We Were The Bad Guys

America’s liberal elite are in awe of the New York Times. Most of the rest of the media (as well as the professoriat) are unable to leave home in the morning without perusing the Times‘s front and editorial pages.

For awhile now, PBS’s Jim Lehrer News Hour has used Times reporters stationed in Iraq. It’s always shocking to see the faces of those responsible for the reports and analysis that appear on the august front page of the august New York Times. To me they look like twenty-somethings who recently graduated from Yale. In other words, they look like bright, privileged, callow know-it-alls. But, hey, they work for the Times, so they must know what they’re talking about.

Today, the guys from Power Line directed me to a review by Hilton Kramer which appeared in the New Criterion of David Halberstam’s book The Fifties .

Kramer describes the Times reporters who covered Vietnam (Halberstam was the most prominent):

The paper had to send in all those reporters in relays to cover the war. Many of them were young men who had little or no experience of the world. They knew nothing about politics and even less about war. There were exceptions, of course, but very few. Some had never before had a serious foreign assignment or seen any military combat. At one point the Times had even sent in a fashion reporter from its Paris bureau. Communism was an abstraction to them. They thought the real enemy in Vietnam was the USA. They weren’t Communists themselves, but they proved to be complete suckers for the anti-anti-Communist line that was now ascendant in the Western press. History for a lot of these guys began with the election of John F. Kennedy, and most of them thought Bobby Kennedy was a saint. In Vietnam, they had three ambitions: to get out alive, to win a Pulitzer, and to see America defeated. Their whole view of the world was shaped by Vietnam. They saw the world divided into good guys and bad guys, and we were the bad guys. Then, when they had finished their stint in Vietnam, they had to be rewarded with assignments to more glamorous foreign capitals, where they were likely to understand even less than they had in Saigon, and where they seldom knew the language, the history, or the culture of the countries they were writing about. This was the kind of comic-strip coverage of foreign affairs the Times was now getting. All in all, it was probably a good thing that newspaper readers were now less interested in foreign affairs than they used to be. It was keeping the circulation of misinformation at a lower level than it would otherwise be.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. But today, these “youths” who cover the war and much else have their misinformation trumpeted far and wide by their acolytes in the classrooms and in the less prestigious media .

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