August 3, 2007

The Roundup: General Obama, Murdoch’s New Toy, and Kos’s Censorship

By: John Tabin

Having promised last week to meet with a rogues gallery of dictators within the first year of his term, Barack Obama continued this week to sketch out his unique foreign policy vision.

On Wednesday, Obama gave a speech that included this warning to Pakistan:

It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.

Obama was referring to an aborted operation described in a recent New York Times story. Accord to the article, it became clear that striking this particular target would require sending hundreds of troops into Pakistan. Fearing the consequences of such an incursion for US-Pakistani relations — indeed, for the survival of a non-Islamist government in Islamabad — then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called off the mission at the last minute over the objection of CIA director Porter Goss.

Then yesterday, Obama pledged that he would never use nuclear weapons against terrorist targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

So, to review: a President Obama would do cozy photo-ops with the leaders of Syria, Iran, Venezula, Cuba, and North Korea. But he wouldn’t hesitate to invade Pakistan. Meanwhile, he’s committed to not using nuclear weapons against the Islamist groups who might well be empowered by the chaos following that Pakistan invasion — maybe empowered enough to have nukes of their own.

Clearly, this is a manifestation of Obama’s boundlessly audacious hopefulness.

The big media news this week, of course, is Rupert Murdoch’s purchase, for $5 billion, of Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones and Co. Murdoch is a controversial figure, and the takeover has generated a flurry of often-silly commentary. Perhaps the most specimen: Yesterday’s New York Times editorial on the subject.

The Times editorialists start with the assertion that the journalism business is unique because it “thrives on competition,” and say that this is the reason that they “are paying such anxious attention” to the Murdoch deal.

“As newspapers have contracted, or simply disappeared, news organizations like The Times and The Journal have not celebrated,” they continue, going on to catalog the well-known indicators that the newspaper business is in decline. They praise the Journal for being “a responsible and challenging competitor,” and assure that they “will be watching for any sign that news coverage is being slanted to curry political or economic favor.”

Now it becomes clear: All that hand-wringing over newspapers’ business woes is just so much cant. Rupert Murdoch’s career in the news business has been marked by repeated wild success. If the Times editorialists were really worried about the business health of its competitors, they would enthusiastically welcome Murdoch’s takeover. Their real concern is that the Journal might become less like the Times. When the New York Times editorialists claim to value competition, what they really mean is that they value conformity.

The community built around DailyKos, the 800-pound-guerilla of the lefty blogosphere, is currently gathered in Chicago for their annual convention, YearlyKos. Reports from the Windy City suggest that Rupert Murdoch was very much on the Kossacks’ minds yesterday.

Blogging both for The Economist and Reason, David Weigel informs us that one panel focused mainly on strategies for bullying advertisers into boycotting the Murdoch-owned Fox News Channel. An audience member asked the panelists what could be done to block Murdoch’s Dow Jones acquisition; blogger Matt Stoller responded by holding up a flyer advertising a speech by FCC Commissioner Michael Copps. Copps did, indeed, spend part of his speech discussing how Murdoch can be thwarted.

There’s something disturbing about the spectacle of a community built in the anything-goes free speech zone that is the web gleefully discussing how to silence their ideological opponents. Why is it that, even after last year’s bicameral Democratic election victories, liberal activists seem to retain a peculiar insecurity about their ability to win an argument on the merits?

John Tabin is a columnist for Brainwash.