DEFENDING JOURNALISTIC MALPRACTICE WITH COLONIAL-ERA RACISM.

I hope you're enjoying the NROBS saga as much as I am. If not, go read about it. Tom Edsall has done some great work here. (Greenwald and Sullivan also have some good follow-up.)

In what I can only hope will come to be remembered as the most regretted post of her career, editor Kathryn Jean Lopez sort-of apologizes for W. Thomas Smith's fabrications with an appeal to the bigotry of National Review's readership. The Arab, you see, is very crafty:

"[W]e “should have provided readers with more context and caveats” – the context that Smith was operating in an uncertain environment where he couldn’t always be sure of what he was witnessing, and the caveats that he filled in the gaps by talking to sources within the Cedar Revolution movement and the Lebanese national-security apparatus, whose claims obviously should have been been treated with the same degree of skepticism as those of anyone with an agenda to advance.

As one of our sources put it: “The Arab tendency to lie and exaggerate about enemies is alive and well among pro-American Lebanese Christians as much as it is with the likes of Hamas.” While Smith vouches for his sources, we cannot independently verify what they told him." (emphasis added)

Jonathan Schwarz responds:

"It's not often these days you see this kind of raw, open prejudice in American publications. And certainly you can only get away with saying it about Arabs. You won't be reading about the Asian or African or Jewish or Buddhist "tendency to lie" anytime soon."

...At least not until the U.S. decides to go to war against any of those groups, at which point National Review will be among the first to inform us that lying is simply "part of the culture" of our new enemy.

Now, I think it's one thing (though still an indefensible and atrocious thing) for Ralph Peters to call Arabs "shiftless and violent" in in the op-ed pages of a tabloid that no one takes particularly seriously anyway, quite another for the online editor of the flagship publication of American conservatism to traffic in the same sort of unreconstructed bigotry. Or am I unrealistic to imagine that there's any difference? Probably.

Just as disturbing as the fact that Lopez would endorse such a view is the idea that a substantial portion, probably a solid majority, of NR's audience considers it perfectly reasonable.

--Matthew Duss

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