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Right Turn
Posted at 11:54 AM ET, 11/18/2011

Is Atlantic’s response to Right Turn credible?

Yesterday I reported on Atlantic magazine’s content-sharing arrangement with EurasiaNet, a wholly owned project of George Soros’s Open Society Institute. Atlantic responded to my post, and I want to briefly address a few points.

Most important is this question and answer:

Your Web site explains that EurasiaNet is run by OSI. Do you consider OSI to be an advocacy group?
EurasiaNet has a reputation for great journalism produced by respected reporters; that’s why they’re one of our partners.

No, Atlantic didn’t answer the question about OSI, did it? There is no ”good answer” for Atlantic because, of course, OSI is an advocacy organization, an extreme left-wing one at that. EurasiaNet isn’t partially funded by OSI; Atlantic’s own Web site says that it is run by OSI.

As for the assertion that EurasiaNet is a respectable outfit, a quick look at some of its “journalism” reveals that it has a poor track record of accuracy and invariably errs (and favors) the Russian point of view. A case in point is this piece, which pooh-poohs reports that Russia was involved in a Georgian bombing plot:

[T]he more Georgia cries wolf, the more sober-minded people in Washington are going to be thankful for the reset, and to question how reliable a partner Georgia might be.

But just a few days later the New York Times reported that U.S. government officials confirmed that Russian officers did play a role in the bombing plot. It’s hard to see that EurasiaNet is doing anything more than spouting the left’s and Russia’s party line.

Finally, this exchange reveals the degree to which Atlantic finds itself compromised by EurasiaNet’s “reporting”:

There was a piece that ran yesterday on Condi Rice’s view of the Russia-Georgia war that was flat out wrong. Dr. Rice is on record repudiating it but the blog title remains. What is the procedure for corrections and does Atlantic stand by the story and the headline?
We stand by the article. In hindsight, we believe the headline and sub-headline could have better reflected the author’s argument. As a result, we have amended both on the site.

But the substance of the report — that Rice blamed Georgia — was wrong. The very first sentence of the piece reads: “Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Georgian President Saakashvili alienated potential NATO allies by ‘letting the Russians provoke him’ into starting a war over South Ossetia.” That’s false, as Rice told the Weekly Standard. It’s the Russian propaganda line, but it’s not Rice’s view. On this point Seth Mandel at Commentary has the goods. It should be read in full, but here’s the key passage:

It’s true, as [EurasiaNet reporter Josh] Kucera writes, Rice warned Saakashvili not to let the Russians provoke him, and Saakashvili refused to sign a non-use-of-force agreement before full-scale war broke out. But he also quotes this line from Rice as confirmation of his theory: “Despite Georgia’s unilateral ceasefire earlier in the day, South Ossetian rebel forces continued shelling ethnic Georgian villages in and around the capital, Tskhinvali. In response, the Georgian military commenced a heavy military offensive against the rebels…”
Here’s the next sentence, however, in Rice’s memoir, which Kucera should have included as well: “Only thirty minutes after Georgia began its offensive, Russia came to the aid of the South Ossetian rebels, moving its 58th Army tanks through the Roki Tunnel into Georgian territory.” So what we have is a unilateral ceasefire from Georgia before Russia’s involvement in the hostilities. When rebels continued shelling sovereign Georgian territory, Saakashvili decided he had to defend his citizens. And that’s when Russia — who everyone agrees was not attacked — enacted their pre-planned assault by moving their forces in to fight the Georgian army.
It should also be noted that Russia’s terms for ending hostilities included the demand that Saakashvili be removed from power in Georgia. Rice writes that she was so infuriated by the suggestion she immediately called European leaders and told them the outrageous suggestion from the Russian government. She writes: “The whole thing had an air of the Soviet period, when Moscow had controlled the fate of leaders throughout Eastern Europe. I was certainly not going to be party to a return to those days.”

The EurasiaNet piece is so obviously a misreading of Rice’s book and so clearly an attempt to mislead readers that it is shocking, frankly, that Atlantic would stand behind the piece. (Notice how the misleading elements in EurasiaNet’s work all point in the same direction — in Russia’s favor.)

Readers can judge for themselves whether EurasiaNet is a credible outfit. That Atlantic thinks it is raises some questions about its own journalistic standards and judgment. But at least for now, a great number of readers will dismiss Atlantic’s reporting on that region as nothing more than the Soros (and Russian) propaganda line.

By  |  11:54 AM ET, 11/18/2011

Categories:  Media, foreign policy

 
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