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NYT’s Bronner To Speak At Clarion Fund Iranophobic Event – OpEd

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Eli Clifton reports that the NY Times’ Ethan Bronner will speak at a panel discussion hosted by the Clarion Fund on November 7th at the 92nd Street Y in New York.  It will mark the premier of the latest Clarion media event, Iranium, which is agitprop posing as “documentary.”  It paints Iran as a demon whose nuclear program is a threat to world civilization.  Clarion, you’ll recall, with its close ties to the militant settler group, Aish HaTorah, created two previous anti-Muslim films, Third Jihad and Obsession.  Among other things they equated Islam with Nazism and claimed radical Islam was seeking to overthrow the U.S. government and replace it with a Sharia regime.

Clarion with $20 million in financial support (funneled through a Koch Brothers non-profit conduit) from right-wing political donor, Barre Seid, circulated hundreds of thousands of one of its DVDs in swing states just before the last presidential election.  Clarion’s Radical Islam website compared the terrorism/defense platforms of John McCain and Barack Obama and warned that McCain would keep America safer.  When activists pointed out that this was a blatant political endorsement, Clarion removed the offending language.  But the group’s partisan political ideology is apparent.

Which raises tons of questions about Bronner’s participation in the program.  First, Bronner doesn’t cover Iran, has no special expertise in Iran, speaks no Farsi, and has never covered Iran.  He is the Israel correspondent of the Times and his expertise, if he has any, is Israel.  His bona fides regarding Iran are non-existent.  He will be joined on the panel by other neocon darlings John Bolton and Richard Perle, both of whom have argued strenuously for U.S. &/or Israeli military intervention to prevent an Iranian bomb.  These three will be joined by a moderator from Clarion and Iranium’s director, and a pro-Shah Iranian monarchist, Nazie Eftekhari, who was an employee of the former Shah’s son till his suicide.

Max Blumenthal (quoting Gawker) points out that the Times, after another recent Bronner brush with ethical improprieties in which he was represented by a speaker’s bureau run by a West Bank settler, made this statement about the paper’s guidelines for such staff engagements:

Speaking fees are generally not allowed from companies, lobbying groups or other sources that might raise questions about our impartiality.

— Even if an engagement does not involve a fee, we should avoid situations that would create an appearance of favoritism or suggest too close a relationship between a Times journalist and the people or institutions we cover.

Bronner clearly violates guideline #1 above and though he doesn’t explicitly violate guideline #2 since he doesn’t cover Iran, it does raise the question why any NY Times journalist is speaking not just for a partisan anti-Iranian, Islamophobic group like Clarion, but how he justifies appearing on a panel so heavily biased toward the position of attacking Iran.  And sorry, the idea that he will provide balance to the other speakers by representing a more moderate perspective doesn’t hold water.  What he does do is provide a NY Times imprimatur to a Clarion Fund event.  They love having that Good Journalism Seal of Approval and what does the NY Times get in return?  Notoriety and charges of bias and favoritism toward Islamophobes and pro-Israel forces.  Sounds like a pretty bad bargain to me.

You may wish to write the paper’s ombundsman, who may not reply or take the issue seriously, but who knows, lightning could strike.  Someone’s created a hilarious Bronner spoof Twitter account.

This article appeared at Tikun Olam

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Richard Silverstein

Richard Silverstein is an author, journalist and blogger, with articles appearing in Haaretz, the Jewish Forward, Los Angeles Times, the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Al Jazeera English, and Alternet. His work has also been in the Seattle Times, American Conservative Magazine, Beliefnet and Tikkun Magazine, where he is on the advisory board. Check out Silverstein's blog at Tikun Olam, one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs, which he has maintained since February, 2003.

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