely contributed to the BBC Trust’s decision to overrule Steel.

    The Trust stated that clause 4.4.14 had indeed been breached and the BBC had failed in its responsibility to appropriately signpost the interview so that viewers could properly evaluate Sacerdoti’s contribution for themselves.”

    “Lisa Finkelstein1 year ago

    brillant jonathan speaks again. keep it streaming, brother. ”

    What a miserable Zionist turd

  9. bilal a
    bilal a
    February 7, 2014, 6:10 am

    I wonder if readers here can extend this analysis.

    In what other areas are ‘Ethics’ and ‘Human Rights’ wielded as a bludgeon to paralyze the resistance of indigenous peoples , and disintegrate their native cultures

    Which begs the question, how much of the post-modern political-ethical evolution is authentic and distinct from pure power politics, and what portion of our current historical understandings are actually circumscribed NewSpeak from a diffuse Ministry of Truth?

    “In the books on prisons and sexuality, his aim is to explore a configuration of knowledge and power, or a set of configurations, that have become increasingly characteristic of twentieth-century European and American society. He argues that knowledge and power are deeply connected and that their configuration constitutes an imposing presence over advanced industrial society, extending to the most intimate recesses of everyday life. The form of domination characteristic of advanced capitalism is not exploitation, not alienation, not psychic repression, not anomie, not dysfunctional behavior. It is instead an new pattern of social control that is embedded in practice at many points in the social field and that constitutes a set of structures whose agency is at once everyone and no one. ”

  10. February 7, 2014, 7:14 am

    Thank you Seafoid for filing this complaint – as a UK citizen I am well aware that the BBC has some Zio bias in certain areas including Israel. Thanks to people like you they need to be very careful what they present. Keep up the good work. We are not letting them get away with anything.

    • seafoid
      February 7, 2014, 8:12 am

      Did you watch the video? He is such a slimeball. They have been doing this since the first “aliyah”.

      And it’s coming to an end. Not before time.

      The comment underneath by the lady with the obviously Jewish name reminds me of Miriam6 egging on Mahane. Judaism is such a mess today. That depresses the hell out of me. They could have gone the way of Phil Weiss but they were too cocky. They thought the Mensch stuff was for losers.

      Here’s Will Oldham on YESHA

      He is such an underrated artist

    • seafoid
      February 7, 2014, 8:47 am

      “The current problems in the BBC over the truth and honesty of their programmes are symptomatic of a deep intellectual malaise over how such values are judged (Comic Relief among shows that deceived viewers, July 19; Letters, July 21). In universities, several generations of students in media, cultural studies and even journalism have been taught the theory that there is no such thing as truth or accuracy in television products. These are all merely a construction, a “spectacle”, produced for audiences who “decode” and consume them according to their own tastes and pleasures. There is little difference between an episode of Casualty and the 10 O’Clock News. We have argued against this “postmodern” approach to understanding media. Yet the depth of the problem for the BBC is apparent in that there are now even voices calling for the abandonment of the traditional criterion of impartiality – because it is thought impossible to give an accurate and fair account of a range of positions in a political argument. The BBC should understand that criteria such as balance, accuracy and fairness are crucial in underpinning public trust.
      Professor Greg Philo
      Glasgow University Media Group
      Guardian, Monday 9 April 2012 21.00 BST

      “Seumas Milne writes that in Britain “a Mélenchon or Bradford-style platform could not of course make up a winning national strategy” (George Galloway and Jean-Luc Mélenchon expose a huge political gap, 4 April). Yet he also notes that withdrawal from Afghanistan is supported by 70% of the entire country.

      When we suggested a wealth tax to raise £800bn out of the £4tn held by the richest in our society, to stop the cuts, we found very strong support with a YouGov poll showing 73% in favour. The problem is not the potential support, but the fact that most people are not offered such alternatives either in mainstream media or by the main political parties.

      The BBC should be featuring alternative views, but its news programmes are largely a parade of vested interests. We analysed interviews on the BBC’s Today programme in the period in which UK banks were part nationalised and found that 81% of the interviewees were either, “City sources”, “free market economists” or “business representatives”. The limiting of the range of alternatives impacts on public understanding of what is possible. Our most recent focus groups show people believing that the UK debt relates only to the actions of the last Labour government, rather than as a typical feature of how governments operate over long periods of time. Most plaintively, it was said in a group that there couldn’t be alternatives to the present policies or “they would have heard of them”. They certainly wouldn’t at the moment, from most of our politicians and media.
      Professor Greg Philo
      Glasgow University Media Group”

  11. Bing Bong
    Bing Bong
    February 7, 2014, 9:37 am

    “The BBC should be featuring alternative views, but its news programmes are largely a parade of vested interests.”

    They can’t even give an alternative view of their own views, that’s why we can’t read the Balen report.

  12. iResistDe4iAm
    February 8, 2014, 2:08 am

    “moral audit”
    “morally and ethically interdependent”

    The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but selective morality leads to immorality.

  13. seafoid
    February 8, 2014, 4:29 am

    “Something funny happened to anti-Semitism on the way to the 21st century. It stopped being about persecution and open vilification of Jews, which was something the goyim did to us and we had no control over. It became something we define ourselves, something we discover and too often invent where it isn’t at all clear it even exists: in a cartoon in a perfectly respectable newspaper, in the campaign to treat African asylum seekers with a degree of humanity, and in the earnest attempt of a patrician Bostonian gentleman to bring peace to the region.

    Anti-Semitism exists today on the furthest margins of Western society, in obscure sinecures, on the Internet, but perhaps most prevalently in our feverish imaginations. And in our generation that is where it constitutes the biggest threat.

    In many ways our fear of anti-Semitism has begun to mirror the hatred itself in its irrationality and in the ways it hinders any serious debate. The Knesset is currently legislating a woeful new law that will make it illegal to call anyone a Nazi or to use Third Reich imagery. It would make much more sense if they could outlaw calling people anti-Semites. Not because there aren’t any anti-Semites out there, but because of the damage we do ourselves with this incessant searching and name-calling.”

    I think that it is beyond hopeless for Zionism now.

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