Commentary Magazine


Topic: Time magazine

Selective “Theocracy” from the Left

Liberals who object to conservatives offering faith-based justifications for public policy proposals often do so under the guise of saving the country from a “theocracy.” It’s become increasingly clear, however, that many of these liberals object to a certain kind of religious governance, but in fact have their own version in mind.

The latest such example comes from Time’s Erika Christakis, who suggests that Paul Ryan’s budget—get ready to hear more of this—is “un-Christian” because “Jesus would advocate a tax rate somewhere between 50% (in the vein of ‘if you have two coats, give one to the man who has none’) and 100%.” Does this mean Christakis supports using Christian teachings as the basis for legislation? No, of course not. Here’s Christakis from February on the contraception controversy (emphasis mine):

People who cry moral indignation about government-mandated contraception coverage appear unwilling to concede that the exercise of their deeply held convictions might infringe on the rights of millions of people who are burdened by unplanned pregnancy or want to reduce abortion or would like to see their tax dollars committed to a different purpose.

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Liberals who object to conservatives offering faith-based justifications for public policy proposals often do so under the guise of saving the country from a “theocracy.” It’s become increasingly clear, however, that many of these liberals object to a certain kind of religious governance, but in fact have their own version in mind.

The latest such example comes from Time’s Erika Christakis, who suggests that Paul Ryan’s budget—get ready to hear more of this—is “un-Christian” because “Jesus would advocate a tax rate somewhere between 50% (in the vein of ‘if you have two coats, give one to the man who has none’) and 100%.” Does this mean Christakis supports using Christian teachings as the basis for legislation? No, of course not. Here’s Christakis from February on the contraception controversy (emphasis mine):

People who cry moral indignation about government-mandated contraception coverage appear unwilling to concede that the exercise of their deeply held convictions might infringe on the rights of millions of people who are burdened by unplanned pregnancy or want to reduce abortion or would like to see their tax dollars committed to a different purpose.

Well that would seem to absolve Ryan’s budget, no matter which way you slice it. Christakis thinks simply preferring your tax dollars be spent elsewhere is reason enough to ignore Judea-Christian precepts. Christakis is certainly entitled to think this way, but it makes her attack on Paul Ryan comically hypocritical.

I can’t delve too much into Christian theology, but I can say that we have this debate within the Jewish community as well. And the politically conservative among us are also treated to the same double standard Christakis employs against Ryan. Here, for example, is the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s David Saperstein warning elected officials not to make religious observance the foundation of their policy prescriptions, lest they deliver us unto a “theocracy.” And here is the very same Saperstein arguing that “Jewish tradition” and Midrash compelled us to pass the 2008 farm bill over President Bush’s objection.

But back to Ryan, because we’ll be hearing a lot more about his values, as the left interprets them, as this election rolls along. A very interesting example came about this week when Aaron Goldstein of the American Spectator asked why the media insists on analyzing the influence of Atlas Shrugged author and libertarian thinker Ayn Rand on Ryan, yet continue to display an utter lack of interest in President Obama’s intellectual influences, like Saul Alinsky or Rashid Khalidi. Dave Weigel makes a sharp observation in response, noting that one reason has to do with how severely Ryan’s Catholic faith clashes with Rand’s Objectivist philosophy. Indeed it does—and Rand’s worldview clashes with Judaism as well (and organized religion in general). I would also note that Rand’s poisonous Objectivism is wholly incompatible with conservatism as well, to the extent that it would be difficult for the two to thrive in the same space.

But of course there are worthwhile philosophical lessons within Rand’s books, and it should be easy enough to differentiate between those lessons and an unqualified acceptance of every utterance and thought of the author. Ryan should have no trouble explaining that, just as he should have no trouble, should he choose to respond to critics like Christakis, explaining the difference between charity and state-enforced confiscatory taxation.

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Will Yale Fire Fareed Zakaria?

There is now little question that Fareed Zakaria is guilty of plagiarism. He has admitted copying a portion of a New Yorker essay and apologized. Time, where Zakaria works as a columnist, has suspended Zakaria for a month, and CNN—owned by the same parent company—has suspended him pending an investigation. This represents a mere slap on the wrist for someone whose standard speaking fee is $75,000.

As Yale University lecturer Jim Sleeper notes, however, Zakaria has a perch not only at CNN and Time, but also at Yale University, where he sits on the Yale Corporation, the University’s governing board and policy-making body. There is no greater academic sin than plagiarism. Students can be expelled for plagiarizing papers, and professors can be fired. To let Zakaria off the hook on his own recognizance would be to eviscerate the principle of academic integrity for which Yale says it stands.

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There is now little question that Fareed Zakaria is guilty of plagiarism. He has admitted copying a portion of a New Yorker essay and apologized. Time, where Zakaria works as a columnist, has suspended Zakaria for a month, and CNN—owned by the same parent company—has suspended him pending an investigation. This represents a mere slap on the wrist for someone whose standard speaking fee is $75,000.

As Yale University lecturer Jim Sleeper notes, however, Zakaria has a perch not only at CNN and Time, but also at Yale University, where he sits on the Yale Corporation, the University’s governing board and policy-making body. There is no greater academic sin than plagiarism. Students can be expelled for plagiarizing papers, and professors can be fired. To let Zakaria off the hook on his own recognizance would be to eviscerate the principle of academic integrity for which Yale says it stands.

Whether Yale President Richard Levin will do the right thing, however, is another issue. While Levin has distinguished himself as a master fundraiser, he has also shown a disturbing willingness to undercut free speech (ironically, with Zakaria’s acquiescence), compromise academic integrity to foreign interests, and embrace fame over principle. Seldom is an issue as cut-and-dry as Zakaria’s plagiarism. Unless Yale seeks to demonstrate that cheating is acceptable and that there is no principle to which it will not turn a blind eye, then it really has no choice: It is time to give Zakaria the boot.

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The Death of the Middlebrow Novel

Time magazine has published its annual Top 10 lists of “everything” in 2011, but the fiction list is the most conspicuous. Rather than make you click through ten different screens, here is the list in a shorter form:

(  1.) George R. R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons. To quote Kingsley Amis from New Maps of Hell: “I think it better to say straight out that I do not like fantasy.” Speaking for myself: I stand by my earlier assertion that, if a fantasy novel is the best work of fiction this year, then an epochal change occurred in the literary culture while no one was watching.

(  2.) David Foster Wallace, The Pale King. The half-finished manuscript that Wallace left behind when he committed suicide.

(  3.) Ann Patchett, State of Wonder. Patchett is our greatest author of overlong Tendenzromane — romances of political tendentiousness. The politics can’t conceal the sentimentality at the heart of Patchett’s vision.

(  4.) Teju Cole, Open City. About a Nigerian immigrant to New York. Fascinating voice. Nothing happens.

(  5.) Kate Atkinson, Started Early, Took My Dog. Fifth volume in a series of mysteries.

(  6.) Kevin Wilson, The Family Fang. A first novel about performance artists who use their kids as props. Ha, ha.

(  7.) Kate Beaton, Hark! A Vagrant. A collection of cartoons. Don’t ask me what it’s doing on a fiction list. “[I]t ought to be somewhere,” Lev Grossman says, “so let’s put it here.” Um, okay.

(  8.) Lars Kepler, The Hypnotist (trans. Ann Long). You’ve read all of Stieg Larsson? Not to worry. Here’s another grisly Swedish thriller. Better title: Cruelty in a Cold Climate.

(  9.) J. Courtney Sullivan, Maine. An increasingly common genre: the multi-generational saga of women. In Maine this time, for the sake of difference if not originality.

(10.) Daniel Clowes, The Death Ray. A graphic novel about a Chicago boy who acquires a working death ray.

Time magazine, the press secretary for middlebrow thought in America, has now officially abandoned its readers. A fantasy, an unfinished philosophical jawbreaker, two mysteries, a collection of cartoons, a far-fetched debut, and a graphic novel — these are the “best books” it can recommend to readers with limited time for reading and a non-specialist interest in new fiction? Where are the big fat reads? The thick novels, thick with characters and incident, in which readers can lose themselves? Jonathan Franzen tried to write such a novel last year in Freedom, although he insisted that his nearly 600-page book — in the 19th century it would have been called a triple-decker — belonged “solidly in the high-art literary tradition.” (It didn’t.)

My wife’s favorite novel this year was Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone (2009), a book that was recommended to her by another professional who is more interested in people than in literary form. This is a perfectly respectable kind of novel, serious fiction without pretensions to difficulty. That’s pretty much the 19th-century conception of the novel, in fact; and good writers can still do wonderful things with the kind. Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot is the ideal cross-over novel, for example, appealing both to serious part-time readers and those who want to “keep up” with the latest in literary thinking. Its absence from Time’s list says far more about the magazine’s desperate efforts to seem edgy and clever than it does about the best fiction of 2011.

Time magazine has published its annual Top 10 lists of “everything” in 2011, but the fiction list is the most conspicuous. Rather than make you click through ten different screens, here is the list in a shorter form:

(  1.) George R. R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons. To quote Kingsley Amis from New Maps of Hell: “I think it better to say straight out that I do not like fantasy.” Speaking for myself: I stand by my earlier assertion that, if a fantasy novel is the best work of fiction this year, then an epochal change occurred in the literary culture while no one was watching.

(  2.) David Foster Wallace, The Pale King. The half-finished manuscript that Wallace left behind when he committed suicide.

(  3.) Ann Patchett, State of Wonder. Patchett is our greatest author of overlong Tendenzromane — romances of political tendentiousness. The politics can’t conceal the sentimentality at the heart of Patchett’s vision.

(  4.) Teju Cole, Open City. About a Nigerian immigrant to New York. Fascinating voice. Nothing happens.

(  5.) Kate Atkinson, Started Early, Took My Dog. Fifth volume in a series of mysteries.

(  6.) Kevin Wilson, The Family Fang. A first novel about performance artists who use their kids as props. Ha, ha.

(  7.) Kate Beaton, Hark! A Vagrant. A collection of cartoons. Don’t ask me what it’s doing on a fiction list. “[I]t ought to be somewhere,” Lev Grossman says, “so let’s put it here.” Um, okay.

(  8.) Lars Kepler, The Hypnotist (trans. Ann Long). You’ve read all of Stieg Larsson? Not to worry. Here’s another grisly Swedish thriller. Better title: Cruelty in a Cold Climate.

(  9.) J. Courtney Sullivan, Maine. An increasingly common genre: the multi-generational saga of women. In Maine this time, for the sake of difference if not originality.

(10.) Daniel Clowes, The Death Ray. A graphic novel about a Chicago boy who acquires a working death ray.

Time magazine, the press secretary for middlebrow thought in America, has now officially abandoned its readers. A fantasy, an unfinished philosophical jawbreaker, two mysteries, a collection of cartoons, a far-fetched debut, and a graphic novel — these are the “best books” it can recommend to readers with limited time for reading and a non-specialist interest in new fiction? Where are the big fat reads? The thick novels, thick with characters and incident, in which readers can lose themselves? Jonathan Franzen tried to write such a novel last year in Freedom, although he insisted that his nearly 600-page book — in the 19th century it would have been called a triple-decker — belonged “solidly in the high-art literary tradition.” (It didn’t.)

My wife’s favorite novel this year was Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone (2009), a book that was recommended to her by another professional who is more interested in people than in literary form. This is a perfectly respectable kind of novel, serious fiction without pretensions to difficulty. That’s pretty much the 19th-century conception of the novel, in fact; and good writers can still do wonderful things with the kind. Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot is the ideal cross-over novel, for example, appealing both to serious part-time readers and those who want to “keep up” with the latest in literary thinking. Its absence from Time’s list says far more about the magazine’s desperate efforts to seem edgy and clever than it does about the best fiction of 2011.

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Brutal for Obama and Joe Klein

According to Public Policy Polling (PPP), President Obama’s approval ratings in the key states of Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania are “brutal.”

How brutal?

In Florida, Obama’s approval-disapproval numbers are 39 percent v. 55 percent, with independents registering a 52 disapprove v. 36 percent approve rating.

In Pennsylvania Obama’s approval is 40 percent, while 55 percent of voters disapprove of him. Independents line up against the president by a 63/32 margin.

And in Ohio, Obama’s approval is 42 percent with 54 percent of voters disapproving of him — while the split among independents is 58/33.

These findings should be combined with Jennifer’s posting on the latest analysis by The Cook Report and the story she linked to in Politico, in which a Democratic pollster working on several key races said, “The reality is that [the House majority] is probably gone” and that that his data shows the Democrats’ problems are only getting worse (“It’s spreading,” the pollster said.)

I recall that once upon a time, Obama courtiers over at the New Republic and Time magazine ridiculed the amassing evidence Jennifer and I cited, warning of the impending political problems Democrats faced in the midterm. They would have none of it. The polls were nothing more than “white noise.” It was wishful thinking on our part. The election results in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts were anomalous and didn’t foreshadow a thing. According to Joe Klein, we were part of the “sky is falling” crowd. Democrats would be fine; the public would learn to appreciate all the wonderful achievements off Obama and his party.

Lately, I haven’t heard much from them about how baseless and irresponsible our analyses were, or how well things are shaping up for Democrats. In fact, poor Joe now refers to the “dismal electoral shape” the Democrats are now in.

Gee, that was a quick turnabout. And it’s so unlike Klein to experience such wide emotional and analytical swings.

By the way, I’m still waiting for an apology — or at least a note of explanation — from our liberal friends, Jen.

How about you?

According to Public Policy Polling (PPP), President Obama’s approval ratings in the key states of Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania are “brutal.”

How brutal?

In Florida, Obama’s approval-disapproval numbers are 39 percent v. 55 percent, with independents registering a 52 disapprove v. 36 percent approve rating.

In Pennsylvania Obama’s approval is 40 percent, while 55 percent of voters disapprove of him. Independents line up against the president by a 63/32 margin.

And in Ohio, Obama’s approval is 42 percent with 54 percent of voters disapproving of him — while the split among independents is 58/33.

These findings should be combined with Jennifer’s posting on the latest analysis by The Cook Report and the story she linked to in Politico, in which a Democratic pollster working on several key races said, “The reality is that [the House majority] is probably gone” and that that his data shows the Democrats’ problems are only getting worse (“It’s spreading,” the pollster said.)

I recall that once upon a time, Obama courtiers over at the New Republic and Time magazine ridiculed the amassing evidence Jennifer and I cited, warning of the impending political problems Democrats faced in the midterm. They would have none of it. The polls were nothing more than “white noise.” It was wishful thinking on our part. The election results in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts were anomalous and didn’t foreshadow a thing. According to Joe Klein, we were part of the “sky is falling” crowd. Democrats would be fine; the public would learn to appreciate all the wonderful achievements off Obama and his party.

Lately, I haven’t heard much from them about how baseless and irresponsible our analyses were, or how well things are shaping up for Democrats. In fact, poor Joe now refers to the “dismal electoral shape” the Democrats are now in.

Gee, that was a quick turnabout. And it’s so unlike Klein to experience such wide emotional and analytical swings.

By the way, I’m still waiting for an apology — or at least a note of explanation — from our liberal friends, Jen.

How about you?

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Time Magazine’s Slander of America

Time magazine has a cover story, “Is America Islamophobic?” Based on an interview the author, Bobby Ghosh, did with MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, the answer is an emphatic yes. Islamophobia is “taking root,” Ghosh insists, in “places all over the country.” It is the new anti-Semitism, we are told. And when Olbermann asked why America was becoming Islamophobic now rather than in the aftermath of the attacks on 9/11, Ghosh quickly corrected him. We were plagued by irrational anti-Muslim fears back then as well. “It was pretty overt in the immediate aftermath of 9/11,” Mr. Ghosh informs us. But “we weren‘t paying attention because this country had gone through this trauma.”

This is both silly and slanderous; in fact, America showed enormous, impressive, and proper tolerance and respect toward Muslims after 9/11.

What’s worth noting, I think, is that this is part and parcel of the growing alienation from America that is occurring among some elite liberals. As the president continues to fail and to fall, as his agenda becomes more and more unpopular, some of those on the left are now training their fire on America and its citizens. There is, in their view, something deeply, morally wrong with the nation.

This judgment is unwarranted and unwise; if it continues, it will further discredit modern liberalism.

What’s regrettable is that this most unhealthy debate we’re now engaged in, which is causing polarization based on ethnicity and religion, could have been so easily avoided if Iman Rauf had decided, on careful reflection, to build his mosque and community center elsewhere. He could have made the point that he has every right to build the mosque near Ground Zero but that, as a gesture of sympathy and solidarity with the families of the victims of 9/11, he decided not to.

That would have been an act of patriotic grace and it would have deepened the respect and affection the country has for those of the Muslim faith. Instead, we are where we are, which is not a good place to be.

It was so easily avoidable; and it makes one wonder why it wasn’t avoided in the first place.

Time magazine has a cover story, “Is America Islamophobic?” Based on an interview the author, Bobby Ghosh, did with MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, the answer is an emphatic yes. Islamophobia is “taking root,” Ghosh insists, in “places all over the country.” It is the new anti-Semitism, we are told. And when Olbermann asked why America was becoming Islamophobic now rather than in the aftermath of the attacks on 9/11, Ghosh quickly corrected him. We were plagued by irrational anti-Muslim fears back then as well. “It was pretty overt in the immediate aftermath of 9/11,” Mr. Ghosh informs us. But “we weren‘t paying attention because this country had gone through this trauma.”

This is both silly and slanderous; in fact, America showed enormous, impressive, and proper tolerance and respect toward Muslims after 9/11.

What’s worth noting, I think, is that this is part and parcel of the growing alienation from America that is occurring among some elite liberals. As the president continues to fail and to fall, as his agenda becomes more and more unpopular, some of those on the left are now training their fire on America and its citizens. There is, in their view, something deeply, morally wrong with the nation.

This judgment is unwarranted and unwise; if it continues, it will further discredit modern liberalism.

What’s regrettable is that this most unhealthy debate we’re now engaged in, which is causing polarization based on ethnicity and religion, could have been so easily avoided if Iman Rauf had decided, on careful reflection, to build his mosque and community center elsewhere. He could have made the point that he has every right to build the mosque near Ground Zero but that, as a gesture of sympathy and solidarity with the families of the victims of 9/11, he decided not to.

That would have been an act of patriotic grace and it would have deepened the respect and affection the country has for those of the Muslim faith. Instead, we are where we are, which is not a good place to be.

It was so easily avoidable; and it makes one wonder why it wasn’t avoided in the first place.

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Time (Rhymes with Crime)

In 1977, Time Magazine welcomed the election of Menahem Begin in Israel by offering a helpful guide to pronouncing the new leader’s name with a reference to one of the most hostile literary depictions of Jews: “Begin (rhymes with Fagin)”. Five years later, Time Magazine claimed falsely (according to a New York jury) that Ariel Sharon had effectively encouraged the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut. Time Magazine has a history, is what I’m saying. And the latest example of Time’s repugnant and ridiculous coverage of Middle Eastern matters comes in a gobsmacking note on the car-bombing death of Imad Mughniyah. After detailing Mughniyah’s 25-year career of slaughter and destruction, and noting that his death was devoutly desired from Israel to Saudi Arabia, Time suggests that perhaps Iran and Syria killed the man who was, without question, their greatest external asset:

In the John Le Carre world of Middle East terrorism and politics, however, it’s impossible to rule out the wildest of conspiracy theories, including that Mughniyah’s friends in Syria or Iran may have found his continued existence to be an inconvenience. Or, they may have believed it was politically useful to demonstrate that they can be relied on to control terrorism in the Middle East — as long as the U.S. doesn’t try to go after the regimes in Damascus or Tehran.

Get it? Iran and Syria might have killed the terror master they created and ran in order to prove they will take care of bad terrorists — but you know, they won’t be willing to be so noble and charitable should the United States do something against them. This is one of the most embarrassing pieces of geopolitical analysis ever published. And in Time’s glorious tradition of doing everything it can to think the best of tyrannical Arab states. Well done, Time (rhymes with crime).

 

In 1977, Time Magazine welcomed the election of Menahem Begin in Israel by offering a helpful guide to pronouncing the new leader’s name with a reference to one of the most hostile literary depictions of Jews: “Begin (rhymes with Fagin)”. Five years later, Time Magazine claimed falsely (according to a New York jury) that Ariel Sharon had effectively encouraged the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut. Time Magazine has a history, is what I’m saying. And the latest example of Time’s repugnant and ridiculous coverage of Middle Eastern matters comes in a gobsmacking note on the car-bombing death of Imad Mughniyah. After detailing Mughniyah’s 25-year career of slaughter and destruction, and noting that his death was devoutly desired from Israel to Saudi Arabia, Time suggests that perhaps Iran and Syria killed the man who was, without question, their greatest external asset:

In the John Le Carre world of Middle East terrorism and politics, however, it’s impossible to rule out the wildest of conspiracy theories, including that Mughniyah’s friends in Syria or Iran may have found his continued existence to be an inconvenience. Or, they may have believed it was politically useful to demonstrate that they can be relied on to control terrorism in the Middle East — as long as the U.S. doesn’t try to go after the regimes in Damascus or Tehran.

Get it? Iran and Syria might have killed the terror master they created and ran in order to prove they will take care of bad terrorists — but you know, they won’t be willing to be so noble and charitable should the United States do something against them. This is one of the most embarrassing pieces of geopolitical analysis ever published. And in Time’s glorious tradition of doing everything it can to think the best of tyrannical Arab states. Well done, Time (rhymes with crime).

 

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ANNAPOLIS: Oh, How Wonderful to Have the Saudis There

One of the reasons the commentariat is growing giggly with excitement about the Annapolis peace conference taking place over the next three days is the presence of Arab nations who are sworn enemies of Israel, Saudi Arabia in particular. It will be represented by Prince Saud al-Faisal, the foreign minister, who has given a somewhat revelatory interview to Time Magazine. He says he will refuse to shake Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s hand, even though he is a seeker after peace. He never says there will be peace with Israel, only “normalization,” and that this will only occur after Israel does every single thing he wants it to — and will not say there will be an exchange of ambassadors if that happens. He says that, despite the oft-stated line that a deal between Israel and the Palestinians is necessary to help create the conditions for a bulwark against Iran, “Peace with Israel has its own conditions and elements that are not connected with Iran.” And he asserts, despite the fact that Palestinians now maintain control over Gaza and most of the West Bank, that “Israelis are acquiring more land.” Truly, a partner for peace.

One of the reasons the commentariat is growing giggly with excitement about the Annapolis peace conference taking place over the next three days is the presence of Arab nations who are sworn enemies of Israel, Saudi Arabia in particular. It will be represented by Prince Saud al-Faisal, the foreign minister, who has given a somewhat revelatory interview to Time Magazine. He says he will refuse to shake Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s hand, even though he is a seeker after peace. He never says there will be peace with Israel, only “normalization,” and that this will only occur after Israel does every single thing he wants it to — and will not say there will be an exchange of ambassadors if that happens. He says that, despite the oft-stated line that a deal between Israel and the Palestinians is necessary to help create the conditions for a bulwark against Iran, “Peace with Israel has its own conditions and elements that are not connected with Iran.” And he asserts, despite the fact that Palestinians now maintain control over Gaza and most of the West Bank, that “Israelis are acquiring more land.” Truly, a partner for peace.

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A Nation of Secrets?

Are we becoming A Nation of Secrets? That is the title of a new book by Ted Gup, a former investigative reporter at Time magazine and the Washington Post and now a journalism professor at Case Western Reserve University. In it, he argues that a wave of secrecy is washing over our country that “threatens to engulf democratic institutions and irrevocably alter the landscape of America.” Dan Seligman took a dim view of this contention in his review of the book in the June issue of COMMENTARY, and I offer my own dim view of it in a review in today’s Wall Street Journal.

As I try to show in the Journal, Gup is engaged in fear-mongering about government secrecy. But even if his book is flawed in this way, Gup does have interesting things to say about secrecy in other spheres of American life, especially the media.

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Are we becoming A Nation of Secrets? That is the title of a new book by Ted Gup, a former investigative reporter at Time magazine and the Washington Post and now a journalism professor at Case Western Reserve University. In it, he argues that a wave of secrecy is washing over our country that “threatens to engulf democratic institutions and irrevocably alter the landscape of America.” Dan Seligman took a dim view of this contention in his review of the book in the June issue of COMMENTARY, and I offer my own dim view of it in a review in today’s Wall Street Journal.

As I try to show in the Journal, Gup is engaged in fear-mongering about government secrecy. But even if his book is flawed in this way, Gup does have interesting things to say about secrecy in other spheres of American life, especially the media.

“It is one of the crueler ironies of the post-9/11 era,” Gup writes, “that the press, whose raison d’etre is to hold government accountable and promote transparency, should itself have become a casualty of secrecy, its methods and manners eerily mimicking those its monitors.”

In demonstrating this proposition, Gup explores a number of recent media controversies, including the New York Times’s December 2005 decision to reveal the highly classified National Security Agency’s Terrorist Surveillance Program, thus tipping off al Qaeda to one of our most critical counterterrorism efforts. He goes into considerable depth into the “secret” editorial decision-making leading up to publication. He is particularly hard on the paper for concealing the various conflicts of interest it had with its own reporters, especially James Risen, one of two reporters who broke the NSA story. He also points to many of the credibility problems that arise from the press’s excessive use of anonymous sources.

I found myself disagreeing with almost all of Gup’s broad conclusions, and was especially put off by the overheated rhetoric with which they are presented, but Nation of Secrets does contain valuable observations about the workings of the press, and a good deal of reporting about other facets of secrecy in American life, that make it still worth reading.

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