Eric Alterman has an interesting take on l'affair Newsweak:
As a journalism professor/media critic, the really interesting question to me here is what should Newsweek have done if the story had been well-sourced and understood to be true, but might help cause the riots, etc. In principle I’d say, “Publish.” It’s dangerous in a free society to have reporters worrying about the consequences of what they publish before they publish it. Except in cases where revealing military (or other forms of secrets) would endanger lives, then it’s the fault of the wrongdoer, not the journalist who publishes. But as careful readers of this column know, I no longer care very much about principles. I think they’re for children. I care about results. The likely results of publishing this story vastly outweigh the value of publishing it. Unlike Abu Ghraib, for instance, where the torture would have continued unabated had the country’s conscience—or what’s left of it—not been pricked—I’d say hold off in this case. The deadly reaction was predictable; the value of the news, highly debatable. (emphasis mine)I have the utmost respect for Dr. Alterman, but I have to say I think there is value in publishing this particular story. It's clear that the fury over US contempt for Islamic countries has been brewing for a while, and to the extent that the Koran incident contributed to the current unrest it was more of lightening rod than an underlying cause. But they're boiling people to death in Uzbekistan, for god's sake. That this is the issue that finally sends them into orbit frankly mystifies me.
But the US and the world need to hear that rage, and be confronted with the fact that kicking the Koran in the commode is symbolic of the way they feel the US is treating them, and that the notion of a stable, western-friendly government in Iraq is a full-on hallucination until the US cracks down and cuts this shit out. If the truth is what finally causes the Islamic world to send a wake-up call to a slumbering, imperialistic, bellicose and jingoistic Bush Administration that the US is not being greeted as heroes and liberators with this FUBAR war, then so be it. That people died iin the demonstrations is a tragedy. That people are dying every day in Iraq is a tragedy. They are not going to be less dead for Newsweek printing what many other news sources have already reported as being true.
But Alterman makes another good point -- in all the greased-pig squealing of the right-wing noise machine, how come nobody like Scarborough or O'Leilly or Mann Coulter is calling for the head of the reporter, Mike Isikoff? Well, as Media Matters points out, that would be because Isikoff is the man responsible for bringing you the tattered tales of Paula Jones and Linda Tripp like they were worthy of inscription on tablets of stone:
BRIT HUME: This is Michael Isikoff, the veteran investigative journalist, a guy we all know, who has been on this program, somebody who has compiled a pretty good record over the years.Yes, if you're the reporter directly responsible for dishing up the Bill Clinton sex scandal per the Republican playbook, it earns you a lot of loyalty from the loud-mouth bully boys of the right. Listen carefully and you'll hear them doing one hell of a stinkin' tap dance around Isikoff's involvement. Good thing nobody in the "liberal media" is calling them on it.
FRED BARNES: He's a very honorable reporter.
L. BRENT BOZELL: One would be hard-pressed to lay the blame directly at the feet of Michael Isikoff.
SEAN HANNITY: By the way, I don't think it's Isikoff. I think it's the people above him, just for the record, Bill [Press, guest]. They make the decision, not Isikoff. He doesn't decide what gets in that magazine.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Isikoff, by the way, is one hell of a reporter. I hate to see this happen to him. What a great reporter he is.