A female CBS correspondent gets cut off from her security while doing live coverage of the demonstrations in Cairo, is surrounded by a group of Egyptians in the crowd, attacked, and sexually assaulted. She is rescued by Egyptian police and flown back to the U.S., where she is hospitalized.
This what happened to “60 Minutes” Correspondent Lara Logan, and you wouldn’t think such an unambiguous example of brutality and criminal conduct would raise any ethical controversies. But the already nasty incident has metastasized into a full-fledged Ethics Train Wreck, with both the Left and the Right taking turns disgracing themselves.
And the media, of course.
CBS sat on the story and didn’t report it for five days, although it had first-hand information, including a veteran journalist who was the victim. The conflict of interest here is a tough one, but professional news organizations are supposed to be able to handle such dilemmas correctly. Instead of fulfilling its prime directive—report the news—CBS decided to protect its own. As terrible and unethical journalism goes, this is an especially human and understandable variety, but it is a serious breach of journalistic ethics nonetheless. When, by happenstance, bad luck or otherwise, a news organization becomes part of the news, it may not duck its responsibility out of organizational interests or personal bias. What happened to Logan was awful, and a personal catastrophe, but it was a major development in a big international news event. Yet to protect the privacy of its reporter—something CBS would never have done if, for example, one of Fox News’ interchangeable blondes was similarly attacked—the network buried the story until other news organizations reported it. This was unprofessional and irresponsible. Nice, however—but news organizations are not supposed to be “nice.’ They are supposed to tell the truth, and quickly.
The conspiracy-mongers on the Right had a field day with this, as you might expect, violating Occam’s Razor to argue that CBS had a political motive to avoid reporting the brutal assault on their reporter. Michael Graham, for example, suggested that CBS, like the most of the media cheering on the anti-Mubarak protesters, wanted to avoid putting Islamic people in a bad light. This line of reasoning was echoed on talk radio, where Mark Levin and Sean Hannity, among others, darkly suggested that the sexual assault proved their assertion that we were trading in a “stable” and loyal dictatorship for mob of crazed, West-hating, brutal Muslims.
What an intellectually dishonest and unfair argument. I learned from my days on Sixties college campuses, not to mention on the streets of Boston celebrating sports championships— that mobs in any country, with any population, for any cause, were unpredictable, and that there were always—always—elements in the crowd capable of criminal violence.
From the Left came an especially nauseating attack, as posted a series of Twitter feeds by Nir Rosen, a fellow at New York University’s Center on Law and Security….
“Jesus Christ, at a moment when she is going to become a martyr and glorified we should at least remember her role as a major war monger”….”Look, she was probably groped like thousands of other women, which is still wrong, but if it was worse then I’m sorry.” . . .
“ah fuck it, I apologize for being insensitive, it’s always wrong, that’s obvious, but I’m rolling my eyes at all the attention she will get.”
A “war monger” …meaning a journalist who was not sufficiently critical of U.S. conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, doesn’t deserve as much sympathy when she is beaten and raped as someone Rosen’s politics are more in tune with. Rosen lost his fellowship as the result of his display of partisan hate. Good.
Debbie Schlussel, on the other side of the aisle, topped Rosen with her own brand of hate. Schlussel is a sometime Fox blonde and talk show host who makes Sean Hannity look like Sean Penn, and her response to Logan’s ordeal was to write:
“How fitting that Lara Logan was “liberated” by Muslims in Liberation Square while she was gushing over the other part of the “liberation.” Hope you’re enjoying the revolution, Lara! Alhamdilllullah [praise allah]….it warms my heart when reporters who openly deny that Islam is violent and constantly promote it get the same kinds of threats of violence I get every day from Muslims. Because now they know how it feels. They aren’t so dismissive of the threats when those threats are directed at them, instead of at us little people. And yet they still won’t admit that THIS. IS. ISLAM. Lara Logan was among the chief cheerleaders of this “revolution” by animals. Now she knows what Islamic revolution is really all about.”
A young woman was attacked by a criminal element in an Egyptian mob, as she was trying to do her job. Her network should have reported the attack, and everyone else should have resisted the impulse to exploit it as ammunition for their ideological skirmishes, and instead expressed their sympathy and wishes for her health and recuperation.
One would think that all of that would come naturally. But the ethics rails couldn’t keep the train on track, and we got a wreck instead, and an ugly one.