Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009).
By this author
While preparing a lesson about libel for my journalism students, I recently leafed through articles I had written on Gen. William C. Westmoreland’s libel suit against CBS News in 1984. CBS had accused the general of deliberately underestimating the enemy’s troop strength during the Vietnam war, thus giving a false impression that the war was winnable. Westmoreland, charging that his honor had been impugned by slanted reportage, file a defamation suit.
My recollection is that both sides fared poorly in the courtroom battle. The evidence demonstrated some shoddy journalism on CBS’s part, with outtakes showing that interviews were quoted very selectively. But the testimony from Westmoreland’s chief of intelligence also showed that he had delayed reporting a higher enemy troop strength to Washington out of fear it would be a “political bombshell.” Rather than submit the case to the jury, Westmoreland settled the suit without collecting any damages. One press room colleague said, that CBS "framed him for something he did."
Seymour Hersh’s article in the March 30 New Yorker, “The Scene of the Crime: a reporter’s journey to My Lai and the secrets of the past,” revisits the question of how important truths about the war were covered up. It’s a chilling piece in which Hersh recounts how he reported on the massacre at My Lai on March 16, 1968, when U.S. troops rounded up and executed women, children and elderly people. Returning to the scene of the crime, he visited a Vietnamese museum dedicated to the massacre and reports:
The museum’s count, no longer in dispute, is five hundred and four victims, from two hundred and forty-seven families. Twenty-four families were obliterated—–three generations murdered, with no survivors. Among the dead were a hundred and eighty-two women, seventeen of them pregnant. A hundred and seventy-three children were executed, including fifty-six infants. Sixty older men died.
I think that what most disturbs me about Rudolph Giuliani’s now-controversial remark that he doesn’t believe President Obama “loves America” is his comment on how his upbringing differs from Obama’s.
Giuliani had this to say at a fundraiser Wednesday for Wisconsin Gov. Scottt Walker:
“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”
What makes me cringe is that I suspect Giuliani is referring in some measure to his Catholic upbringing. From the time I met him in 1983 as a young AP reporter covering him on the Manhattan federal court beat, I’ve observed how that upbringing was a part of him.
Publishing a book in 2009 about Francis of Assisi's peaceful encounter with Egypt's Sultan Malik al-Kamil during the Fifth Crusade led me to meet a lot of people with an interest in improving interreligious relations. Among them were a number of Turkish immigrants who are followers of the Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. I observed that through a network of private schools, foundations and media organizations, they have worked very hard to improve Muslim-Christian relations.
Slate's recent article “The Myth of Gentrification” is the latest journalistic attempt to argue that gentrification is not really displacing the urban poor from their homes. The claim: “It’s extremely rare and not as bad for the poor as you think.”
You will not actually see poor people quoted in these stories because, well, that's anecdotal. So let's look at the data.
This school of thought relies heavily on work by Lance Freeman of Columbia University, who found that residents of low-income, gentrifying neighborhoods were statistically less likely to move out than were residents of poor communities that were not gentrifying. It's not surprising because the poor also want to live in neighborhoods that are safe and attractive.
But there is more to Professor Freeman’s work than that. In one talk I attended, he said he also found that poor households living in gentrifying neighborhoods “had an average rent burden of 62 percent,” which he said was “astronomical.” He added: “The people who were staying were paying exorbitant amounts of their income toward rent.” His work is no remedy for upper-middle-class guilt over gentrification.
"I take my religion from Cuomo and my politics from O'Connor."
So said the great columnist Murray Kempton, his voice booming across the newsroom at New York Newsday. It was some time in the 1980s, and from my vantage point as a much younger reporter, it seemed that whether in church, state, media, law enforcement, politics, even ownership of baseball teams, New York was well stocked with larger-than-life characters.
Back in September, New America Foundation published a study that used federal data to evaluate how well colleges do in admitting low-income students and providing financial aid to them.
About 200 Catholic theologians have signed a statement that calls for a "radical reconsideration of policing policy in our nation." Some would no doubt question what theologians know about police work, but their effort to bring Catholic teaching to the controversies surrounding the police slayings of Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.,deserves to be read and discussed.
"Huge and illuminated," here is a billboard the Catholic League has purchased in Los Angeles to mark the coming season of peace--the time of year when you would naturally want to compare those you disagree with to the world's most vicious killers.
Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago issued a pre-Thanksgiving statement in which he gave thanks for President Obama's decision to defer deportation for about 4.5 million undocumented immigrants. It follows a Nov. 20 statement that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued to welcome the president's decision.
I probably just missed it, but I haven't seen any discussion in Catholic media of one of the best pieces of reporting concerning the Catholic Church that I've ever read. It's Jon Lee Anderson's article in the Oct. 20 New Yorker, "The Mission: A Last Defense against Genocide." It tells the story of one Catholic priest and his mission to create a refuge of peace in the midst of the extraordinary Christian-Muslim violence dividing the Central African Republic.
The article begins in a straightforward way: "When the killing reached Bossemptele, a small town deep in the isolated interior of the Central African Republic, Father Bernard Kinvi, who helps run the Catholic mission there, tried to save everyone he could."
In this case, "everyone" included Muslims whom Christian militias were bent on slaughtering.