June 29, 2005

CAN'T TELL YOUR ANTIAMERICAN CRIMINAL CONSPIRACIES WITHOUT A SCORECARD:

The New York Times Shafted My Father: Silence, from Melvin Barnet and then the paper he worked for, destroyed his career. (Michael Cross-Barnet, June 26, 2005, LA Times)

On July 13, 1955, in Room 135-A of the Senate Office Building in Washington, my father tersely recounted his past. He said he had not been a communist since 1942. But when asked about other people, his lips were sealed. Twenty times the committee's attorney provided a name and asked my father if he knew that person "as a communist." Twenty times, my father gave the same reply: "I assert my privilege, sir, under the 5th Amendment." He would identify no one. Not even the man who had informed on him. Not even a dead person. The committee, he believed, did not have the right to ask him.

After the hearing, he went to the Times' Washington bureau, where he was handed a note stating that his conduct "has caused the Times to lose confidence in you as a member of its news staff." His career in journalism was over — he was 40.

It is unfortunate that the Times fired my father for refusing to name names half a century ago. But the country was in the grip of fear and, as a new generation of Americans learned after 9/11, fear is a powerful emotion. What is more puzzling, and in a way more disturbing, is that 50 years later the New York Times won't admit its mistake.


We need only change the facts slightly to see how fatuous this line of argument is and always has been:
On July 13, 2005, in Room 135-A of the Senate Office Building in Washington, my father tersely recounted his past. He said he had not been an active member of al Qaeda since 2002. But when asked about other people, his lips were sealed. Twenty times the committee's attorney provided a name and asked my father if he knew that person "as an Islamicist." Twenty times, my father gave the same reply: "I assert my privilege, sir, under the 5th Amendment." He would identify no one. Not even the man who had informed on him. Not even a dead person. The committee, he believed, did not have the right to ask him.

After the hearing, he went to the Times' Washington bureau, where he was handed a note stating that his conduct "has caused the Times to lose confidence in you as a member of its news staff." His career in journalism was over — he was 40.


The only question is whether today's Times would fire such a person, not whether yesterday's was right to.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 29, 2005 9:18 AM
Comments

Don't ask me. It matters not to me whether a Communist is fired before he is shot.

Posted by: Lou Gots at June 29, 2005 11:52 AM

The NYT of 2005 would hire Julius Rosenberg to write puffery about Stalin, or to criticize Bush.

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 29, 2005 12:21 PM

If you shoot him before you fire him, you don't have to go through that whole exit interview rigamorole.

Posted by: Governor Breck at June 29, 2005 1:53 PM

I am surprised that the NYTimes has not issued a grovelling apology for its misbehavior and offered to pay reparations. If it happened in 2005, the guilty party would have his own twice a week Op-Ed.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at June 29, 2005 2:29 PM

Here's the 5th Amendment:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

How does it allow someone to not "name names" of others?

Posted by: PapayaSF at June 29, 2005 4:26 PM

It doesn't. On their failure to do so they should be imprisoned.

Posted by: oj at June 29, 2005 5:26 PM

PapayaSF, exactly what I was thinking. The guy wasn't principaled, otherwise he would have just said, "I don't feel I should have to answer that."

Posted by: RC at June 30, 2005 3:59 AM

More exactly, "I assert my privilege, sir, as the 5th column."

Posted by: Norden at June 30, 2005 8:31 PM
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