"I'm Sorry for Your Loss"

Thomas Friedman writes:

I find Nasr’s firing troubling. Yes, she made a mistake. Reporters covering a beat should not be issuing condolences for any of the actors they cover. It undermines their credibility. But we also gain a great deal by having an Arabic-speaking, Lebanese-Christian female journalist covering the Middle East for CNN, and if her only sin in 20 years is a 140-character message about a complex figure like Fadlallah, she deserved some slack. She should have been suspended for a month, but not fired. It’s wrong on several counts.

To begin with, what has gotten into us? One misplaced verb now and within hours you can have a digital lynch mob chasing after you — and your bosses scrambling for cover. A journalist should lose his or her job for misreporting, for misquoting, for fabricating, for plagiarizing, for systemic bias — but not for a message like this one.

What signal are we sending young people? Trim your sails, be politically correct, don’t say anything that will get you flamed by one constituency or another. And if you ever want a job in government, national journalism or as president of Harvard, play it safe and don’t take any intellectual chances that might offend someone. In the age of Google, when everything you say is forever searchable, the future belongs to those who leave no footprints.

Mr. Friedman and I agree that the CNN reporter shouldn’t have been fired.

Here I merely want to point out that even the standard he suggests is absurd. “Reporters covering a beat should not be issuing condolences for any of the actors they cover,” he writes. “It undermines their credibility.” Nonsense. Expressing condolences upon a death is the most natural thing in the world, and completely uncontroversial in the vast majority of cases. Had Tom Brokaw said, “My condolences to Nancy Reagan, who I had the pleasure of meeting on several occasions,” would anyone have lifted an eyebrow? On several occasions, I’ve interviewed the families of people who died — one car accident, one murder victim, and the family of a soldier killed in Iraq, off the top of my head — and I expressed my condolences in every instance.

Did that undermine my credibility?

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5 Responses to “"I'm Sorry for Your Loss"”

  1. davidlosangeles Says:

    Mr. Friedersdorf,

    This is about politics, nor manners or journalism. It is politically unacceptable for anyone to express any support for anyone in the Middle who is not 100% supportive of Israel. The narrative people in the United States are given is the Israel is always good and that those who oppose Israel are always evil. While Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah is not, as an individual, anyone with whom I have much in common in terms of a world view or even practical politics, that fact that he is even associated indirectly with Hezbollah (he is not a member) makes him a pariah. Anyone who crosses that line can expect punishment, that is the point. Mr. Frieman has already been attacked for not attacking Ms. Nasr – “Tom Friedman’s Soft Spot for Terrorist Fadlallah”

    http://blog.beliefnet.com/rabbishmuleyunleashed/2010/07/tom-friedmans-soft-spot-for-terrorist-fadlallah.html

    This is about maintaining the political hegemony Israels supporters here in the US, nothing less.

    • voxoctopi Says:

      Let’s put away the conspiracy theories for a minute. Hezbollah is outspokenly anti-US and is suspected in numerous attacks on Americans. Being linked to an anti-American group (for example, the Weathermen) is going to result in condemnation. No fanciful ideas about “political hegemony” are needed or warranted.

      • davidlosangeles Says:

        Hello Voxoctopi,

        You wrote:”Let’s put away the conspiracy theories for a minute.”

        OK, let us do that.

        You wrote:”Hezbollah is outspokenly anti-US and is suspected in numerous attacks on Americans.”

        Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah is not a member of Hezbollah nor has he endorsed attacks on anyone. He is simply the oldest and most venerable member of the Shia clergy in Lebanon. While his was indeed critical of US foreign policy in the middle east and of Israel, he condemned the 9/11 attacks upon the US.

        While in the US people only know of Hezbollah as a military organization (which has notably never attacked the US), it does a great deal more than that. It builds and runs schools, hospitals, and provides other social services to the Shia population, as did Fadlallah through his own organizations.

        You wrote:”Being linked to an anti-American group (for example, the Weathermen) is going to result in condemnation.”

        We agree, this just as I said,”Anyone who crosses that line can expect punishment, that is the point.” You imply that you disagree with me but in fact you agree.

        You wrote:”No fanciful ideas about “political hegemony” are needed or warranted.”

        However you are agreeing with me. You yourself that anyone with liked to organizations that differ from the US policy (including its foreign policy in the middle east presumably) is going to be condemned. That is exactly my point, that is what political and cultural hegemony is all about – using public condemnation to punish people with differing political and cultural views.

      • voxoctopi Says:

        Your reply seems to concede that there’s nothing special about Israel. In that case, though we disagree on nuances, we do overall agree.

      • davidlosangeles Says:

        Hello Voxoctopi,

        Except to the extent that Israel has a “special” relationship with the US in general and is the center piece of its policies in the Middle East.

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