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Right Turn
Posted at 05:25 PM ET, 11/17/2011

Is this journalism or advocacy?

As Right Turn readers know, I avidly follow Russia and its agressive behavior at home and abroad in the Putin era, including its continued occupation of Georgia. So I was shocked to see a piece on the Atlantic Monthly’s website proclaiming: “Condoleezza Rice Blames Georgian Leader for War With Russia.” I found that nearly impossible, given her background and thinking on Russia and the reaction by the Bush administration to the invasion of Georgia. But there it was, asserting: “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.” There were some snippets from Rice’s book that didn’t quite support that conclusion, but I haven’t read Rice’s book and therefore was at a disadvantage.

However, Daniel Halper at the Weekly Standard took matters into his own hands. He called up Rice who responded: ‘The idea that I somehow blamed Saakashvilli for this . . . I just don’t think that is accurate. It is true that we were worried that the Russians would provoke [Georgian president Mikheil] Saakashvili and that he would allow himself to be provoked. But in no way were the Georgians at fault, and I think that’s clear from the full text.”

Well what the heck is going on at the Atlantic, then? After Halper’s piece ran, a snarky update refusing to admit the error appeared on the author’s blog. It comically ends with this bit of delusional chest puffing: “[W]hen the former secretary of state calls you out, it’s a special occasion. So, welcome to the readership of The Bug Pit, Dr. Rice!” Is he nuts? Halper called Rice up and got a quote to correct the erroneous post; I’ll bet the farm Rice doesn’t bother reading such rubbish herself.

Why is the Atlantic running work of this quality? Moreover, why did it allow the original, and now obviously misleading, title of the post to remain up? The piece was written by one Joshua Kucera, originally for an outfit called Eurasianet.org. What is that? Well, Atlantic tells us that outlet is a “partner site.” Atlantic explains on its Web site: “EurasiaNet.org provides information and analysis about political, economic, environmental, and social developments in the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus as well as in Russia, Turkey, and Southwest Asia. It is operated by the Central Eurasia Project of the Open Society Institute.”

What?! The Open Society Institute is George Soros’s piggy bank for funding a variety of his leftwing front groups. And yet, the Atlantic puts this extreme group’s advocacy up as if it were legitimate, nonpartisan journalism. In doing so, it turns itself into a mouthpiece, an unreliable one at that, for a group whose animus toward many of American foreign policy objectives (even in the Obama administration) is well known.

Since this morning I have attempted to get comment from the Atlantic. Too busy to talk, it seems. Well perhaps they’ll chat internally about whose bright idea it was to hop in bed with a left-wing advocacy group and thereby eviscerate whatever journalistic reputation the Atlantic lays claim to. Really, imagine if the Wall Street Journal had a content sharing arrangement with an entity run by the Koch brothers. The Atlantic, I am sure, would be among the first to howl.

UPDATE (6:09 p.m.): Atlantic still hasn’t answered my queries. But since I raised questions the headline of the post was changed to this: “Condoleezza Rice Warned Georgian Leader on War With Russia.” The disingenuous note reads: “The headline originally stated that Rice blamed the Georgian president and the sub-headline that her memoir contradicts the view that Russia began the 2008 war. They have been changed to better reflect the author’s original article.” Actually it reflects, after my inquiry, a newfound desire to more accurately reflect Rice’s memoirs; the article itself remains unchanged and misleading.

UPDATE (7:41 p.m.): Atlantic has now responded to a list of questions. I’ll have a follow up post tomorrow.

1. Does Atlantic fact check or edit its Eurasia.net content?

Yes, all of our partner content is reviewed by Atlantic editors before posting.

2. 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.

3. How did the partnership with Eurasia.net come about? Is it the only such content sharing arrangement?

We approached EurasiaNet editors about the partnership. EurasiaNet has a similar partnership with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. We have content sharing partnerships with a number of organizations, such as the Council on Foreign Relations, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Business Insider, Bleacher Report, and Flavorpill.

4. Your web site explains that Eurasia net 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.

5. Would Atlantic accept content from a group run by a political party or any other advocacy group?

We consider submissions on a case-by-case basis. We strive for transparency regarding our contributors and their backgrounds.

By  |  05:25 PM ET, 11/17/2011

Categories:  foreign policy, Media

 
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