By Arthur Alpert
“When,” I upbraided myself April 29, “will I write about the Journal’s lack of intellect? Its failures cannot always be traced to politics. Often the editors simply choose to make moral judgments. Moral judgments murder thought. And their arguments are so often simplistic I wonder if they read books.”
I fully intend to write that essay, basing it on the daily’s coverage of Memorial Day, 2016.
But first, here’s one more miserable example of management’s passion for politicizing the “news.”
The political commissars in charge published a truly ugly Page One “report” Saturday, May 28 that sought to tarnish President Obama by linking his visit to Hiroshima with local veterans’ views on Harry Truman’s decision to drop two atom bombs on Japan.
Of course, tarnishing Mr. Obama is what Journal commissars do; it’s in the job description. This article stands out only because the editors outdid themselves, concocting a smear of a pseudo-story.
First, the commissars placed a color photo of Mr. Obama laying a wreath at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park atop their headlines:
“LOCAL VETERANS ON THE DECISION TO DROP THE ATOMIC BOMB” AND – IN BIG, BLACK TYPE – “IT HAD TO BE DONE”.
Puzzled, I wondered if there was a contradiction between using the A-bomb and regretting the horrific human cost. Then I read reporter Charles D. Brunt’s lead:
“President Barack Obama’s unprecedented visit to Hiroshima evokes varying emotions among American veterans who served in World War II – a war many say would have been far worse had President Harry Truman decided against using the bomb…to force Japans’ surrender.”
In his next two graphs, Brunt reported on Obama’s visit to pay respects to the dead and his hope the world will one day rid itself of nuclear weapons.
In paragraph four, he quotes a 94-year-old veteran who thought it unfortunate Mr. Obama’s visit came so close to Memorial Day because it “shows he doesn’t care too much about American troops.” Finally, he quoted another WWII vet who had no opinion on Mr. Obama’s visit and also backed the use of the A-bomb.
Might a reader get the idea Mr. Obama disagreed with the decision to use the nukes? Might that reader also think the president didn’t care about US fighting men? After all, the assertion went unchallenged in the story. Well, of course.
Was this intentional? You bet. There had to be deliberate decisions to juxtapose photos and rubrics and the conversation with two (!) veterans in order to trump up a conflict between them and Mr. Obama.
Let me state my personal bias here. I was an impressionable little boy during WWII, deeply immersed in our last “good war,” so when politicians or faux-journalists misuse it, I feel it in the gut.
And I notice when a newspaper, so-called, generalizes from the comments of two veterans to all veterans. Who does that? Answer: no professional journalist would.
Further, while I daresay the guys who fought that war backed Truman’s decision unanimously, that’s not to assert they didn’t regret the loss of life at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those I knew learned to hate war.
But back to the Journal story where, in the jump on page 4, Brunt listens as the above-mentioned vet, Jim Wilson of Albuquerque, talks about all the reasons he believes Truman made the right call.
I re-read the story. Who posed the question? Nobody in the story said Truman was wrong. So the Journal commissars or the reporter asked it. Ah, but why? And why rope in Mr. Obama?
I continued reading:
“He (Wilson) said he’s pleased the president didn’t apologize for our bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, because ‘There’s no reason to apologize for.”
OK, so to sum up, the Journal created a Page One story that merged President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima to pay respects to the dead and pray for the end of nuclear weapons with the memories and opinions of two (!) veterans who defended the nation’s use of the A-bombs against the arguments of, well, nobody.
Nonsensical? Yes and no. Yes, it’s inane but it’s not just inane. It seeks to make Mr. Obama look feckless compared to members of the Greatest Generation.
This isn’t surprising. The Albuquerque Journal campaigned against Mr. Obama before he won the White House the first time and it has never ceased fire. Campaigned against him in the “news columns,” you understand.
Which violation of journalistic decency, it is worth noting, is the Journal’s 907,468th in its war on our trade. (Well, I wouldn’t swear to the number.)
Next time, promise, we will ignore the Journal’s politicking in order to focus on an equally significant source of its journalistic incompetence – lack of intellect.