October 10, 2006

In Case You Missed It

Here's an old quote I often think about, from former New York Times editor Elizabeth Bumiller:

[Elizabeth Bumiller (New York Times)]: You can't just say the president is lying. You don't just say that in the . . . you just say -

Ghiglione: Well, why can't you?

[laughter from the audience]

Bumiller: You can in an editorial, but I'm sorry, you can't in a news column. Mr. Bush is lying? You can say Mr. Bush is, you can say. . . .

[Murmuring and laughter continue from audience.]

Bumiller [to audience]: And stop the fussing! You can say Mr. Bush's statement was not factually accurate. You can't say the president is lying - that's a judgment call.

[Susan Page (USA Today)]: I think its much more powerful to say, "However, the president's statement did not reflect the record"

Bumiller: Or "was not factually accurate."

Page: "Was not factually accurate." I think that's more powerful than. . . .

[Audience continues to murmur.]

Bumiller [to audience]: What is wrong with that? What is your problem with that? What? Why do you all object to that?...
That debate followed the fallout from Bush's 2004 election win. I wonder if Bumiller still thinks that way? A NYT cover page saying BUSH LIED might have helped swing the last election, particularly if it led to all the stories we now know the NYT was sitting on (the "Bush Bulge" story, the NSA wire-tapping, etc...). Or maybe the headline should have been "NYT LIES"?

The discussion above comes from an old article I wrote for Brad Blog, Does Reality Even Matter? Thanks to Winter Patriot for reminding me of it the other day. I have been thinking of writing a book, but I think that article pretty much sums up everything I would want to say. For example:
If a tree falls in the Amazon rainforest on Bush's watch, but the New York Times does not report it, has it really fallen? Well, yes it has, as we are painfully learning - and when thousands and thousands of such rainforest trees fall, our climate changes inevitably for the worse. The same thing goes for icebergs melting in the Arctic Circle or bodies rotting on the streets of Baghdad. Ignoring truths does not make them any less true. It just increases our ignorance.
That remains, for me, the fundamental dilemma of the Bush years: do we want to engage with reality, or live in a world of fantasy?


Blog Archive