Great Moments In Newspaper Aggregation

The New York Times profile of the Shariah-panic industry's favorite lawyer, David Yerushalmi, is a stellar example of how newspapers aggregate other people's reporting without giving them credit. I frankly don't know if this is the fault of the piece's editors or of the reporter, Andrea Elliott, but Yerushalmi's role in crafting anti-Muslim legislation was well reported in the lefty blogosphere prior to Elliott's piece, which offers some new biographical details but mostly relies on information reported elsewhere. It also manages to soft-ball the legislation he's helped craft.

The first person to report on Yerushalmi's extreme views on Islam ("Islam was born in violence; it will die that way"), blacks and women ("There is a reason the founding fathers did not give women or black slaves the right to vote"), liberal Jews ("Jews of the modern age are the most radical, aggressive and effective of the liberal Elite") was Matt Duss, who doesn't so much as get a mention in the piece. Yerushalmi's proposal to to criminalize being a Muslim, proposing that "to knowingly act in furtherance of, or to support the, adherence to Islam" should be a "felony punishable by 20 years in prison," was also first identified by Duss. The role Yerushalmi played in crafting Tennessee's "anti-Shariah" legislation was first reported in the national media by Tim Murphy of Mother Jones. And of course, local Tennessee reporters followed the debate over the radical bill Yerushalmi wrote that would have made it possible to designate any Muslim who follows dietary laws or prays five times a day a terrorist. It's one thing not to mention names -- but there aren't even any links in Elliott's piece to the pieces whose reporting she's aggregating.

A lesser issue is the Tennessee bill, which was drastically altered at the behest of the federal government. This is how Elliott describes it:

And in June, Tennessee passed an antiterrorism law that, in its original iteration, would have empowered the attorney general to designate Islamic groups suspected of terror activity as “Shariah organizations.”

Well, that's technically true, but it doesn't do justice to the bill's breadth. In its original iteration, the bill closely resembled Yerushalmi's dream of making adherence to Islam a felony. The bill declared that "the knowing adherence to sharia and to foreign sharia authorities constitutes a conspiracy to further the legal, political, and military doctrine and system which embraces the law of jihad." Or praying to Allah five times a day makes you a terrorist. The issue wasn't just designation authority, it was that bill, nonwithstanding a weak disclaimer, criminalized the practice of Islam, having declared it indistinguishable from trying to overthrow the government of the United States.

Designation authority was removed from the bill, likely because including it would have provoked a legal challenge from the feds.

The Tennessee bill aside, however, it's really extraordinary that the Times jumps into this topic without acknowledging other people's legwork, particularly given the fact that traditional newspaper reporters frequently complain that bloggers just steal their work. And it's particularly a shame given that Elliott is actually a really great reporter whose pieces I usually look forward to reading. 

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