Joel Brinkley’s Article on Richard Falk: Does It Demonstrate the Right “Frame of Mind” to Teach Journalism at Stanford?
by Elizabeth Woodworth
December 30, 2008
In a companion essay (reprinted below), I discussed the response of some articles in the mainstream press to the claim, made by some defenders of Israel, that Professor Richard Falk should be removed from his current position of UN rapporteur on human rights abuses in the Palestinian Territories — a claim that was reflected in the refusal of Israel on December 14, 2008, to allow him to enter the country. I included in this essay a discussion of an article by reporter Joel Brinkley because, although it was published before Israel’s action against Falk1, it could be read as a defense of that action. Brinkley, who had previously worked for the New York Times, argued that Falk did not have the right “frame of mind” for his UN position. In the present essay, I will focus on Brinkley’s argument for this charge, suggesting that it shows that he does not have the right frame of mind for his own current position as visiting professor of journalism at Stanford University.
Brinkley’s Discussion of 9/11
Brinkley’s charge that Falk is unfit for his UN role is quite remarkable, given Falk’s stature. He is Professor Emeritus of International Law and Practice at Princeton University and currently Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He has had published (as author or editor) over 60 books by academic and other mainstream presses. He is also widely respected and sought after as a speaker and conference participant.
NY Times Reporter Joel Brinkley
Brinkley’s case against Falk rests on linking him to the millions of Americans who believe the “unusual theory,” as Brinkley calls it, that the 9/11 attacks were a “false flag” operation — “a conspiracy planned and executed by the Bush administration.” This is a theory of which Brinkley, he admits, had been unaware “until a row broke out last month between Falk and U.N. monitors who try to defend Israel.”
Is it not extraordinary that Brinkley, a former New York Times reporter deemed qualified by Stanford University to teach its journalism students, had not been aware that many Americans believe that 9/11 was a false flag operation, carried out to provide a pretext for attacking Muslim countries? Mainstream newspapers, magazines, and television shows have for years been reporting this belief, especially on the anniversaries of 9/11. TV talk-show hosts have debated members of the “9/11 truth movement” who advocate the false flag theory, including former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura.
Nation-wide polls, moreover, have shown this belief to be shared by millions of Americans. In 2006, for example, a Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll found that 36% of Americans considered it likely that “federal officials either participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or took no action to stop them ‘because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East.’”2 This poll, which shows that this theory is not as “unusual” as Brinkley claims, was widely reported in the press, including Time magazine.
When I saw that Brinkley had been completely unaware of the 9/11 controversy, I could not help wondering how his reading habits differ from those of Sarah Palin.
Early in his article, Brinkley suggests that Falk is unsuited for his present UN position because he advocates this alternative theory of 9/11. Brinkley wrote: “U.N. monitors who already view Falk with grave distrust are now throwing up his advocacy of the 9/11 conspiracy theory as further evidence that he is not qualified to serve as an important U.N. envoy.”
But a few paragraphs later, discussing a Scottish newspaper article by Falk about 9/11 that angered an organization called UN Watch,3 Brinkley writes: “In it, Falk does not say flatly that the [9/11 conspiracy] theories are correct—just that they warrant further investigation.” So, without pointing out that the “U.N. monitors” who said otherwise were wrong, Brinkley concedes that Falk is not a 9/11 conspiracy theorist. This means that the title of Brinkley’s article as published in the San Francisco Chronicle –”9/11 Conspiracy Theorist Should Leave U.N. Job” — is misleading.
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