About that “media bias,” or Ombudsman Ombud Thyself

Why the WaPo Won’t Fire Jennifer Rubin – Glenn Greenwald – Salon.com

Is there any doubt whatsoever that had Rubin promoted a rant spewing these sorts of ugly caricatures about Jewish children and Israelis with accompanying calls for savage violence — rather than directed at Palestinians — that she would have instantly been fired, then castigated and attacked by all Serious precincts? As Gharib reports today, that was the question posed by a Post reader via email to the Post‘s Ombudsman, Patrick Pexton. To his credit, Pexton had previously condemned Rubin on his Ombudsman blog, writing: “in agreeing with the sentiment, and in spreading it to her 7,000 Twitter followers who know her as a Washington Post blogger, Rubin did damage to The Post and the credibility that keeps it afloat.” After denouncing Abrams’ rant as “reprehensible,” Pexton added: “That a Post employee would retweet it is a huge disappointment to me.”

That’s all fine as far as it goes, but what about the question posed by the reader: wouldn’t Rubin have been fired for promoting this hate-mongering had it been directed at Jews and Israelis rather than Palestinians? Pexton’s email response, published by the reader who emailed him, was this:

Off the record, I think it’s quite possible. But the ombudsman does not hire or fire people here. I only comment.

Leave aside the bizarre belief of establishment journalists that they can unilaterally decree their statements to be “off the record” and then expect that to be honored in the absence of any agreement by the person to whom they’re making the statement. What is most striking here is Pexton’s highly revealing cowardice — probably well-grounded — in wanting his observation about this double standard to be kept private; shouldn’t an Ombudsman who believes this be eager to raise it in public? As the reader noted in reply to Pexton:

If, in your opinion, such a grave double standard exits, why do you comment off the record? Why not publicly state your opinion? Why self censor? Doesn’t that reinforce insidious limitations on free speech?

Think of the absurdity. You must stay cautiously silent about a perfectly reasonable opinion while Rubin and Abrams can let fly with genocidal remarks. With respect, your silence contributes significantly to the poisoning of public debate.

Please speak up.

What’s particularly remarkable is that Pexton is admitting (albeit wanting it kept secret) what any honest observer knows to be true: that there is a very high likelihood — I’d say absolute certainty — that Rubin would have been fired had she promoted a post like this about Jews and Israelis rather than Arabs and Palestinians.

But this is the insidious, pervasive bias that has long been obvious in a profession that relentlessly touts its own “objectivity.” Even the mildest criticism of Israelis and anything even hinting at criticisms of Jews is strictly prohibited — a prohibition enforced by summary, immediate dismissal and enduring stigma. As Nicholas Kristof wrote during a visit to Jerusalem last year: Israel “tolerates a far greater range of opinions [about Israel] than America.”

But the most extreme forms of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry and hatred flourish often with no condemnation and virtually always with no sanction…

9 comments on “About that “media bias,” or Ombudsman Ombud Thyself

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  1. There is humor in the characterization by the former counselor to Aryan preacher and murderer Matt Hale, and Hamas supporter (which puts him in the lineage of Effendi Chowdary, raising a worm sign, over the albeit probably too candid
    remarks of Mrs. Abrams regarding the atrocious ‘blood money’ deal to secure the likes of Shalit.

    • You have a problem with accused murderers having lawyers? You prefer to have people declared summarily guilty, then taken out and shot, perhaps?

      “Too candid” “Candid”? That implies that it would be perfectly alright with you for someone to think and act according to a genocidalist ideas, just as long as she wasn’t open about it. So, the difference between her and her allies is only that she happens to have spoken the truth about them. That’s what a lot of people suspected about them all along.

  2. Well I’m just keeping the accuser’s genocidal proclivities in mind, returning a thousand terrorists to the field, of which at least a fifth will murder and maim innocents, doesn’t strike a proper balance, Half of all the Jews, in Europe where annihilated in various and sundry ways, by the colleagues of Haj Amin Husseini,

    • miguel cervantes: of which at least a fifth will murder and maim innocents

      You know this how? And why exactly is the entire Arab population of Israel and Palestine (and beyond) guilty for what the Nazis did to the Jews of Europe, but collective guilt, retrospectively for the destruction of Pre-Israeli Palestine, prospectively to the genocide that Abrams proposes and her friends, including apparently you, would validate, doesn’t apply to the Israeli “innocents”? Or are the Israelis the only ones capable of “innocence”?

  3. Well I’m using the Gitmo recidivism rate, which we’re told is exceedingly low, the Sbarro pizza bomber’s driver, same for the folks behind the Netanya Synagogue, several members of Hamas’s paramilitary wing,

    • It’s still nonsense. As long as the two sides are at war, the Pals will draw their recruits from a pool that’s much larger than a couple hundred “recidivists.” That is, it’s a nonsense argument, unless your plan is to kill, imprison, or force into exile the entire Palestinian population. Except that is your plan, isn’t it? And, if they resist, they’re “guilty.” Doesn’t that about sum it up?

  4. No, I’ve had qualms with Rubin in the past, but this attempt to drive out of the few explicitly pro Israel columnists on a major paper, because of something someone else said, and the irony of Gleenwald being at the forefront.

    • No, she’s not being driven out. Nor does Greenwald call for her to be fired. The theme of his article, as stated explicitly in the title, is that she won’t be fired, while the e-mails demonstrate that the Ombudsman is well aware of a double standard in force, a double standard so powerful that he’s afraid even to say so “on the record” – even though that’s his job. How long would, say, Greg Sargent last at the WaPo if he was endorsing “someone else”‘s blood-curdling, hate-drunk calls for the physical destruction of the Jews, right down to the little kids?

      I dunno whether this one is going anywhere. I hadn’t been aware of this story at all until I decided to take a look at Greenwald’s blog, something I hadn’t done for months. Caught my eye because it concerned our old friend JRub. I thought the Phrog would find it interesting. Haven’t seen anything about it elsewhere, have you?

  5. The whole thing reminds of that film, ‘The Siege’ that Lawrence Wright wrote, 13 years ago, the most interesting part was not what was in the film, but what wasn’t in ti, He portrayed the Second wave attack that Sheikh Rahman, had planned escalating with an attack on the One Federal Plaza, but instead of Egyptian signifiers he used Iraq and Palestinians. The following month
    the first ‘Osama determined to attack the US’ PDB, would appear, But it occurs to me, the scenario portrayed in the film, is not unlike what happened on a fairly frequent basis in Israel after 2000, and Russia, not long after.

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