I found this most interesting post today about the New York Times, history and journalistic ethics. My guess is there is hardly an alert American my age or older who is not familiar with the photograph from the Vietnam war depicting a young girl screaming as she suffers the agony from a napalm attack. If you do recall this horror, do you also believe that the United States was responsible for the attack? The New York Times recently affirmed this.
In an obituary published in May about Horst Faas — an award-winning AP photographer and editor who helped make sure Ut’s photograph moved across the agency’s wires — the Times described the image as “the aftermath of one of the thousands of bombings in the countryside by American planes: a group of terror-stricken children fleeing the scene, a girl in the middle of the group screaming and naked, her clothes incinerated by burning napalm.”
But as I pointed out in an email sent to the Times soon after the obituary was published, the aircraft that dropped the napalm wasn’t American; it was South Vietnamese.
Well; surely the Times issued a correction. Right?
The newspaper’s assistant obituary editor, Peter Keepnews, replied to me on May 22, stating in an email:
“You are correct that the bombing in question was conducted by the South Vietnamese Air Force. However, the obituary referred only to ‘American planes,’ and there does not seem to be any doubt that this plane was American –- a Douglas A-1 Skyraider, to be precise.”
As if the aircraft’s manufacturer were a crucial element in the napalm strike by the South Vietnamese.
Huh? As W. Joseph Campbell points out, the obit surely makes it sound as if this attack was by American forces. Who on earth gives a you-know-what about where the aircraft was assembled?!?
Campbell attributes this to the Times being loathe to ever admit an error. Yet, they do correct miniscule items like spelling and incorrect middle initials. So - what gives, here?
Personally, I think something far more loathesome is involved. I think that some at the Times detest our own nation so much, they hate to remove information that damns the U.S. and puts the blame on another country.
Could I be wrong? Of course. Still, I cannot help but wonder. Why is it so difficult for the paper to let readers know that the South Vietnamese conducted this raid; not the U.S? Is it really because a paper that (like any other) has errors occur doesn't want to admit it? Or do they not want to take away a shred of data that might help them in highlighting what a crap nation the U.S. is?
You be the judge.