It’s the opposite of newsworthy that a rabid neocon like Abrams spews this sort of anti-Arab hate-mongering; that is basically the defining attribute of neoconservatism. But what is significant is that Jennifer Rubin promoted and endorsed it without any hesitation. Over the past 18 months, we’ve witnessed a series of journalists fired for far less virulent sentiments directed at Israelis and Jews (Rich Sanchez’ complaints about disproportionate Jewish media influence and Helen Thomas’ call for Jews to leave the region), and even for completely innocuous remarks whose only sin was offending neocons (Octavia Nasr’s mild eulogizing of a moderate Hezbollah cleric). Yet here we have a Post blogger who has endorsed this extreme hate-mongering, and does so with total impunity.
Is there any doubt whatsoever that had Rubin promoted a rant spewing these sorts of ugly caricatures about Jewish children and Israelis with accompanying calls for savage violence — rather than directed at Palestinians — that she would have instantly been fired, then castigated and attacked by all Serious precincts? As [Ali] Gharib reports today, that was the question posed by a Post reader via email to the Post‘s Ombudsman, Patrick Pexton. To his credit, Pexton had previously condemned Rubin on his Ombudsman blog, writing: “in agreeing with the sentiment, and in spreading it to her 7,000 Twitter followers who know her as a Washington Post blogger, Rubin did damage to The Post and the credibility that keeps it afloat.” After denouncing Abrams’ rant as “reprehensible,” Pexton added: “That a Post employee would retweet it is a huge disappointment to me.”
That’s all fine as far as it goes, but what about the question posed by the reader: wouldn’t Rubin have been fired for promoting this hate-mongering had it been directed at Jews and Israelis rather than Palestinians? Pexton’s email response, published by the reader who emailed him, was this:
Off the record, I think it’s quite possible. But the ombudsman does not hire or fire people here. I only comment.
Leave aside the bizarre belief of establishment journalists that they can unilaterally decree their statements to be “off the record” and then expect that to be honored in the absence of any agreement by the person to whom they’re making the statement. What is most striking here is Pexton’s highly revealing cowardice — probably well-grounded — in wanting his observation about this double standard to be kept private; shouldn’t an Ombudsman who believes this be eager to raise it in public? As the reader noted in reply to Pexton:
If, in your opinion, such a grave double standard exits, why do you comment off the record? Why not publicly state your opinion? Why self censor? Doesn’t that reinforce insidious limitations on free speech?
Think of the absurdity. You must stay cautiously silent about a perfectly reasonable opinion while Rubin and Abrams can let fly with genocidal remarks. With respect, your silence contributes significantly to the poisoning of public debate.
Please speak up.
What’s particularly remarkable is that Pexton is admitting (albeit wanting it kept secret) what any honest observer knows to be true: that there is a very high likelihood — I’d say absolute certainty — that Rubin would have been fired had she promoted a post like this about Jews and Israelis rather than Arabs and Palestinians.
But this is the insidious, pervasive bias that has long been obvious in a profession that relentlessly touts its own “objectivity.” Even the mildest criticism of Israelis and anything even hinting at criticisms of Jews is strictly prohibited — a prohibition enforced by summary, immediate dismissal and enduring stigma.
Indeed, the American media exhibits gross bias in favor of Israel and deference towards Jews– that hardly needs saying. The question is, why?
The easy answer is to say that this reflects the ruthless power of the Israel lobby. A riskier explanation which even though widely accepted is much less voiced would be to say that this reflects the wide reach of Jewish power in American society. But neither explanation really exposes the way the power dynamic functions.
In most accounts of the nefarious influence of concentrated power, too much attention is given to the role of the individuals or entities which supposedly possess great power and too little to the way others relate to that power.
Americans are by nature enslaved to the possibility of their own advancement and to advance is to rise through the structures of power; not to defy or attempt to transform those structures.
“I never met in America with any citizen so poor as not to cast a glance of hope and envy on the enjoyments of the rich, or whose imagination did not possess itself by anticipation of those good things which fate still obstinately withheld from him,” Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in 1840.
For those convinced that a shortage of luck may be their only impediment to a better life, then the greatest fear will be of the self-created obstacle — a poorly chosen alliance, an imprudently expressed opinion, or anything else that might alienate them from the sources of power towards which they gravitate.
Patrick Pexton may be the Washington Post‘s ombudsman today but that’s not a position anyone holds or would want to hold for life. He has an eye on his own future and no one gets ahead in Washington or elsewhere in the US media by creating the impression that they might have anything less than warm feelings for Israel.
This is a reality sustained by the collective ambitions of most journalists.
What the media especially lacks, are sufficient numbers of individuals who do not so diligently nurse their own ambitions. Taboo-breaking, defiance and the kind of fierce independence which are the things that make a free press free, can only be unleashed by those who are willing to say: to hell with success; save the Pulizers for the media slaves.