Jeffrey Medford, a small-business owner in South Carolina, voted reluctantly for Donald Trump.
Medford should be a natural ally for liberals trying to convince the country that Trump was a bad choice. But it is not working out that way. Every time Medford dips into the political debate — either with strangers on Facebook or friends in New York and Los Angeles — he comes away feeling battered by contempt and an attitude of moral superiority.
“We’re backed into a corner,” said Medford, 46, whose business teaches people to be filmmakers. “You’re an idiot if you support any part of Trump.’”
The story above appeared in The New York Times. Like a broken clock, the “newspaper of record” can be right twice a day. Well, twice a day may be a bit over the top.
But here is some more of the article:
Liberals may feel energized by a surge in political activism, and a unified stance against a president they see as irresponsible and even dangerous. But that momentum is provoking an equal and opposite reaction on the right.
“The name calling from the left is crazy,” said Bryce Youngquist, 34, who works in sales for a tech start-up in Mountain View, Calif., a liberal enclave where admitting you voted for Trump. “They are complaining that Trump calls people names, but they turned into some mean people.”
Youngquist did not put a bumper sticker on his car, for fear it would be keyed. The only place he felt comfortable wearing his Make America Great Again hat was on vacation in China.
He came out a few days before the election. On election night, a friend posted on Facebook, “You are a disgusting human being.”
“They were making me want to support him more with how irrational they were being,” Youngquist said.
Like many Trump supporters, I have been shamed by some of the same people who display yard signs that say: “Hate Has No Home Here.”
In academia, I have to sit through meetings, which have nothing to do with politics, that include numerous jabs at Trump supporters. I have come up with a few responses to Trump bashers:
–Statement: Hillary won the popular vote!
–My response: Then start a movement to amend the U.S. Constitution to eliminate the Electoral College.
–Statement: The right wing is taking over!
–My response: It’s not about right or left; it’s about failed policies.
–Statement: It’s Bush’s fault!
–My response: He left office almost a decade ago. Move on!
–Statement: Trump supporters are stupid racists!
–My response: Trump beat Clinton in these demographics: white, college-educated and 65 and over. That’s me! Do you really think I’m a stupid racist?
Nevertheless, I would like to thank liberals and leftists for pushing people firmly into the Trump camp!
The New York Times asked me for my opinion about their news coverage, so I gave it to them with both barrels.
As a subscriber to the digital edition of The Times, I became one of the “lucky” candidates to spend more than an hour answering dozens of questions about the newspaper and myriad other issues.
Although the survey is not intended to serve as a scientifically based poll, the bias oozed from the questions.
For example, here’s one question: What three words best describe your initial reaction to Donald Trump winning the election? I doubt that elated sprung to others’ minds like it did for me!
Another one: Which of the following best describes Donald Trump when it comes to “sticking to the facts?”
–Sticks to the facts better than most politicians
–Sticks to the facts about as well as any politician
–Plays it more “fast and loose” when it comes to facts
–There has never been a major politician as devoid (or empty) of facts as him
When the survey asked for my opinion about The New York Times, I was asked to compare it with Fox News, the Drudge Report and Bloomberg News. That seemed like an extremely odd combination. I understand that the news organization thinks it competes with the world, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post seem like better comparable news organizations.
But then I got some red meat!
Question: How often do you come across news stories about politics and government online that you think are not fully accurate?
Question: And how often do you come across news stories about politics and government online that you think are almost completely made up? Check. Often.
Question: What three words best describes your feelings about the news media and news organizations right now?
My answer: unreliable, biased, partisan
Question: In general, what is your overall impression of the news media and news organizations?
—Very unfavorable [check].
–Neither unfavorable nor favorable
–Very favorable impression of the news media and news organizations
In general, how satisfied are you with the news coverage you are currently getting about President-Elect Donald Trump?
—Not at all satisfied
–Not very satisfied
Um, not at all satisfied seemed appropriate.
Here are some weird choices—many of which lean toward a favorable review of the media. I was supposed to pick the ones I agreed with.
–There are not enough positive/uplifting stories in the news
–Most news stories are generally accurate
— Most news stories get the facts straight
— In presenting news about social issues, most news deals fairly with all sides
— I’m taking a break from news for awhile
— It is easy for me to tell the difference between hard news and opinion
— I’m seeking more “soft news” these days
— I find sensational news headlines irresistible
— In presenting news about political issues, most news deals fairly with all sides
— News is no longer relevant to me
— I think the freedom of the press is part of a healthy democracy
–Most news is generally trustworthy
— These days it seems like news cannot be objectively reported
–All news is pretty much the same regardless of where you get it
–Most news is reported without bias
I really needed a selection here for “other.”
Here is an example of confirmation bias: Now thinking about news organizations in general, which of the following applies?
–Practice high journalistic standards [Seriously?].
–Objectively report the news [You betcha].
–Provide a service to the public [C’mon!]
–Has reporters with strong expertise in the topics they cover [Paul Krugman and Charles Blow?]
–Are trustworthy [About the same as car salesmen, with no offense meant to auto dealerships].
–Lie or mislead [Finally, I can agree with something!]
Here was one in my wheelhouse: Now, thinking about The New York Times, which of the following applies?
—Practice high journalistic standards [Nope].
–Objectively report the news [Nope]
–Provide a service to the public [Ditto]
–Has reporters with strong expertise in the topics they cover [Are you kidding?]
–Are trustworthy [Sorry, car salesmen].
–Lie or mislead [YES, YES and YES!]
Which, if any, of the following applies to The New York Times? I dispatched the complimentary ones and chose the following:
–Does not deal fairly with all sides on political issues
–Too focused on New York
–Makes it difficult for me to tell the difference between hard news and opinion
–It’s politically biased
–Does not get the facts straight
–Unreliable; I don’t trust their reporting
–Does not deal fairly with all sides on social issues
I will allow that I was a bit disingenuous on some questions. I said I voted for Hillary Clinton. I wanted to see what happened. Later, I was asked again if I really voted for her.
I said I was a moderate who supported equal rights for everyone. I was tempted to choose one of the many religious options, including Shinto, Muslim, Taoist, Hindu or Buddhist. I settled for Christian since Catholic was not an option.
I accurately described myself as an educator who lived in a large metropolitan area and had a good income. Alas, deplorable was not an option here.
I doubt that my answers will affect the way The Times operates, but it sure was fun to take the survey. In fact, it’s the most fun I’ve had since the day after the election!
President Trump has been compared to two of the world’s most vicious murderers and villains: Hitler and Stalin.
Let me try another comparison, one with the man whose bust has recently been placed back in the Oval Office: Winston Churchill.
Leftists will scoff at the comparison, but most of Winston’s supporters came from the right. The Huffington Puffington Post lambasted the comparison, which was made during the presidential campaign by Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr., calling it one of the “growing list of Hail Mary passes by the campaign and its allies.” I guess those Hail Marys worked out pretty well for Trump.
But let’s look at a comparison of the two men.
Both Trump and Churchill came from wealthy families. As young men, neither was a particularly good student.
The British leader changed parties several times during his political career–much like Trump–and ended up as a conservative.
Many leaders and historians consider Churchill a racist for his views toward Gandhi and the insistence that India remain part of the British Empire. Trump and his supporters have repeatedly been characterized as racists.
Churchill always put Britain first in war and peace. Both Trump and Churchill tried to warn about the greatly weakened military of each country—a weakness both sought to correct. Churchill fought the Nazis; Trump plans to defeat Muslim extremists.
The two leaders clearly share a similar temperament—one that does not suffer fools gladly.
Here are some of Churchill’s more famous quotes—most of which have fewer than 140 characters. Some of them sound a lot like Trump’s stump speech and tweets.
–Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
–If you’re going through hell, keep going.
–You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.
–A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
–Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty.
Clearly, there are subjects on which Churchill and Trump disagree, particularly trade. Churchill opposed tariffs on trading partners and extended government-subsidized social programs.
Trump is no Churchill yet. That remains to be seen. But the comparison with Churchill rings far more accurately than the other names Trump’s detractors use.
Christopher Harper, a longtime journalist, teaches media law.
As a longtime reporter and journalism educator, I am ashamed of my profession as a result of the bias of the media toward the new immigration policies.
From the coverage, you couldn’t believe that 57 percent of those polled agree with the temporary ban on immigrants from seven countries, according to Rasmussen Reports. Only 33 percent oppose Trump’s executive order, while 10 percent are undecided.
The news media are in a full-tilt smackdown of Trump’s policies, underlining the administration’s notion that journalists are indeed the opposition.
For example, a CNN “news” report compares the executive order to the Alien and Seditions Acts, the Japanese internment camps and McCarthyism.
I address the following to the senior correspondent, Stephen Collinson, who apparently knows little about history, and others who have picked up the meme:
–Only a handful of people were not allowed into the United States.
–Green card holders are not affected.
–The ban is temporary for between 90 and 120 days.
The Alien and Sedition Acts existed during the presidency of John Adams. They allowed the government to toss people out of the country. More important, the main complaint about the acts was the ability to close down newspapers run by Adams’ opponents.
More than 100,000 Japanese and other aliens were interned during World War II by that champion of the Democrats: FDR.
While I do not condone Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s tactics, Soviet records confirmed that massive incidents of espionage occurred in the United States, including the placement of Russian spies into U.S. government positions.
An ABC journalist posted his personal views on Facebook about the terrible stuff that was happening while he was covering the immigration story at JFK. He did not respond to my question about whether he was a reporter or an advocate.
But there’s more. Philly.com, the host for the newspapers in Philadelphia, described the protestors at the local airport as a huge crowd. There were 200 people!
CNN’s sob stories start with a woman whose friend can’t make it to a wedding and goes downhill from there.
The Huffington Post had a column calling for the president’s impeachment. Seriously?
Hundreds of lawyers reportedly descended on airports to “help” people who were stuck in immigration, according to The Washington Post. The number of lawyers would greatly outnumber those who had temporary problems. As of this writing, no one was being held in immigration in the United States.
And, if you missed it, people were protesting against Uber for taking advantage of the immigration changes. That’s right, boys and girls, all of those immigrants who drive for Uber were not properly showing their solidarity with their comrades. That one is really hard to get my head around.
Having had the opportunity to travel to more than 60 countries during my lifetime, I have experienced the trials and tribulations of immigration laws throughout the world.
Egypt and Iraq expelled me for my reporting in those countries. Iran officials detained me during the hostage crisis because I was an American. My team faced expulsion in Ethiopia for leaving our hotel without a government guide. I was interrogated in France because immigration officials thought I was carrying explosive material in my luggage.
When I taught in Russia and Poland, I had to go through an elaborate visa process. I violated the immigration policies of Italy and the United Kingdom when I taught there because I stayed on a tourist visa.
For the past three years, I have taught in China. I needed to have an official letter from the university in order to obtain a visa.
I don’t begrudge any of these countries for the actions they took, although the Egyptians and Iraqis may have been a bit extreme. A nation has an obligation to protect its citizens from economic and political threats.
Having worked in the Arab world for nearly a decade, I think it would be difficult for anyone to call me an Islamophobe. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that nowhere in the U.S. Constitution is there a right for foreigners to come to the United States as anything other than guests.
Despite the kerfuffle by hand-wringing demonstrators, few people were actually affected by the temporary–yes, that’s temporary–immigration policies. Homeland Security officials said that about 100 people who were already in transit to the United States when the order was signed were denied access; less than 200 were stopped before boarding planes heading to America.
If I heard a country had changed its policies, I don’t think I would get on a plane until I consulted with the embassy. Moreover, I probably would have used my visa on or about Jan. 19.
Finally, I recall when Jimmy Carter banned Iranians from traveling to the United States in 1979. Few people demonstrated against him or called him a racist. But he was a Democrat. That apparently makes all the difference.
The hysteria and the hyperbole really have to stop. But that’s probably not going to happen in a media world run amok.
Christopher Harper worked for The Associated Press, Newsweek, ABC News and The Washington Times. He teaches journalism.
As a young journalist, I had one goal. That was to become a reporter in Washington, D.C.
I got that opportunity in 1978 for Newsweek. I arrived in the nation’s capital on a snowy day in January as Jimmy Carter was starting his second year in office.
As a general assignment reporter, I covered labor and a piece of the economic beat. After a few months, I hated what I was doing.
Why? Being a journalist in Washington often doesn’t involve much reporting. Since Newsweek was an important magazine back then, I had access to almost anyone I wanted to talk to. Everyone sent you documents, press releases and statements by messenger service, so you didn’t have to do much except an occasional telephone call. It made today’s reporting, where most journalists never venture outside of the office, seem difficult.
I worked on the second- and third-string stories about how the Carter Administration didn’t know what it was doing. It was pretty easy because all of the Washington hands didn’t like an outsider like Carter and his Georgia boys. Moreover, the Carter team didn’t really know how to get things right.
I got into some serious trouble when I called the State Department to reach the head of the Afghanistan desk after the ambassador in Kabul was killed. The guy told me everything I wanted to know. I was unaware–until my boss yelled at me–that I was supposed to get everything from the press office.
At social occasions, here’s how a conversation in Washington went:
What do you do?
Who do you work for?
Where do you live?
Where did you go to school?
If you passed these tests, then you might give someone your name or get someone’s name.
I spent a lot of time at The Class Reunion, which was a Republican bar. Someone told me it was a good place to get dirt about how the Carter Administration was messed up. It was.
In my time in Washington, I attended the White House Correspondents’ Dinner once—an experience that underlined my belief that reporters and politicians spent too much time cozying up to one another.
The best part of the job was getting sent out of town. I spent time in the hollers of West Virginia during a coal strike and was sent to cover the mass deaths at Jonestown, Guyana.
After about, a year in Washington, my soon-to-be wife suggested we find another place to live. I agreed, so I spoke with the chief of correspondents at Newsweek.
I thought maybe we could move back to Chicago. Maybe Boston or Atlanta.
Instead, he said that Beirut was open. I laughed because Lebanon was in the middle of a civil war. My wife and I decided, however, that Beirut had to better than Washington. It was.
During my time as a reporter, I met some of the leading lights in today’s Washington milieu. Tommy Friedman never showed me much in Beirut. In fact, he almost got fired from United Press International, which was just across the corridor from the Newsweek office.
E.J. Dionne, then of The New York Times, threw conniption fits about American television coverage in Rome, where I served as bureau chief for ABC News. In both the cases of Friedman and Dionne, Loren Jenkins of The Washington Post, cleaned their clocks on a regular basis.
I met David Ignatius of The Washington Post when we both covered the steel industry. Then I saw him again in the Middle East. I used to think he was a good reporter; I don’t think much of him as a columnist.
Gloria Borger seemed all right at the time but not so much now.
George Will used to call you up if you had the lead story in Newsweek to pick your brain for his column there. He stole your lines and never gave you credit. I didn’t call him back after the second time he contacted me.
Carl Bernstein may have gotten Watergate right, but he was an awful bureau chief for ABC News in Washington.
I still enjoy P.J. O’Rourke, but it’s hard to forgive him for telling people to vote for Hillary.
I did meet some good reporters in Washington, but they didn’t hit the big time. Maybe they didn’t go to the right school or lived in the wrong neighborhood.
Nevertheless, I’m happy I had the opportunity to experience my Washington dream early on. I’m also glad I realized how empty that dream was. Unfortunately, not much has changed about the inanity of Washington journalism since I left nearly 40 years ago.
As I prepare to teach the history of journalism this semester, I’ve been thinking about whether reporters used to do a better job.
The notions of objectivity, fairness and balance are standards that occurred in the 1950s when leaders of the media sought a more favorable impression of journalists as professionals. The standards also aimed at a better business model by getting all sides to read a story. Many European journalists eschew such an approach, providing a set of facts and then arguing from a distinctly partisan point of view.
I like the European approach much better. That way I don’t have to parse the political leanings of a journalist who’s hiding behind the alleged standards of objectivity. I think journalists should admit their biases and their partisan beliefs. I like accuracy and transparency as better standards for good journalism.
For example, John Hersey’s “Hiroshima,” which chronicles the stories of six survivors of the atomic bomb, is generally considered the finest work in journalism during the 2oth century. The article and book are not balanced. The story describes the horror of what happened and how people lived and died in horrific conditions.
Paul Fussell, the late academic who might have been one of the estimated one million Allied casualties had the bomb not been used, offered a useful and not-so-objective look at the alternative in his 1981 essay in the New Republic, “Thank God for the Atom Bomb!”
In his excellent book, “Getting It Wrong: Debunking the Greatest Myths in American Journalism,” American University professor W. Joseph Campbell dispels a number of myths held strongly by reporters. For example, the evidence that Richard Nixon won the 1960 first debate with John Kennedy on radio and lost among television viewers has little basis in fact. The evidence simply does not exist.
Campbell argues successfully that Woodward and Bernstein did not bring down Nixon as a result of their Watergate reporting. The Washington Post’s efforts dovetailed with the work of Congress, the judicial system and other perhaps more important actors in the scandal.
I would add some other examples of getting it wrong. The Tet Offensive got widespread attention as an example of how the United States was losing the war in Vietnam. In fact, the Viet Cong suffered huge losses—a fact that did not get much play in the media.
Joe McCarthy may have used extreme tactics in his attack on Communism. But his underlying belief that Communists had infiltrated the U.S. government after World War II proved to be accurate once Soviet archives became available. Based on documents made available after the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. Library of Congress historian John Earl Haynes concluded that of the 159 people identified as subversives on lists cited by McCarthy, nine had almost definitely aided in Soviet espionage (and many others could be considered security risks for various reasons).
Nevertheless, I found some of the writing of leftists of bygone eras much more palatable than today’s screeds. For example, Martha Gellhorn’s account of the bombing of Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War provides a great deal of insight into the “collateral damage” of that war.
Gellhorn, an avowed leftist, got it right in my view when she declared that objectivity was nonsense, particularly when she was reporting about the Nazi death camps.
Jimmy Breslin, another lefty writer, was able to talk with ordinary people—an ability lost by the current generation of reporters. “It’s An Honor” is Breslin’s account of the death and burial of Kennedy in which one of the key characters is the guy who dug the grave for the assassinated president. Here is the column: http://www.newsday.com/opinion/digging-jfk-grave-was-his-honor-jimmy-breslin-1.6481560
Richard Ben Cramer’s account of the 1988 election campaign, “What It Takes,” is a far more insightful analysis that anything we have seen since then, particularly his evisceration of Joe Biden, the plagiarist who became vice president. Cramer’s book is also far better than the acclaimed “Making of a President, 1960” by Theodore White about JFK’s campaign, which we now know had widow Jacqueline as the chief architect of the book’s meme.
You have to respect someone like the recently deceased Nat Hentoff, a lefty who also opposed abortion despite losing many friends and some writing gigs because of his pro-life stance.
All told, journalists did seem to be better once upon a time. At least my students and I will be able to delve into what once was to determine if we can use the lessons of the oldies but goodies to adapt to today’s environment.
Note for transparency purposes: W. Joseph Campbell is a friend. I knew Richard Ben Cramer.
Christopher Harper is a longtime journalist who teaches media law and history of journalism.
Liberals tend to feel more than think. They feel others’ pain. But they don’t feel conservatives’ pain.
A college classmate recently posted a photo of a Nazi flag next to an American one as an example of her growing concern about hate in the United States as a result of the election. I asked her where the photo was taken? She didn’t know. Who put up the Nazi flag? Did he or she vote for Trump? How many similar examples existed in the United States? Did she know that such a display—although reprehensible—was protected under the First Amendment?
She told me she felt the pain of those facing hate. I replied that it is difficult to determine whether hate crimes are increasing significantly and whether they are tied to Trump’s election. Initial indications show that hate crimes are tied to terrorist attacks at home and abroad more than any other factor.
Liberals change the issue when confronted with facts. A former student who is a college professor said that Donald Trump should not receive any credit for getting the Congress to back down from its decision about changes in the ethics office. I noted his tweets that suggested Congress should address more pressing issues. Therefore, I said, Trump should get some credit.
My former student linked to a post from thinkprogress.org, an unreliable leftist website, that argued that voters turned the tide by contacting their Congressional representatives. You might know that Think Progress has a senior editor who was worried his plumber might have voted for Trump and could physically attack him during a visit. See http://freebeacon.com/politics/thinkprogress-senior-editor-is-scared-of-his-plumber/
I pointed to an article from The Associated Press and a column from The Washington Post that credited Trump with causing the onslaught of the voters’ calls.
My former student then argued that Trump should not get credit for saving 700 jobs at Ford because it was President Obama who saved the auto industry through a bailout. I missed the logical line from ethics to jobs, but that’s what liberals do: change the argument.
Liberals usually think they are the smartest people in the room. When faced with a counter argument, liberals either raise their voices or show disdain rather than entering into a serious discussion about an issue. Liberals HATE discussions, using a variety of logical fallacies. Here is a useful site about logical fallacies—one I give to my students: https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/
I confess that I was guilty of all of the above when I was a liberal. Many people would argue that I am still guilty of them as a conservative. Maybe so, but I think I am a whole lot better off than I used to be.
Christopher Harper is a longtime journalist who teaches media law.
Against the backdrop of the increasing politicization of football, the sports journos and announcers have failed to note some important issues during the national championship series.
The game between Alabama and Washington was played in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, the conservative company liberals love to hate.
The company’s leadership donated money to oppose same-sex marriage and is influenced by Southern Baptist beliefs, including closing its restaurants on Sundays, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The announcers dodged any discussion of these important issues.
Then there was the other semifinal game between Clemson and Ohio State, which was played at the University of Phoenix Stadium.
According to the New York Times, the university and its holding company have been the target of “state and federal investigations into allegations of shady recruiting, deceptive advertising and questionable financial aid practices.” The University of Phoenix has received millions of federal dollars from programs intended to help veterans and low-income students. But the students end up with heavy debt and few marketable skills. A Defense Department ban that prohibited Phoenix from recruiting on military bases was recently revoked, but the company remains under heightened scrutiny. The Times also reports that enrollment at the school “has been falling and profits shrinking, casting doubt on the future health of the industry.”
Hmm… I didn’t hear anything about the problems during the game, only the glowing ads promoting the U.
Then there’s the final matchup, which will be played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Raymond James Financial has had a number of run-ins over questionable securities practices.
In 2011, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ordered the company to pay restitution of $1.69 million to 15,500 clients for charging excessive commissions on more than 27,000 securities transactions. The trades were made in client accounts between 2006 and 2010. FINRA also fined the company nearly half a million dollars.
A former student of mine decided he needed to send a thank you letter to a man who fired him.
The purpose was to tell the supervisor that the dismissal was an important experience that made him reflect on what he was doing wrong and how he could improve himself.
I decided to eliminate the names of the individuals and the company for privacy reasons, but my former student gave me permission to use the letter.
“It has been more than 12 months since my final day at [the company]. In the time in-between I realized I needed to contact you. I needed to contact you to thank you. By firing me, you gave me the most effective coaching lesson I ever received during my five-year tenure with the company: In order to be a successful leader, I needed to improve my work-life balance so I could be a better son, brother, cousin, nephew, uncle, friend, neighbor, community leader, volunteer and employee.
“My recovery from losing my job took longer than I wanted. But eventually I discovered running, and I lost more than 30 pounds from mid-September to late November. Next, I began to exercise my mind. I researched and thought long and hard about delegation, prioritization, boundary-setting and multi-tiered goal setting. I revised my resume and practiced job interviewing skills.
“The memory of what happened to me over a year ago still haunts me today. When I recall that day, however, I will always think positively about your closing words, ‘It’s time to start caring about yourself more.’ That sentiment provided me with a glimmer of light as I began my year-long journey inside the dark tunnel that my life subsequently became.
“I respect your ability to lead. Within the short amount of time that I was able to interact with you, I learned a few valuable lessons. When you gave me your personal phone number, I should’ve kept it in a safe place. Instead, I lost it. And it is truly a shame because a year later, I realized that you were reaching out to me then.
“Today a new job awaits me, and I have entertained serious thoughts of returning to college to obtain my Journalism degree and also to pursue a degree in Education. My confidence has soared in the past few weeks, and I feel like anything is possible. The lows, however, still remain. The juxtaposition of the extreme high of obtaining a new job has contrasted with the extreme low of how my tenure at the company ended. This internal conflict has presented me with a tough mental challenge I’ve had to face daily.
“Am I confident that I can deal with these up-and-down feelings? Yes, I am.
“Again, I want to thank you for setting a plan in motion that helped me to discover who I truly am.”
The letter underscores the need to reflect on failure—not to dwell on it. But the evaluation of failures–as well as successes–is a worthwhile resolution for the New Year. It’s an analysis that helped my former student and may help all of us. Happy New Year!
Christopher Harper is a longtime journalist who teaches media law.
Syria was always one of my favorite places in the world—an amazing mix of ancient sites that even despots couldn’t destroy until now.
When I worked for Newsweek and ABC News in the Middle East in the 1970s and 1980s, I spent many days there.
It was difficult to report in the police state of President Hafez al-Assad, who ruled the country until his death in 2000. He was a bad guy—perhaps even worse than his son Bashar, who now heads the country.
Nevertheless, Syria, the country, was always a nice place to visit. Damascus is considered the longest continuously inhabited city in the world—founded more than 3,000 years ago.
When you go to the old market or souk, you travel along the road where St. Paul was converted. Yes, it’s that road to Damascus. Nearby is thought to be the grave of St. John the Baptist.
The souk is one of the most amazing in the Middle East. I bought my first Persian carpet there, along with numerous copper and brass tables, plates and tea services from “Cha Cha,” a Syrian trader who was a favorite of the foreign community. He even found an old Russian samovar that still has a special place in our home.
The Roman ruins at Palmyra are among the most beautiful in the Middle East, with more than 150,000 tourists visiting the site before the civil war.
Some Arabic dishes in Syria have a distinctly different taste, mainly from a special red pepper from Aleppo, the city now in ruins from the civil war.
I worked on a variety of stories in Syria—almost always under the watchful eye of government censors and secret police. The last one was more than 30 years ago—an investigation of Syria’s connection to the 1983 attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut that left 241 servicemen dead.
In 2011, I gave a speech in Beirut to a group of journalists. I argued that the civil war—only a few months old then—required U.S. boots on the ground. More important, journalists needed to document the atrocities of the Assad regime without any concern for objectivity, fairness and balance. Simply put, there were not two sides of the story—only the need to stop the brutality of government.
Two prominent journalists—one from The Washington Post and another from National Public Radio—disagreed with me. I hope they realize now how wrong they were to oppose the involvement of U.S. troops and the need to change from the neutral stance of journalists in covering the civil war.
In 2013 President Obama drew a line in the sand in Syria–a line that was quickly swept away by inaction.
Most people see the horror of what has happened in Syria as a result of the atrocities of the Assad regime and the self-proclaimed Islamic State. I’m glad I still have some good memories left.
Christopher Harper worked as a journalist for many years, including nearly a decade in the Middle East for Newsweek and ABC News. He teaches media law.