The Woodward imbroglio is not just a storm in a teacup between a White House underling and a liberal journalist. The "dust-up" reveals more about the arrogance of politicians and political appointees, and their ambivalence about freedom of speech. That arrogance easily translates into authoritarianism. The danger lies not so much in a blatant threat to any journalist that he will "regret" telling the truth. It rests in a journalist becoming inured to such threats, regardless of their size or implications, and leads to his regarding a flyswatter or a truncheon as a normal way of conducting business.
The American mainstream media has largely become inured to the threats, much as the press became inured to the threats issued by Hitler in Nazi Germany, or Mussolini in Fascist Italy, or Hugo Chavez in socialist Venezuela to report only the news that fit their agendas – or be shut down, gagged, or marched out to reeducation camps or just shot behind the dumpster into which has been tossed the truth, the presses, and the manuscripts.
That Islam naturally gnashes its teeth and bashes skulls over any criticism of Islam is to be taken for granted. It happens every time someone has the courage to call Islam what it is and concludes that its humongous Ummah is the new "resistance is futile" Borg that threatens to swamp the West. That our co-opted, lickspittle mainstream media seizes upon any criticism of President Barack Obama to defame and denigrate its authors is also to be taken for granted. It happens every time someone calls Obama out on the real or projected consequences of his policies or even on his ingrained dishonesty. Apparently the MSM is okay with a White House underling, or even Obama himself, baring his teeth at a journalist who won't knuckle under and write something more pleasantly fawning and uncritical about his feigned obsession with the sequester, among a host of other issues.
Most of Woodward's feckless, sunshine friends in the media lack the gall to walk up to Woodward's door and take a shot at him, or at least give him a full load of raspberries. They prefer to snipe at him or deliver their Bronx cheers via tweets on Twitter or to mock him on screen and in print. As for Lars Hedegaard, the MSM have largely ignored the February 5th assassination attempt on him in Copenhagen. The New York Times, however, thought it imperative to smear Hedegaard, and enlisted Andrew Higgins to take a shot at him in his February 27th column, "Danish Opponent of Islam is Attacked, and Muslims Defend His Right to Speak."
We'll begin with the Higgins article about Lars Hedegaard.
The title of Higgins' column is misleading and intended to counter the fact that Islamic leaders and spokesmen adhere to the doctrinal line that no one has a right to oppose Islam or the right to speak about how barbaric and totalitarian Islam is. Imagine a journalist being targeted for a rub-out if he ran an article in a Chicago paper about how much of a psychotic, murdering, syphilis-infected thug Al Capone was. That's Islam. Countless Muslim attacks on Christians, Jews, and others simply do not merit the attention of the MSM. Were it not for the Internet, most people would be left in ignorance of the menace and the atrocities perpetrated almost daily by Islam's killers and jihadists.
It is beyond Higgins' ken that the Koran specifically instructs its followers to indulge in taqiyya, or Muslim double-speak, to say one thing for the Western press and another to themselves. It's the Islamic way of crossing one's fingers behind one's back. Or perhaps he's read a sanitized version of the Koran, one that could only be about thirty pages in length and full of pleasant homilies and poetry. Higgins began his attack almost immediately:
When a would-be assassin disguised as a postman shot at — and just missed — the head of Lars Hedegaard, an anti-Islam polemicist and former newspaper editor, this month, a cloud of suspicion immediately fell on Denmark’s Muslim minority....
However, as Mr. Hedegaard’s own opinions, a stew of anti-Muslim bile and conspiracy-laden forecasts of a coming civil war, came into focus, Denmark’s unity in the face of violence began to dissolve into familiar squabbles over immigration, hate speech and the causes of extremism.
So, there. According to the MSM, everything that's happened ever since the first terrorist plane hijackings of the 1970's, up through the World Trade Center bombing of 1993, through 9/11, and the approximately 20,000 Islamic terror incidents since 9/11, is all in our imagination, or just plain coincidence, or can be attributed to global warming, and anyone who identifies a link between those incidents and Islam is hallucinating a "stew of anti-Muslim bile and conspiracy-laden forecasts of a coming civil war." He must be a whacked-out "Islamophobe," or he snorts cocaine, or is a bigot and racist. There is no civil war imminent. Never mind the fact that Islam has been waging not a civil war, but a war against the West, and in particular against the U.S. and Israel, for decades. Mr. Higgins must not read any newspaper but the New York Times, so his ignorance may be forgiven.
But then something unusual happened. Muslim groups in the country, which were often criticized during the cartoon furor for not speaking out against violence and even deliberately fanning the flames, raised their voices to condemn the attack on Mr. Hedegaard and support his right to express his views, no matter how odious.
The writer, who for several years edited a mainstream Danish daily, Information, is a major figure in what a study last year by a British group, Hope Not Hate, identified as a global movement of “Islamophobic” writers, bloggers and activists whose “anti-Muslim rhetoric poisons the political discourse, sometimes with deadly effect.”
This is how a "journalist" like Higgins consoles himself that he isn't hallucinating. Danish Muslims have at last spoken out against the attack on Hedegaard. Where were they in 2005? Higgins cites a number of Muslim groups that have condemned the attack on Hedegaard, and their words must be soothing to him, because they help him sustain the illusion that Islam isn't such a bad ideology after all. Muslims aren't capable of lying, or deceiving infidels. They'd never demand that infidels defer to their faith and adapt to it, grant it exemptions and preference at the cost of suborning secular civil and even criminal law. Here is a sample:
When the news broke on Feb. 5 that Mr. Hedegaard had narrowly escaped an attack on his life, recalled Imran Shah of Copenhagen’s Islamic Society, “we knew that this was something people would try to blame on us. We knew we had to be in the forefront and make clear that political and religious violence is totally unacceptable.”
The Islamic Society, which runs Denmark’s biggest mosque and played an important role in stirring up passions against the cartoons of Muhammad, swiftly condemned the attack on Mr. Hedegaard. It also said it regretted its own role during the uproar over the cartoon, when it sent a delegation to Egypt and Lebanon to sound the alarm over Danish blasphemy, a move that helped turn what had been a little-noticed domestic affair into a bloody international crisis.
Another Islamic organization, Minhaj ul Quran International, the Danish offshoot of a controversial group in Pakistan that has taken a hard line at home against blasphemy, added its own voice, organizing a demonstration outside Copenhagen’s city hall to denounce the attack on Mr. Hedegaard and defend free speech. “We Muslims have to find a new way of reacting,” said Qaiser Najeeb, a 38-year-old second-generation Dane whose father immigrated from Afghanistan. “Instead of focusing on the real point, we always get aggressive and emotional. This should change. We don’t defend Hedegaard’s views but do defend his right to speak. He can say what he wants.”
To Higgins, Muslims are just plain folk who want to be left alone to practice their faith. The trouble, however, is that while most Muslims are indeed just plain folk, they have little to say, and have said nothing, about the murders, rapes, and harassment of Jews and other non-Muslims in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and just about anywhere else Muslims have immigrated and settled in large numbers with the specific goal of either taking over the country or establishing their own little caliphates inside it, outside the law of the host country (the term host implies a sustenance-consuming parasite). Higgins goes on:
The response from native Danes has grown more equivocal over time, with some suggesting Mr. Hedegaard himself provoked violence with his strident views and the activities of his Danish Free Press Society, an organization that he set up in 2004 to defend free expression but that is best known for denouncing Islam….
The attack followed a failed ax attack in 2010 by a Somali Muslim on Kurt Westergaard, the artist who drew a cartoon of Muhammad with a bomb in his turban, and a foiled plot to behead journalists at the office of the newspaper that first published that cartoon and 11 others in September 2005….
Mr. Hedegaard and his Free Press Society championed the newspaper’s right to publish. They also railed against those in Denmark who seemed to contend that the newspaper’s lack of respect for Muslim sensitivities deserved much of the blame for the violent reaction in Muslim countries, which included attacks on Danish diplomatic missions in Syria, Lebanon and Iran.
Mr. Hedegaard has also fanned wild conspiracy theories and sometimes veered into calumny. At a private gathering at his home in December 2009, he declared that Muslims “rape their own children. It is heard of all the time. Girls in Muslim families are raped by their uncles, their cousins or their fathers.”
Well, they do. If Higgins would lift his nose from the thick print of the New York Times, and cast about for another source of news other than Politico, Slate, the Huffington Post, and Think Progress, he'd see that it's not only common practice among Muslim uncles, cousins and fathers to rape their own children, but to murder them, as well, for "honor"-violating infractions of a barbaric, tribal system of morality, infractions specifically sanctioned by Islam's highest authorities.
There's more of this kind of evasive and delusional swill in Higgins' article, so it would be pointless to recount it. Also, in reporting the incident, he glossed over the pertinent details. Douglas Murray didn't in his February 16th article in the London Spectator, "Lars Hedegaard interview: ‘I may be killed if I write this’":
The assassin came to his home dressed as a postman. When the historian and journalist Lars Hedegaard opened his front door, the man — whom Lars describes as ‘looking like a typical Muslim immigrant’ in his mid-twenties — fired straight at his head. Though Hedegaard was a yard away, the bullet narrowly missed. The mild-mannered scholar (70 years old) then punched his assailant in the head. The man dropped the gun, picked it up and fired again. The gun jammed and the man ran off. More than a week later, he has yet to be found.
Higgins insinuated dark designs in Hedegaard's reputation. Murray reported the truth.
A well-known figure in Denmark, Hedegaard’s profile rose after the mainstream media’s capitulation in the wake of the Mohammed cartoons affair. He set up the Free Press Society, an organisation which campaigns for the rights of journalists and cartoonists to express themselves without fear of murder.
That included foolish journalists and cartoonists who work assiduously to end free expression without fear of murder. Many of Hedegaard's critics wrote that he should have expected another attack, and that he deliberately provokes these attacks. "Well," they say, "he ought to have known. This is what happens if you upset or provoke people." Murray addresses the issue and quotes Hedegaard:
But given the areas he has dealt in and what has happened to his colleagues, did he not guess that something like this might -happen?
‘I never speculated about that, because you can’t live your life that way. If every time you sit down to your computer to write something you have this idea in the back of your head, “I may be killed if I write this”, then of course you won’t be as good as you could be. You’ve got to distance yourself from fear if you want to be a true writer and a true intellectual, which is what I’m trying to be.’
Painting a more realistic picture of the Islamic peril, Murray cites Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis:
And why do people keep trying to silence such defenders of free speech in Denmark, Holland and across Europe? He paraphrases the historian Bernard Lewis: ‘The leaders of the Ummah [Islamic nation] now evidently believe, or want to demonstrate, that Sharia law has already gained force in places like Denmark. In other words it has supplanted our constitution in their minds. Of course it didn’t use to be that way, it used to be the way that you could draw Mohammed or paint him or say whatever you wanted in the Dar al-Harb [‘The Land of War’ — as opposed to the ‘Land of Islam’] because this was outside what Islam considered to be its territory. Now they are implicitly claiming that we are already under Sharia law.’
Lewis's later softer words about Islam are at variance with his earlier charges against Islam. Still, Hedegaard thought it proper to paraphrase the scholar.
As an example of the kind of blinkered, jejune reporting of the shooting on February 5th, here is an Associated Press report, as picked up by Fox News:
Danish media are reporting that an unknown gunman has tried to shoot a Danish writer and historian who is a prominent critic of Islam. TV2 News and the Politiken news site say Lars Hedegaard was not injured in the shooting. Both say the gunman came up to Hedegaard's Copenhagen home Tuesday on the pretext of delivering a package, and then fired at least one shot but missed the writer. Copenhagen police confirmed that there had been a shooting without injuries. They wouldn't say whether Hedegaard was the intended target. Hedegaard heads the International Free Press Society, a group that claims press freedom is under threat from Islam. He was fined 5,000 kroner ($1,000) in 2011 for making a series of insulting and degrading statements about Muslims.
Understand that the item says that, even though it reports that a phony mailman fired at shot at the writer, the police "wouldn't say whether Hedegaard was the intended target." Perhaps it was the parcel he handed Hedegaard, or an offensive, framed print of Rita Hayworth the assassin espied over Hedegaard's shoulder in the vestibule. No wonder Denmark is sinking under the weight of Islam. The item noted that while Hedegaard was charged with making "a series of insulting and degrading statements about Muslims" (re the uncles, cousins and fathers remark), the writer did not think it relevant to mention that Hedegaard was subsequently acquitted of the charge.
Mark Steyn, who himself has been called on the carpet over his own "anti-Muslim" statements, had this to say about the Associated Press item in the National Review:
Incidentally, the slapdash hack at the Associated Press can’t even get the basic facts right, reporting that Lars was “fined 5,000 kroner ($1,000) in 2011 for making a series of insulting and degrading statements about Muslims,” but apparently unaware that last year the Danish Supreme Court struck down his conviction 7–0.
UPDATE: From the BBC:
Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt condemned the attack, saying: “It is even worse if the attack is rooted in an attempt to prevent Lars Hedegaard using his freedom of expression.” That statement would be more persuasive had not the Danish state (as noted above) spent the last three years in multiple attempts to “prevent Lars Hedegaard using his freedom of expression”.
The Associated Press may be populated by slapdash hacks, but that is at least better than an MSM populated by venal scriveners who are also manage to see, hear, and speak no evil about Islam and President Obama. Which brings us to Bob Woodward and the cavalry that didn't come to his rescue.
I am no fan of Woodward. Most of his output is as hazy, wrong-headed and south-pawed as that of his colleagues. But on the sequestering issue, he was spot-on, charging Obama with being the instigator behind the whole farce, one verging on "madness." But much as Bernard Lewis softened his stance towards Islam and even on the Armenian massacre by the Turks in 1915, Woodward has half-back-pedaled from his initial charge that Gene Sperling's email to him was a "worrisome" threat. Sperling's shouting at Woodward over the phone for half an hour recalls movie Nazis shouting over the phone at an offending newspaper editor or a wayward Gauleiter. It says much about Woodward that he would tolerate such treatment by any president's appointee without complaint. But all that is irrelevant. What is relevant is how the MSM behaved when one of their own was seen to be put in jeopardy.
That can easily translate into any American being put in jeopardy by the state over something he said, and the MSM twiddling their thumbs and saying smugly, "Told you so. Didn't you know that the buck starts here?"
First, some context. Susan Heavey, writing for Reuters on February 27th:
Journalist Bob Woodward on Wednesday criticized Barack Obama's handling of the automatic U.S. budget cuts set to take effect this week, calling the president's decision to hold back on military deployments "madness."
His comments continued what has become a running dispute between Woodward, perhaps the country's best-known print journalist, and the Democratic White House over who is responsible for the across-the-board cuts scheduled to begin on Friday.
Last week, Woodward published an opinion piece in the Washington Post - where he is an associate editor - saying the administration was "wrong" to blame the cuts on Republicans.
I don’t imagine that Woodward golfs as much as Obama, with or without Tiger Woods, so he had time to put together some thoughts and write something important.
Woodward, who first gained fame in the 1970s from exposing the Watergate scandal during the administration of President Richard Nixon, wrote a detailed account in his 2012 book, "The Price of Politics," of the August 2011 deal that led to the cuts.
On Wednesday he attacked Obama for drawing national security into the budget debate. "So we now have the president going out (saying) 'Because of this piece of paper and this agreement, I can't do what I need to do to protect the country.' That's a kind of madness that I haven't seen in a long time," Woodward told MSNBC on Wednesday. (Italics mine.)
It is madness, especially when we know that the U.S. will be sending $60 million to the Syrian "rebels" to aid them in their war against Syrian president Bashar Assad. This is besides the billions we send to the "Palestinians" and Egypt and Libya and wherever else Islamist "freedom fighters" are waging a war against freedom. That $85 billion sequestering will help to dent our own defense of freedom here, but that's irrelevant to Obama and his sycophantic friends in the press corps. When it comes to aiding and abetting our enemies, funds are untouchable and not open to debate or shouting over the phone for thirty minutes.
There's the context. Here's the reaction among Woodward's colleagues, who conveniently forget Voltaire's pledge to defend anyone's right to say anything. Breitbart's Big Journalism reported on February 28th, in "Woodwardgate: Media Gang-Tackle Iconic Journalist to Save Obama" that
This is an incredible case of the White House attempting to bully the most iconic reporter of the 20th century – the reporter who, along with Carl Bernstein, took down a president of the United States. So you might expect the rest of the media to stand with Woodward. You’d be wrong. They’re too busy spending time playing defense for the White House….
That meme was picked up by the White House’s favorite palace guards, including Dave Weigel at Slate (he retweeted Smith, tweeted, “Theory: Woodward is trolling,” then added via retweet that the whole situation was “boring”); BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski, who mockingly tweeted, “Every reporter who deals with flacks/campaign advisors/politicos/ on a daily basis finds that less than threatening”; Justin Green, who edits David Frum’s blog at The Daily Beast, tweeted, “I rarely, rarely report, and I’ve had flacks say worse. Not that rare”; Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic tweeted, “As a reporter, I don’t think this was a threat”; Dylan Byers of Politico tweeted, “tweets, I’m no Woodward but broadcast/cable TV PR reps use that ‘regret’ tactic a lot”; Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo tweeted, “Who goes birther first, Scalia or Woodward?” The messaging was universal from the leftist Obama-supporting media: Woodward hadn’t been threatened, and was an amateur or a crazy old coot to think he was being threatened. Matt Yglesias of Slate summed up the general Palace Guard Media take: “Woodward’s managed to make me suspect Nixon got a raw deal.”
The gall of this is astounding. All of these reporters combined might equal one tenth a Bob Woodward in the journalistic pantheon; the notion that their treatment at the hands of press flacks in any way reflects the general or appropriate treatment of someone like Woodward is absurd on its face. But the junior varsity is all too happy to gang tackle a reportorial Hall of Famer on behalf of their beloved President.
I don't share Breitbart's esteem of Woodward, and it shouldn't astound anyone that liberal journalists would turn on one of their icons if he perchance told the truth about their idol. After all, they have turned on the whole country in lockstep with the administration. John Nolte, also of Breitbart, expressed his disgust with the MSM in a separate piece, "Cult of Obama: List of Journalists Throwing Woodward Under Bus":
But when that news hit, many in media immediately chose to protect Obama by ridiculing Woodward, questioning his motives, and/or dismissing his reporting. Meet the members of the Cult of Obama…(list of tweets from journalists)…
NOTE: This post has been updated. Woodward did not claim to be threatened by the White House. That language has been used by the media. One reference to "threat" has been rewritten in this piece to accurately reflect Woodward's statement…
I wrote two columns on Netflix's spot-on "House of Cards," and highlighted in it why the media plays a central role in that fictional account of how power-politics can draft the corrupted media in its progress towards absolutism in government. Kevin Spacey, who co-produced and stars in the series, even admitted that these days, fiction is in competition with reality.
Marc Ambinder, writing for The Week, underscores that competition.
The White House threatens reporters. A lot. It is sort of a humblebrag to say that people with titles as lofty as "Assistant to the President" and with titles as lowly as "deputy press secretary" have used the F-word in conversations with me. Both White House officials and journalists tend to be arrogant and self-referential, and there is a lot of healthy and sometimes unhealthy tension on the job. We yell at each other, and we butt heads, and we live to work another day. Threats about cutting off access are fairly routine. Just not if you're Bob Woodward and used to deference.
As to be expected, the New York Times threw its weight behind the Cult of Obama and sneered at Woodward in its own special way, emphasizing just how much Woodward is a trembling wuss. Christine Haughney and Brian Stelter, in "Woodward Is New Hero for the Right (Yes, Really)" wrote:
His feud with an unnamed official, first reported in Politico, which said Mr. Woodward clearly saw the administration’s choice of words “as a veiled threat,” initially drew cheers from many conservative commentators and bewilderment from many Washington reporters who wondered whether Mr. Woodward was being a tad oversensitive.
In an interview later on Thursday, Mr. Woodward emphasized that he had not said he felt threatened. “I never said it was a threat,” he said, but added that he still had concerns about how the administration handled criticism. “We live in a world where they don’t like to be challenged, particularly when the political stakes are so high,” he said....
Other veteran reporters said on Thursday, in essence, “We’ve heard worse.” Major Garrett, the chief White House correspondent for CBS, said that he thought the flare-up was “a completely ridiculous story” and that conflict came with the White House beat. “Every reporter knows when a source is angry about something you’re working on, you’re on the right track,” he said. “Just get on with it.”
Jake Tapper, who recently joined CNN from ABC, where he covered the White House, recalled unpleasant conversations with both Republicans and Democrats and called it part of the job. “In my experience,” he said, “neither side has had a premium on tones that may not be soothing, or words that may not be suitable for children.”
The virtual absence of any supporting reportage on the courage and mortal peril of Lars Hedegaard, and the virtual absence of any supporting reportage of Bob Woodward – who is only occasionally courageous and certainly not in mortal peril – about his conflict with the White House, points up to a state of journalism that could only be defined as self-destructive and suicidal. The press is supposed to be the Seal Team Six and oppose and warn us of any encroachments on the First Amendment and on anyone's First Amendment right to say whatever his thinks is the truth. It is supposed to come to the defense of anyone threatened with punishment for telling it.
But if the press doesn't value the truth, and treats it as a Frisbee to toss around in a pretend game it thinks is a matter of political expediency, then Americans must fall back on their own resources, and become their own defenders against a corrupted Fourth Estate and the authoritarians it lets in the front gates.