Dog Bites Infidel

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on September 23, 2009

Dog Bites Infidel
We would like to defend the New York Times, which in today’s paper reports on a terror bust in New York:

Four men were arrested Wednesday night in what the authorities said was a plot to bomb two synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military planes at an Air National Guard base in Newburgh, N.Y.

The men, all of whom live in Newburgh, about 60 miles north of New York City, were arrested around 9 p.m. after planting what they believed to be bombs in cars outside the Riverdale Temple and the nearby Riverdale Jewish Center, officials said. But the men did not know the bombs, obtained with the help of an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, were fake.

The arrests capped what officials described as a “painstaking investigation” that began in June 2008 involving an F.B.I. agent who had been told by a federal informant of the men’s desire to attack targets in America.

At the end of the ninth paragraph comes the revelation that the suspects “are all Muslim, a law enforcement official said.”

According to Rod Dreher of, “This is what is called ‘burying the lede.’ Some editor in that newsroom found this to be an inconvenient truth, and tried to hide it. You can practically hear the Times cringing when it has to disclose this fact, which most fair-minded readers would find rather pertinent.”

Max Boot at Commentary adds:

Who were these four, I wondered? Could they be Chrysler shareholders upset that they are getting stiffed in bailout proceedings? ACLU lawyers mad that President Obama has refused to release interrogation photos? Possibly Greenwich hedge-fund managers furious about plans to regulate their industries? Or maybe just random nuts who like to set off bombs for the fun of it?  Nope. It turns out–get ready for it–the suspects were . . . Muslims.

We have some familiarity with the rhetorical device known as sarcasm, and our instincts tell us that Boot is employing it here. We surmise that as he read the Times story, he fully expected the suspects would turn out to be Muslim and was not the least bit surprised when they did. If we are right, and if Boot is typical, then our analysis makes nonsense of Dreher’s assertion that the Times was “burying the lede.”

A newsman’s saw has it that “Dog Bites Man” isn’t news; “Man Bites Dog” is news. What makes an event newsworthy is, in part, its unexpectedness or departure from the ordinary. A terror-plot bust is still front-page news, for which we should count our blessings. If the suspects turned out to be ACLU lawyers, hedge-fund managers or random nuts–or, for that matter adherents to any faith or ideology other than radical Islam–that would have belonged in the first paragraph or two.

That the suspects are Muslim is pertinent and certainly belonged in the story. If the Times had left the fact out completely, as this CNN story does, it would have been fair to criticize it for betraying journalistic principles in favor of political correctness. But treating it as the lede would have been like beginning the item you are now reading, “Conservative bloggers criticized the New York Times today . . .”

A bow to the sensitivities of our Muslim readers: Nothing in this item should be construed to imply that all Muslims are terrorists. To say that “Dog Bites Man” is not news is not to claim that all dogs bite men. If the canine analogy offends your religious sensibilities, we respectfully apologize, although we cannot promise not to do it again.

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