The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, September 20, 2002  

Martin Peretz, Peter Beinart . . . Meet Ted Barlow

The latest issue, dated Sept. 23, of the New Republic is out. And right there, on page 10, is a contribution to “The Notebook” that could only have come from contributing editor Andrew Sullivan, who is in the same issue, inexplicably, with “Provincetown Diarist.”

Entitled “Their Man in Harare,” it begins:

“Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has cracked down on his country’s press, harassing[,] and arresting journalists who have dared to expose his thuggish and corrupt land-redistribution policy. But Mugabe wouldn’t have to resort to such measures if Zimbabwean journalists were as pliable as [t]he New York TimesRachel L. Swarns.” [Ed.: The piece apparently is not, or not yet, online.]

Sound a bit familiar? I thought so too.

It rambles on in an attempt to smear Swarns (whom Sullivan criticized at his own site for writing a “puff piece” about the kleptocrat) and the Times as “Soft on Mugabe” and dupes of the dictator’s propaganda campaign, only to arrive at the predictable conclusion: “Actually, the propaganda machine misleading the Western world is our paper of record.”

As weblogger Ted Barlow has demonstrated, this charge is a tissue of lies.

On Sept. 6 Barlow wrote, “Sullivan can’t be bothered to research the woman he’s smearing, so I guess I’ll have to do it. Who is this Mugabe apologist, Rachel Swarns? A little Googling tells me that Rachel Swarns is the Johannesburg bureau chief of the New York Times. She was the co-winner of a first-place award for Best International Coverage (150,000+ readers) from the National Association of Black Journalists. . . . I don’t have NEXIS. So I just went to the New York Times [web] page and searched for stories by Rachel Swarns. Let’s look at some of the titles of some of the other ‘puff pieces’ she’s written to prop up Mugabe[.]”

Barlow proceeds to list twenty-six (26!) stories Swarns wrote about Mugabe in the Times just since late February. “[Y]ou’d almost think that Rachel Swarns has been a tireless critic of Mugabe. You’d almost think that the Times has done a great public service, publishing highly critical stories about his murderous regime several times a week,” he writes. “You’d almost think that Andrew Sullivan owes somebody a big apology.”

Now add the New Republic and editors Martin Peretz and Peter Beinart to the list of those who should be asking Swarns for forgiveness.

[Note: “After the Smear” is an unintentional homage to “After the Storm,” lyrics by Carly Simon, the words of which came into my conscious mind from my subconscious, by way of my unconscious, while I was writing this piece and listening to “After the Storm” on the stereo.]

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