Jim Treacher, a conservative writer at the Daily Caller, thinks that the New York Times changed a report
on the Charlie Hebdo massacre out of political correctness or pro-Muslim sympathy. This is what the NYT originally reported (according to the right-wing blog Ace of Spades):
Sigolène Vinson, a freelancer who had decided to come in that morning to take part in the meeting, thought she would be killed when one of the men approached her.
Instead, she told French news media, the man said, “I’m not going to kill you because you’re a woman, we don’t kill women, but you must convert to Islam, read the Quran and cover yourself,” she recalled.
Treacher says that the NYT changed the story thus:
Sigolène Vinson, a freelance journalist who had come in that morning to take part in the meeting, said that when the shooting started, she thought she would be killed.
Ms. Vinson said in an interview that she dropped to the floor and crawled down the hall to hide behind a partition, but one of the gunmen spotted her and grabbed her by the arm, pointing his gun at her head. Instead of pulling the trigger, though, he told her she would not be killed because she was a woman.
“Don’t be afraid, calm down, I won’t kill you,” the gunman told her in a steady voice, with a calm look in his eyes, she recalled. “You are a woman. But think about what you’re doing. It’s not right.”
The right-wing agit-prop machine is making a huge
deal out of this: See here
Frankly, this incident is
quite odd. The NYT commits many sins, but the paper is usually good about noting changes in their articles. In fact, the newspaper does
mention a very small change concerning a misspelled name -- yet the errata notice says nothing about the three paragraphs quoted above.
Vinson actually say "You must convert to Islam"? Did the assailant mention the Quran and the need to dress modestly?
A French-language publication is more likely to quote the woman accurately. Here is how RFI
puts it (my translation):
A few moments after the tragedy, Sigolène Vinson spoke to RFI: "I am Sigolène. I am alive. But it's horrible, horrible. They're dead." [Crying.] "If Sigolène Vinson is still alive, it's because she's a woman. One of the attackers said: 'We do not kill women, but you have to convert to Islam and cover yourself,' before shouting 'Allah Akbar.'"
Obviously, this is closer to the version given by Ace of Spades, although there is nothing here about the Quran.
Interestingly, the Quran is referenced in a version published the French version of Slate
. "We won't kill you because we don't kill women, but you will read the Quran." (See also here
.) But now we have no reference to covering up.
gives a version which agrees with the Ace of Spades report.
So we have varying reports. What do we make of this?
I think that, in the direct aftermath of the event, Vinson gave slightly differing accounts. One can hardly blame her for being frazzled. She may have given a third variant at a later time, and this third variant may be the one published by the New York Times.
That said: I can find no French-language report which agrees with the later NYT story. Google gives us no trace of a French-language account in which the terrorist tells Vinson to calm down and not to be afraid. Times writer Liz Alderman may have acquired her information from a later radio or television interview of Vinson.
If Alderman did
alter her original report in a material way, the NYT should should so stipulate.
(A side note: It's a little surprising to see that the attacker spoke to Vinson using the familiar tu
instead of vous
. I was taught that one uses tu
when addressing a child.)
Nevertheless, it is inane to argue that the NYT is displaying some sort of pro-Islamic bias. After all, this is the same "journal of record" which has always shown such a pronounced bias in favor of Israel, not to mention the very skewed reporting of the Syrian civil war.
The idea that liberals favor Islamic fundamentalism, or any other type of fundamentalism, is one of those surreal fairy tales that right-wingers love to tell themselves, even though this fantasy has no basis in reality. Most liberals feel uncomfortable with any and all
forms of "that old time religion." (Liberals do tend to give Wiccans a free pass, probably because so many Wiccans are big on feminist rhetoric. Of course, Wicca only pretends
to be old.).
The right wants us to believe that this terror attack proves not only that Islam is inherently violent but that the mainstream American media are enablers of Islamic violence.
Balderdash. The contrary is true.
Mainstream American journalists are enablers of senseless violence against
Muslims. To prove the point, one need merely whisper the name Judith Miller
-- whose fibs were published by the New York Times.
I might also mention the endlessly respectful treatment given to Colin Powell's UN address. Let's not forget our media's refusal to devote proper attention to the Downing Street Memo.
I admire what Lucy Steigerwald
has written, although her wording is a bit too convoluted:
The perpetrators of the Paris attack – now identified, with one in custody – should be found and brought to justice. But oh, If only one could depend on a narrowness of response – that only the terrorists responsible would be punished for every attack, and no freedoms, no domestic privacy or rights would be sacrificed; no innocent Muslims or their houses of worship assaulted or oppressed, and no civilians would be caught in any crossfire of any ensuing international effort.
She notes that one of the suspects was apparently radicalized by his treatment at Abu Ghraib.
What we also know is that most people moved by this crime in Paris will not spend precious time thinking about other bloodbaths caused by other, more legitimized hands. Drones, bombs, or boots on the ground; destabilizing and collapsing nations; causing civil wars. What can’t be excused, that is, as long as western enlightenment ideals were somewhere vaguely near the back of the motivation?
We should stop ranking losses, and we should only say that the Charlie Hebdo staff and the police officers killed matter just as much as every innocent person killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, or Pakistan. Tragically – especially in America – that’s a radical statement to make.
Yes, the NYT is guilty of many sins. The magically morphing quotation attributed to Vinson is, at worst, a venial
sin. When the Times committed a series of mortal
sins during the Bush years, the Republicans did not complain.
A kind reader has informed me that NYT writer Alderman now says that the Vinson quote published in RFI was erroneous. Thus, American right-wing bloggers are incensed that the NYT did not continue to reproduce a false
quote -- a false quote which just happened to tie into a right-wing fear-fantasy.
Alderman's new story on the Charlie Hebdo massacre is here
Sigolène Vinson, a freelance journalist who had come in that morning to take part in the meeting, said that when the shooting started, she thought she would be killed. Ms. Vinson said in an interview that she dropped to the floor and crawled down the hall to hide behind a partition, but one of the gunmen spotted her and grabbed her by the arm, pointing his gun at her head. Instead of pulling the trigger, though, he told her she would not be killed because she was a woman.
She disputed a quotation attributed to her and carried on the website of the French radio service RFI stating that the gunman had told her she should convert to Islam, read the Quran and cover herself. Instead, she told The New York Times in an interview, the gunman told her: “Don’t be afraid, calm down, I won’t kill you.” He spoke in a steady voice, she said, with a calm look in his eyes, saying: “ ‘You are a woman. But think about what you’re doing. It’s not right.’ ” Then she said he turned to his partner, who was still shooting, and shouted: “We don’t shoot women! We don’t shoot women! We don’t shoot women!”
I'm sure that the right-wingers will now claim that Alderman concocted this new story in order to cover her ass. Any such theory is ridiculous. Vinson is herself a widely-published journalist, and in a position to refute a false quote published in America's leading newspaper.
A right-wing reader -- a newcomer to this blog -- has accused me of trying to "spin" the NYT story. Regular readers know full well that I have often criticized the New York Times, often in very harsh terms. In the comments, I offered a response to this right-wing visitor, and I'd like to repeat that sentiment here:
You rightwingers live in an alternative universe, and whenever you encounter people who say anything that stands outside of your delusions, you scry conspiratorial intent.
In this case, your delusions are two-fold. You want to believe: 1. That Muslims want to impose "The Caliphate" on the west and to force your sons and daughters practice Islam; and 2. That the New York Times is, for some reason, down with this program.
On both counts -- but especially the second -- you are simply nuts. Totally fucking insane. My god, the New York Times may be the most pro-Jewish newspaper published outside of Israel. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the NYT is more pro-Jewish than freakin' Ha'aretz. Look at who OWNS the NYT. Look at who WRITES for the NYT. Look at who buys copies of the NYT in the actual city of New York. You really think that these are people who want to see a Caliphate in the U.S.? Are you freakin' KIDDING?
And that, I hope, is that. Now I can pay attention to the finale
of this drama...!