Friday, November 13, 2009

A Case Study in the Forfeiture of Journalistic Intergrity: The Press Enterprise's Jim Sachetti

To the editor,

Were there any doubt that Jim Sachetti should be replaced as PE-Editor, that is now settled. The publishing of Carter Clews’ misleading, racist “Barack Hussein Obama” tirade concerning the Fort Hood massacre leaves no room to speculate on Sachetti’s editorial irresponsibility.

Clews’ claim that Obama “soft-peddles” on Islamic terrorism is false. Obama, 7.25.08, Berlin: “This is the moment when we must renew our resolve to rout the terrorists who threaten our security in Afghanistan…The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda…We have too much at stake to turn back now.” What Carter really means is that anyone who opposed invading Iraq, rejects the “Bush Doctrine,” or is circumspect about whether sending more troops to Afghanistan is a good idea, amount to “soft-peddlers.”

Despite Carter’s denials, the history of immigration in the U.S. includes a “dark underbelly”; the sacrifice of ethnic and religious diversity, including the 4,000 Muslim soldiers serving in the U.S. military, would be a tragedy. But this doesn’t prevent Carter, and now Sachetti, from fanning the flames of bigotry. Indeed, for those looking for an excuse to spew anti-Islamic hatred in the interest of promoting their own religious agenda, Hasan is a gift.

Clews deliberately conflates terrorizing actions with the motives of a terrorist. That Hasan’s rampage was horrific and inexcusable is clear—and he will be prosecuted accordingly. However, that he saw the war on terror to be anti-Islamic or that he attended services at a mosque whose Iman held Anti-American views (how does Clews know Hasan listened with “rapt attention”?) does not meet the criteria for what counts as a terrorist according to U.S. law: “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents (U.S. Code, Title 22, Ch. 38, para. 2656f(d)).

There is no evidence that Hasan belonged to such a group; neither his mosque attendance or the people with whom he communicated demonstrates this. There’s no evidence that his actions were politically motivated; showing this requires evidence that Hasan was directed not merely by his apparent antipathy, but by an ideology he shared with others with whom he had planned the attack. There is copious evidence that Hasan suffered from psychopathology that went untreated, and while this is no excuse, it raises important questions that will remain unanswered while we busy ourselves barking up the wrong tree.

Americans for Limited Government is a fake grassroots “protest” group funded by real estate mogul Howard Rich; Clews is one of it charlatans. Clews has a colorful history: 1984, involved in the bribing of a “Spanish legislator believed to be working on energy legislation” benefitting a front corporation, Gray and Company, for which Clews was the primary lobbyist; 1985, Set up a PR firm called the Nicaraguan Refugee Fund that was directly involved in the Reagan administration’s “covert operations to supply the contras in violation of legislation passed by Congress”; 1985, “did the promotion and publicity for the World Anti-Communist League,” a fellow-traveler of the John Birch Society and associated with “assassinations, death squads, and sabotage”; 2003, sets up for the Christian Coalition featuring “angry right-wing polemics aimed at stirring up visitors to send fax messages to …politicians it has selected.”

So why would Sachetti waste Op-Ed space on Clews? Is he too lazy to check out his sources? Does he agree with Clews’ ALG/JBS/WACL worldview? Will he just do anything to sell papers? The Op-Ed page IS for opinions. But surely this doesn’t mean that any syndicated pundit’s racist trash goes—unless, apparently, you’re Jim Sachetti.

Wendy Lynne Lee

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