If you are going to accuse someone else of being close-minded, you really ought to listen to their arguments first.
I've lately been pushing the idea that within the conservative movement, a combination of epistemic closure and a willingness of media elites to mislead their audience is producing a rank-and-file with a skewed view of reality. If you doubt that thesis, this single example is likely enough to persuade you to reconsider.
And perhaps this very post will win you over to my side.
High hopes and bold talk! Mr. Friedersdorf then utterly ignores the argument actually being made by Mark Steyn and sets out to rebut some other point entirely.
What did Mr. Steyn write?
When you look at all the formulaic sludge that wins the Pulitzer Prize for Most Unread Multipart Series, it is striking that not one of the major newspapers has done an investigative series on the proliferation of "honor killings", not in Yemen or Waziristan but in the heart of the western world. Instead, as Phyllis Chesler writes:
The mainstream media rarely covers them. More often, local media does, but even local media does so walking-on-eggshells, careful to quote from at least one apologist and one know-nothing. Usually, the (hardcopy) mainstream media covers such events weeks later, only briefly, or as a way to “spin” any possible prejudice against the perpetrators involved. Sometimes they are mentioned, but only in passing. Rarely do follow-ups appear. Usually, a wire service piece is used, and no original reporting is done. Sometimes, the newspaper’s blog might refer to a piece which first appeared in another newspaper which, in turn, has mentioned the subject only in passing.
And lest you are not sure where the heart of the western world might be, a click on the link to Ms. Chesler includes this as her second paragraph:
I am talking about how rarely the American mainstream media covers honor killings committed in North America.
Could that be more clear? I guess so - Mr. Friedersdorf then regales us for many paragraphs with NY Times coverage of honor killings in the Middle East, the Near East, and Berlin. Fascinating, but hardly on point.
As a further suggestion that he is not actually reading any of the material in front of him, Mr. Friedersdorf finally comes home to North America and includes as an example of hard-hitting Times coverage their absurd piece on a beheading in Buffalo in Feb 2009. Here is the Times, cutting to the heart of the honor killing controversy:
The gruesome death of Ms. Hassan prompted outrage from Muslim leaders after suggestions that it had been some kind of “honor killing” based on religious or cultural beliefs.
Dr. Sawsan Tabbaa, a Muslim community leader who teaches orthodontia at the State University at Buffalo, said, “This is not an honor killing, no way.”
Dr. Tabbaa added, “It has nothing to do with his faith.”
Mr. Friedersdorf brings this all together for us:
Let's recap, focusing on the New York Times alone. Over a period of roughly a decade, the newspaper ran everything from major internationally reported stories on honor killings in its glossy magazine to a crime story about a local honor killing on its New York regional page. It covered honor killings in Europe, the Middle East and the United States.
The topic garnered attention from magazine editors, freelancers, staff reporters in the newspaper, writers on the book review and arts pages, and multiple op-ed columnists from across the ideological spectrum. One of those columnists wrote multiple items about honor killings across several years (and even mentioned them in a couple columns that won a Pulitzer Prize!). Considering the magazine stories on honor killings alone, the Times must have spent tens of thousands of dollars at minimum covering the subject in its Sunday glossy. Honor killings were also deemed important enough to frequently appear in the World Section briefs.
So what on earth is Mark Steyn talking about? Having reviewed the incomplete summary of honor killings coverage in the New York Times alone, could any rational, informed person honestly characterize American newspapers and their handling of this issue as he did?
Having reviewed the Times coverage as presented by Mr. Friedersdorf, I don't think any rational person could conclude that Mr. Steyn is wrong in claiming that the Times, as a proxy for the MSM, has waltzed away from the coverage of honor killings in its own backyard.
However, Mr. Friedersdorf was so excited that he demanded a correction from Mr. Steyn. That went well!
Now he was at a crossroads! Mr. Friedersdorf could either actually read what Mr. Steyn had written and try to respond, or he could just bash on. Bashing on it was! From his follow-up:
On The Corner, however, Mr. Steyn objects that his post was only talking about the "silence" of American newspapers when it comes to honor killings in the United States -- apparently their proclivity for dishonoring the dead, being politically correct, and bowing to multiculturalism stops at the water's edge.
Is that a mysterious notion? The Times is comfortable writing about all sorts of deplorable practices being done Far Away, but the idea that the Muslim Next Door is anything other than an oppressed, sympathetic figure prepared at any moment to belt out a chorus of 'Kumbaya' is not one the Times would care to explore.
Mr. F presses on:
What Mr. Steyn neglects -- beyond stories cited in my original post, like the Denver Post column titled "Honor Killing Comes to US" and a USA Today story titled "Honor Killings in US Raise Concerns" -- are two facts: 1) newspapers are covering the issue abroad more than at home because it is relatively rare here, unlike in Syrian or Turkey or even Germany; 2) but even if we restrict our analysis to cases he mentions, his original item is still wrong.
As an example, take Noor Almaleki, whose father ran over her with a car near Phoenix, Arizona. Were American newspapers silent? Let's take a look at The Arizona Republic to find out. The Gannett paper, the largest in Arizona, published the following coverage about the case:
Uh huh - the Arizona Republic is my benchmark for MSM coverage. Apparently the authorities labeled it an honor killing (sensibly enough) so that is how it was tagged in subsequent coverage, including this analysis that I assume Mr. F did not read:
I was talking Wednesday with Joshua Rubenstein of Amnesty International when I stumbled into the connection between the Iraqi immigrant from
accused of running over his daughter for being too “westernized” and the Civil War general who got away with murdering his wife's lover. Glendale
It has to do with culture. With history. With changes in values over time....Americans should not be complacent about this. Look at our past. Americans justified slavery and segregation in the name of cultural heritage. We had issues.”
We don't like to look at history.
We prefer to think of ourselves and our culture as fully evolved from the get-go. But the fact is we can draw a line from Faleh Hassan Almaleki back to someone like Dan Sickles, a congressman from New York in the years before the Civil War.
Yeah, yeah. And Jimi Hendrix had a big hit with "Hey, Joe" so really, we are all brothers under the skin, right? Kum-bay-yeah, yeah, yeah.
If Conor Friedersdorf wants to hector others about their close-mindedness, he will have more impact if he first listens to what they are saying.
HOW DO WE SCORE THIS: What is the baseline for the "correct" level of coverage of honor killings in North America? Who knows?!? This NPR story mentions a global problem and links to two stories about honor killings in North America. Hey, that is big-time coverage in defiance of the Steyn Assertion. On the other hand, the second NPR story describes four honor killings in North America, including two in New York State; the NY Times, in accordance with the Steyn Assertion, does not mention either of those.
TRACKING THE CHIEF OBSTETRICIAN: From Mr. Steyn we learn the the "Chief Obstetrician" of The Atlantic has chimed in on the Friedersdorf side. So what did Sully say? Since he obviously knew the Steyn post was wrong without even reading it, who cares?
But on a related point, four years ago Sully believed the press went far too lightly on the problems posed by Muslims in Europe - that would be the Danish cartoons and the murders in the Netherlands of Fortuyn and van Gogh. Oh, well - maybe the MSM have found their spine since then.