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NY Times Public Editor Proudly Announces Jodi Rudoren’s Tweets Will Be Censored

jodi rudoren

Jodi Rudoren: the Taming of the Jew

No sooner do I admire a column by the NY Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan, than she produces one of the truly strange pieces, taking the paper’s Israel bureau chief to task for “improper” tweeting.  In her story, she wags her finger at Jodi Rudoren for being carelessly forthright in expressing her opinions about the recent Gaza assault.  What really threw me for a loop was the “authority” she choose to bolster her judgment that Rudoren had overstepped her bounds: Jeffrey Goldberg.  Yes, that arbiter of all that is good and just in American Jewish political life (and former Kahanist), seems to have pulled the wool over Sullivan’s eyes for her to write this:

In terms of social media, Ms. Rudoren has had a rocky start in her new position.  Within a few days of taking the post, she had sent some Twitter messages that brought criticism, and had people evaluating her politics before she had dug into the reporting work before her.

Oh me, oh my, she actually tweeted some friendly tweets to such enemies of the Jewish people as Ali Abunimah.  Heaven forfend.  The Gray Lady truly got her knickers in a knot over that one.  And for my hasbarist friends and readers, Rudoren has actually had the temerity to respond to my tweets.  I know, what a shock.

Here’s the Goldberg money quote:

Jeffrey Goldberg, writing in The Atlantic, summarized them: “She shmoozed-up Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian activist who argues for Israel’s destruction; she also praised Peter Beinart’s upcoming book (‘The Crisis of Zionism’) as, ‘terrific: provocative, readable, full of reporting and reflection.’ She also linked without comment to an article in a pro-Hezbollah Lebanese newspaper.” The headline on Mr. Goldberg’s article was, “Twitterverse to New NYT Jerusalem Bureau Chief: Stop Tweeting!”

In the post-Kahanist mentality of people like Goldberg, Abunimah “argues for Israel’s destruction,” which is ludicrous and merely shows how politically and intellectually blinkered Goldberg is.  What Goldberg means is that Abunimah is opposed to Israel being a state that grants supremacy to its Jewish citizens.  Which is entirely different from the claim Goldberg makes about Abunimah’s views.

But does it mean Sullivan should treat Goldberg as judge, jury and executioner?  What has he done to earn such stature?  You see, the problem for the relatively uninitiated like Sullivan is that they don’t understand the ideological baggage of many of the so-called journalistic mandarins.  If you knew little or nothing about Islam, you might think Bernard Lewis was a distinguished scholar in the field.  The same holds true for Goldberg.  Before you quote someone you must know what their point of view is.  Otherwise, you’re the blind quoting the blind.

To be candid, I’ve criticized all but one of the NY Times Israel bureau chiefs going back almost ten years.  And I’ve criticized Rudoren.  But I praised her too.  Ethan Bronner would never have covered the Gaza assault from within Gaza.  That was a gutsy move.  True, her coverage of a Hamas sponsored funeral was culturally condescending and tone-deaf, but I never felt that she bristled or bridled at the criticism as her predecessors did (none of whom ever replied to any direct messages I sent them).  Rudoren did.  And I give her credit for that.  She engaged her critics rather than circling the wagons.

Bronner liked to pat himself on the back and tell his readers how tortured he was about his coverage and how his critics didn’t understand the care he took to get it right.  His editor protected him and covered his ass despite the fact that he was hopelessly biased and conflicted (in the sense of conflict of interest).  Only the prior public editor, Clark Hoyt wrote the unmentionable and suggested Bronner be reassigned.  He was promptly ignored and rebuffed.

Is Rudoren perfect? No.  How could any NY Times Israel bureau chief be perfect given the liberal Zionist Weltanschauung of that paper?  But within the parameters of what can be said and written, she made an effort to be more open than most.

The most disturbing part of Sullivan’s column is the announcement, which the latter thoroughly approves, of appointing a “minder” who will “edit” (read, “censor”) Rudoren’s tweets so they don’t anger anyone over-much.  This is the Taming of the Jew.  Jews have big mouths.  They have opinions.  Sometimes the opinions are wrong.  Sometimes they’re right.  But to muzzle such an important member of the Times reporting staff when her full voice is most needed is foolish and counter-productive.

It shows the Times simply doesn’t understand social media.  It doesn’t understand that its entire purpose is to offer an unvarnished, unmediated window into the minds of users.  Of course, I don’t mean that concerning psychopaths, serial killers or genuine delusionals.  But concerning people of Rudoren’s stature, yes, I want their (relatively) unfiltered views.  Appointing a censor to tenderize her tweets defeats the entire purpose of the enterprise.  It neuters her.  Turns her into a journalist made of stone.

What the pro-Israel right (including Goldberg) says is: Sha still.  If Rudoren doesn’t understand how ball is played on the pro-Israel field let her maintain silence until she gets the rules.  The Israel lobby does this with all influential figures who venture too far from the foxhole.  Speak too candidly, stray from the standard talking points and you’ll be clobbered.  People will be calling for your head.  Abe Foxman will be calling your editor.  Jimmy Tisch will take Arthur Sulzberger aside at a social gala to remonstrate.  Rudoren, they all say, this is just not the way it’s done.

So I say to the Times: Free Jodi Rudoren.  Let a hundred tweets bloom!  If not, just go back to the gray pages of the print edition and stop engaging the digital world.  It’s a lost cause for you and one of the reasons the paper will fail in its outreach efforts.

{ 25 comments… add one }
  • Michael Levin November 28, 2012, 11:30 PM

    Ali Abunimah: “Responding to New York Times Public Editor’s smear against me,” Electronic Intifada [ei], 11/28/12. Excerpt: “In other words you laundered Goldberg’s inflammatory accusations against me as fact, and you never bothered to contact me to discern their accuracy or discuss them with me. What I advocate is full equality for Palestinians, full implementation of their human and political rights, and the abolition of all laws and practices by Israel that discriminate against them just because they are not Jews.” For the full article: http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/responding-new-york-times-public-editors-smear-against-me

  • yankel November 29, 2012, 12:24 AM

    American MSM’s prevalent code-of-disregard concerning Palestinians’ rights to be treated as equal humans is a continuous, mostly successful, attempt to lie to most people most of the time The rare exceptions are utilised to gain unwarranted credits.

    This usually works but it does take its toll.

  • mary November 29, 2012, 12:36 AM

    Sorry, Richard, but I disagree. Rudoren is right next to Tom Friedman on my personal shit list for journalists. Her racism and unprofessional reporting merit her dismissal, not her pardon. That piece she wrote about the Gazan funeral was so condescendingly racist and ignorant as to be toxic. Any responsible journalist would have asked about what they didn’t understand, not merely report their observations like some kind of 19th century missionary in the jungle. In the midst of that horrible attack on Gaza, she missed an opportunity to bring some humanity to her reportage but opted to remain comfortably in her New York Jew worldview, not only then but in everything she has written about Palestine. Rudoren has, by being in Gaza, a precious opportunity to write from a fresh perspective, but she chooses not to. So I’ve got very little use for Jodi Rudoren.

    • abierno November 29, 2012, 7:58 AM

      I support your comment, Mary. In her response to the furor, she never apologized for or acknowledged the racist
      basis for her comments. To miss the exceptional pain of the parents whose children died, as well as the horrific manner of their deaths, is to truly dehumanize and delegitamatize those individuals as well as all of the civilian deaths in Gaza. Her world view is only millemeters apart from those of Danny Dayan, Moishe Feiglin, etc. She should have had the courage to resign; the NYT the spine to fire her. She is the touchstone for the low standards that currently exist in US journalism. Walter Lippman would have scalded her in an editorial above the fold and the NYT as well as its affiliates would have printed it. In any armed conflict, the death of a child, a women, a civilian is never – “Ho Hum.” In virtually every case it is a preventable tragedy. I would close with IDF officer Gantz comment which summarizes the Israeli
      position: “In war there are no civilians.”

      • mary November 29, 2012, 10:20 AM

        I honestly think that had she been reporting anywhere else she would have been fired. The NY Times was actually better off with Ethan Bronner; at least his bias was more subtle.

        Ignorance is not something that should be acceptable in journalism. It is the journalist’s responsibility to relate facts, not ponder why a child’s funeral seems so “ho hum.” I absolutely agree with you that Rudoren’s level of journalism is the nadir of the profession, and shame on the NY Times for publishing her dreck.

        • Castellio November 29, 2012, 11:43 AM

          Surely it’s occurred to you that she was chosen for her dreck?

          I’m not trying to be clever. Imagine, for a moment, if Richard Silverstein was reporting for the NYT… well, why not? In that answer is why she was hired.

        • Richard Silverstein November 30, 2012, 2:29 AM

          Oh no. I disagree. Bronner’s bias is far more obvious. Just read this piece I just posted about which concerns the UN vote. It’s full of distortion & claptrap. Rudoren isn’t perfect, but she’s better than Bronner. At least in my opinion.

      • Richard Silverstein November 30, 2012, 2:32 AM

        She tweeted “ho-hum.” She didn’t publish this in the NY Times. I don’t much like the idea of firing people because of a tweet unless it’s egregious.

        You could take her to task for her comment. Bronner wouldn’t have even cared. At least Rudoren responds most of the time when you take issue w her.

    • Richard Silverstein November 30, 2012, 2:35 AM

      This is the first time she’s set foot in Gaza. If I didn’t know what I know, the first time I went to Gaza I’d probably say something stupid too.

      I too was very critical of that piece especially calling the funeral “militant paegentry.” But Bronner never even went to Gaza. Do you understand the difference?

  • David Nelson November 29, 2012, 5:21 AM

    “Appointing a censor to tenderize her tweets defeats the entire purpose of the enterprise. It neuters her. Turns her into a journalist made of stone.”

    Yes. Turns her into something not entirely human.

    I agree, let the tweets fly. We are all flawed. A flawed person who demonstrates growth is so much more palatable than a flawed person who turns toward denial. Are any of us really shocked that Rudoren has racist ideas about who the Palestinians are? An unreflected life of hasbara has (possibly) reached a turning point. Her racism is probably news to her, the Times should let her explore this racism in a public way.

    • mary November 30, 2012, 1:29 AM

      As always, Zionist Jews are so egocentric as to think something as absurd as a journalist working her way though her bigotry in a public way is “palatable” as it concerns Palestinians and Arabs. Tell me, would you be as willing to watch a southern cracker “work her way” though her racism against African Americans? Or, pray tell, through her anti-semitism?

      To what level has journalism descended if you believe it is acceptable to forgo professionalism and a semblance of fairness? And, don’t you think it’s high time the Palestinians were treated with some professionalism and fairness and that this standard should not be sacrificed to the idea of some navel-gazing idiot’s personal growth? As always, are they to pay a price for Jewish zionist narcissism?

  • donald November 29, 2012, 1:53 PM

    I agree with Richard. I expect prejudice from NYT reporters and I’d prefer it be out in the open. And also, Rudoren, for all her flaws, seems willing to listen to people who point them out, at least to some degree.

    And more important, she’s the first NYT reporter I’ve seen who reports the legitimate grievances of Gazans regarding the shooting of Palestinian fishermen, and the shooting of Palestinian civilians inside the buffer zone that Israel has declared INSIDE GAZA. The NYT editorialists don’t acknowledge the issues at all–to them the storyline is that Gazans shoot rockets at Israel and Israel reacts.

    • mary November 29, 2012, 2:04 PM

      But in the process she dehumanizes the people she writes about, so she defeats any ostensible purpose other than to further alienate the Palestinians from the minds of her readers.

      • donald November 30, 2012, 11:08 AM

        As you know, in the US people are bombarded with anti-Palestinian opinions and anti-Arab and anti-Muslim prejudice and obviously with a great many people it becomes part of how they think. I think Rudoren has shown some indications that while she obviously has these prejudices, she is capable of listening to critics and trying to improve. But time will tell. In the forseeable future I don’t think the NYT is likely to have a reporter like the late Anthony Shadid covering the Israel/Palestine beat.

  • David Nelson November 30, 2012, 4:01 AM

    Mary, i am neither a zionist nor a jew. And yes, i do think people have a right to work their way through their own racism. Also, had she said such insensitive things towards Israelis, i do believe she would have been fired.

    All the same, she is a product of her upbringing. I am simply not shocked that she is racist, are you? And if she were to be fired, she is only going to be replaced by another racist. So what is the point signalling out one racist reporter in a racist company like the NY Times? The Times should be signaled out. The whole of the lame stream media should be signaled out. Jodi is a very small part of this, and if by chance we can watch her grow, then let those tweets fly.

    If i want real coverage on Israel/Palestine, it won’t be the Times i turn to.

  • dub November 30, 2012, 8:25 PM

    that “former Kahanist’ stuff is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO completely full of shit that I pity you for clinging to it.

    • Richard Silverstein December 1, 2012, 1:49 PM

      Actually, I don’t give a damn what you think. Comments containing no substance or argument violate the comment rules. If I’d wanted opinions devoid of fact I’d read Arutz Sheva or the National Enquirer, not you. Next violation, you’re moderated.

      • dub December 1, 2012, 3:17 PM

        would you care to discuss whether there’s substance to the claim of “former Kahanist” or would you not?

        • Richard Silverstein December 2, 2012, 2:51 AM

          I’ve written an entire article on it which is linked in this blog. I don’t need to discuss it further here since I’ve already said my piece. You on the other hand as someone clearly ignorant of that, need to read what I wrote before you make an even greater fool of yourself than you already have.

          • dub December 2, 2012, 4:04 PM

            yes, Richard I read that essay and am not ignorant of it.

            your opinion offered there was truly terrible and based on the flimsiest of pretext.

            saying that a man is a “former Kahanist” because as a teen he read something written by Kahane that he really liked….. is so unsound and so without sufficient logical base that it a “Mccarthy-like” smear would be a disservice to the late Senator Joseph McCarthy.

            If the guy read Karl Marx as a teen and liked some of the historical points…would you call him a “former Marxist”?

          • Richard Silverstein December 2, 2012, 4:09 PM

            I’m sorry but you are an idiot. Jeffrey Goldberg in his own memoir concedes he was a follower of Meir Kahane. He didn’t say he “liked” Kahane. He worshiped him and his views. And as late as his mid-20s again in his own words, he found his ideas “profound.” All in his own words. And you call that “flimsiest of pretexts?” I consider this arguing in bad faith. I don’t mind arguing with someone who does so honestly & forthrightly. But someone who can see words printed on a page & either lies about their meaning or distort their meaning, is not someone I can ever take seriously.

  • dirck westervelt December 1, 2012, 7:44 AM

    Bernard Lewis is a distinguished professor of the Islamic world despite his obvious biases!

    • Richard Silverstein December 1, 2012, 1:53 PM

      How can simeone so clearly in the thrall of neocons, who in turn are riddled with Islsmophobia, be said to be a distinguished scholar of Islam? I’d feel much more comfortable if he confined himself to the fields he really knew best, rather than wandering off the reservation into fields where he has no expertise.

  • dub December 2, 2012, 5:09 PM

    and I’m very sorry, Richard, that you’re about half as intelligent as an idiot.

    and too dim to understand that liking some of the things that Kahane said is neither liking all of them or in any way following Kahane in any fashion…..and nothing at all akin to meriting being described as a kahanist.

    the term has a specific meaning which does not include people who liked some things that he said…..were you not engaging in half-wittedness and petulant pique you would be able to produce some substantial evidence of actual association rather than early partial admiration.

    put on your dunce cap and think

    • Richard Silverstein December 2, 2012, 6:06 PM

      And I’m not at all sorry that you’re banned. Tell the next hasbra warrior to prepare for his landing at Ben Gurion. And don’t slam the cockpit door on your way out.

      Goldberg didn’t say he “liked some of the things Kahane said.” He was a disciple. There’s a difference. He never said he was critical of anything Kahane said until he became older. Even then, his criticism couldn’t prevent him from continuing to express his admiration.

      As for whether or not my judgment is right: Tikkun Magazine thought I was & published it. When you have a pulpit as popular and distinguished then someone might credit yr judgment on these matters. Till then, not so much.

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