Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.
--Daniel Patrick Moynihan

March 31, 2011

Violating Rights: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

By David K. Shipler

During research for my book The Rights of the People, I asked a communications class at Stetson University to write their answers to a few questions, including whether “you expect that your e-mails, phone calls, letters, checking accounts, conversations in your rooms, credit card use, computer hard drive, personal items in your home, etc. will be, or should be, beyond the reach of government investigators without judicial authorization.”

March 24, 2011

Wars of Choice

By David K. Shipler

The air strikes on Libya and the hand-wringing in the United States illustrate a cold fact about waging war these days: We are fair-weather fans. If we win, the warfare is a good idea; if we don’t, it isn’t. Only after Col. Muammar Qaddafi’s fate is determined will our attack be solemnly judged to have been brilliant or foolhardy, a stroke of heroic selflessness or fumbling incompetence.

March 17, 2011

The Train to Hiroshima

By David K. Shipler

Hiroshima is a long, safe distance from the damaged nuclear reactors in northern Japan, but it is close to the surface of my thoughts. That the only country attacked by nuclear weapons should now, 66 years later, face a threat from the peaceful use of nuclear power puts a particular edge on the injustice. I wish I could be in Hiroshima to hear how this tragedy of 2011 is playing in the minds of those who lived through 1945. Schoolchildren will soon find out, if they ask the right questions.

As spring comes, many schools in Japan organize trips to the city so that children can listen to aging survivors tell their stories. The bullet train from Tokyo was full of kids the day I went in May 2007.

March 11, 2011

Muslims Exposed: Unprotected From Bigotry

By David K. Shipler

Buried among the many dumb things that Ron Schiller of National Public Radio said on his secretly taped YouTube debut was one noble, principled statement that was right on target but has received little attention. It was a lucid denunciation of bigotry—anti-Muslim stereotyping in this case—and an affirmation of journalistic ethics that require reporters to leave their personal opinions out of their professional work.

Schiller, NPR’s chief fundraiser at the time, was talking about Juan Williams, whom NPR fired as an analyst last fall after he said that people in “Muslim garb” made him nervous on planes. In one sentence and a flurry of defensive media appearances, Williams legitimized the most forceful image of Muslims in the panoply of prejudices: that they are violent and deserve to be feared.

March 3, 2011

Self-Censorship: To Write or Not To Write

By David K. Shipler

One April morning in 1984, my friend Amos Elon, the Israeli writer, appeared unannounced at my door in Jerusalem. He looked grave, without the touch of wry irony that often played around his eyes. He had walked the few blocks from his house to give me startling news, which he was not willing to speak about by phone.

What he had to say propelled me into a conflict between ethics and the law, forcing a decision that another reporter might have made another way.