For the leaders of enemy regimes, finding useful idiots among the American press corps must be about as hard as shooting fish in a barrel.
• Asma al-Assad, the wife of murderous Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, was the subject of a glowing feature in Vogue.
• Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can count on NBC’s Ann Curry to provide him a propaganda outlet, while the Office of the Supreme Leader often treated Barbara Slavin, formerly of USA Today, as a go-to reporter who would accept uncritically and amplify Iranian propaganda.
• The New York Times’s Tom Friedman must do the literal equivalent of “getting a room” whenever his writing turns toward praising China’s one-party state and its leaders.
• Mahmoud Abbas has, of course, basically anyone at The New York Times, where traditional reporting long ago gave way to opinion and analysis under the guise of news.
Now it’s time to add another bullet: Time Magazine has lent its pages, at least virtually, to an interview filled with soft-ball questions and unabashed puffery toward Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s thuggish prime minister. The interview is here. And here are topics the good folks at Time Magazine never found time to cover:
• By Turkey’s own statistics, the murder rate of women in Turkey has increased 1,400 percent since Erdoğan took over.
• While Time provided a basis for Erdoğan’s anti-Israel obsession, they never questioned him on:
—His endorsement of an internationally recognized al-Qaeda financier;
—His acceptance, less than a year ago, of a human rights prize awarded by and named in honor of Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi;
—Turkey’s treatment of the Kurds, its threats to use military force against Cyprus (one-third of which Turkey occupies in contravention of international law), or his embrace of Sudanese president and indicted genocide perpetrator Omar Al-Bashir;
—Erdoğan’s refusal to condemn Hamas terrorism and even acknowledge that Hamas rockets and bombs are terrorism.
• The imprisonment of several dozen journalists and Turkey’s plummeting rank in freedom indices.
As for their hagiographic rock star description, if Time’s reporters were more interested in reporting the news rather than simply hanging out with the rich and powerful, they might have noted the absence of any Turkish representatives—but the presence of Jordanians, Egyptians, Libyans, Tunisians, and others—during Morocco’s recent conference on democratic transition and constitutional reform in the Middle East. If some Egyptians perceived Erdoğan to be a rock star, then many other Arabs perceived the Turkish leader to be not the Beatles, but rather Beatlemania, a staged throwback to the past. Then again, the Moroccans and their neighbors were more interested in focusing on the issues at hand rather than cheap anti-Israel populism, so perhaps that was of no interest to Time.
It is a shame that American journalists become so enamored with cults of personality and dictator-chic attitudes that they fail at their main tasks: accurate reporting and incisive interviewing.