Home > Uncategorized > Washington Times: Great Paper…

Washington Times: Great Paper…

Do me a favor and read this.  It’ll only take a few minutes.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/feb/21/al-qaedas-sputnik-moment/

Pretty angry?  I hope so, they’ve certainly assumed we’re all pretty stupid thinking we’d buy this line.  If not, let me highlight a few phrases and why they should bother you:

– “The situation in the Middle East today is as different as the vast cultural divide that separates their civilization from our own.”  Why it should bother you: A classic, defeatist and ignorant argument that Middle Eastern and Western societies have fundamental differences that can’t be reconciled.  Reminiscent of pro-segregation arguments from the mid 20th century American South when you think of it.

– When speaking of “the Mideast” as a whole: “Still others, like freedom of worship, are considered heresy.”  Why it should bother you: Another classic ignorant argument, that there is absolutely no religious pluralism in the Middle East.  There are roughly 8 million Christians living here in Egypt, by the way.  Yes, there are problems of religious division, but they are not and should not be considered insurmountable.

– “There is nothing wrong with the United States helping the people of the region realize a future free of oppression from either mosque or state.”   Why it should bother you:  A not-so-subtle insinuation that Islam world-wide is an oppressive religion.  Without getting into the details of why this is wrong, I’ll simply say that generalizations of any sort (particularly without any evidence to support them) completely misrepresent the people they talk about.  Not all Christians hate homosexuals, by the way, and not all Spanish speaking people in the US are from Mexico.

– “The president of the United States has a duty to promote the principles of an open society dedicated to the prosperity of its people, especially when it means standing against the erection of Islamist states dominated by hard-line Shariah law.”  Why it should bother you: Another not-so-subtle insinuation, this time that any regime change in the Middle East will inevitably lead to an Islamist (not a real word) government in that nation.  Again, where is any semblance of an argument?  Evidence?  Support?  Yes, it’s an editorial, but well-written editorials still defend their points.

– And, to top it all off, the very title of the article, “Al Qaeda’s Sputnik Moment.”  Why it should bother you:  Al Qaeda had nothing to do with any of these movements.  Nothing more to say.

If this article pissed you off too, I’d encourage you to email the editors of the Washington Times at: yourletters@washingtontimes.com

If you like, feel free to copy and paste the email I sent them (below) and sign your own name at the end.

21 February, 2011

To the Editor:

Your article published today titled “Al Qaeda’s Sputnik Moment” is
almost criminally negligent in both its insinuations and stereotypes
about the peoples of the Middle East and the composition of the
movements we have seen arise throughout that region in the past two
months.  That the countries of the Middle East are all the same and
are all guaranteed to be governed by “hard-line Shariah law” as a
result of the popular uprisings we’ve recently been witness to is not
only factually wrong but also morally reprehensible as aggressive
sensationalism and fear-mongering.  From my view here on the ground in
Cairo, and in direct contrast to your claim that “the rights that
Americans regard as sacred are of little importance in the Mideast,”
these protests have proven undeniably that the people of this region,
despite their differences from country-to-country, value the same
rights of freedom, self-determination, and self-governance which we as
Americans treasure.

This piece is not journalism, its propaganda. It offers absolutely no
basis for its conclusions or insinuations, and your failure to
attribute it to the writers responsible fails to show any sort of
experience or expertise from which to speak with such an
attitude of authority.  As a D.C. – Metro area resident and long-time
reader of your paper I resent your attempt to take advantage of your
readerships’ presumed ignorance about the Middle East to push
uneducated stereotypes and assumptions about a number of diverse
cultures and peoples on your public. I challenge you to retract this
article.  Failing that, I challenge you to publish this critique and
open your paper to a debate on the merits of the piece you published,
using your authors’ names and experiences in and around the countries
and cultures of the Middle East, not to mention the religion of Islam,
to attempt to authenticate this sensational and factually incorrect piece.

Sincerely Disappointed in Cairo,

Tom Plofchan

On another note, I just picked this up off of twitter.  NOT for the faint of heart.  I can’t attest to its legitimacy, but this is allegedly footage from hospitals in Libya.  Even the fear that it is has me wondering where the international community is on the Libyan protests.  In response to her comments today, for once I’d like to see Hilary Clinton actually say something of substance when she talks to the press.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xc3K-2YUubc

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Aunt Susan Golden
    February 22, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    Hi Tommy, Your reaction to the newspaper article was interesting to say the least. If I had read that article on my own, I probably would not have had a reaction one way or the other to it (sorry, but its true). Your take on it made me realize how deeply routed my stereotypes of the middle east really are (even after watching the brave demonstrators take a stand). I appreciate having my eyes opened and agree with all you said. Your letter to the editor was fantastic. I can’t wait to see what they do with it and if it sparks further conversation. Keep us posted on that. I love you, Your Aunt Susan

  2. Cindy Corboy
    February 23, 2011 at 12:34 am

    I really feel it is the result of our ability to get information almost instantly. The dying print media has to fabricate stories to sell papers so they do so by printing what they think the American people who buy there papers want to hear. I no longer call them newspapers I call them opinion pages. I try to fact check everything I read these days. I always read several sources on every event I am reading about. That is the great result of having information at your fingertips.

    I have really enjoyed reading your experiences. Keep them coming.

    Cindy Corboy, tennis pal of your parents (just in case you were wondering)

    Cindy Corboy,

    • February 23, 2011 at 1:52 am

      I think you’ve probably got a point there, Cindy, though I don’t want to direct my criticism to all print media. Although they’re definitely struggling to remain relevant, I think a number of papers still do fair, high-quality work. This article was just so egregious in its lack of substance and intentional misinformation that I had to say something.

      Glad you’ve been enjoying the posts, and thanks for reading!

  3. February 23, 2011 at 2:39 am

    loved reading this, tom. i sincerely agree with you on every point here, and how often does that happen!! your letter to the editor is a work of art. so is this post.
    as a birthday/going into the peace corps present, fran gave me a custom-made calendar and put this quote (that you’ve probably heard before) on the front:
    “It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.” -RFK
    Probably not your ideological role model, but I keep thinking about this quote and how it applies to everyone involved in the Middle East… the people in Egypt/Libya/Bahrain/everywhere, American and other commentators/news sources, and the representatives of international governments. This situation is the first time I have been really disappointed in Obama (i can hear you laughing) but I SEVERELY disappointed. thankfully there are other people that represent this quote much better. keep being yourself and speaking your mind about this tom!
    -kimbo

  4. February 23, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Haha! Thanks alot Kim. Seriously though, how often does that happen? The quote is an excellent expression of what’s going on here, thanks for sharing it. May or may not be the title of my next post. As for the Obama administration.. I’m with you. You know I largely respect(ed) him on foreign policy even if I’m not a fan of him domestically, but I think he lost a huge opportunity to redefine American leadership for our generation by the way he has waffled on these issues. For anyone else reading this, I’m not saying I would have done better (don’t get me wrong I know it’s a tough job), but thankfully we get to hold our leaders to a higher standard.
    Thanks for the compliments, they mean alot. I’ll keep on posting away.

    – BT

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