Like any newspaper, the New York Times often issues corrections. But on
March 24 it instead issued an "apology." The bizarre non-correction is
raising eyebrows across the blogosphere. Here's the apology
it, the flummoxed reactions:
In 1994, Philip Bowring, a
contributor to the International Herald Tribune’s op-ed page, agreed as
part of an undertaking with the leaders of the government of Singapore
that he would not say or imply that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had
attained his position through nepotism practiced by his father Lee Kuan
Yew. In a February 15, 2010, article, Mr. Bowring nonetheless included
these two men in a list of Asian political dynasties, which may have
been understood by readers to infer that the younger Mr. Lee did not
achieve his position through merit. We wish to state clearly that this
inference was not intended. We apologize to Prime Minister Lee Hsien
Loong, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and former Prime Minister Goh Chok
Tong for any distress or embarrassment caused by any breach of the
undertaking and the article.
- Why Media Soft on Singapore
Outside the Beltway's James Joyner passes along
this from a friend "employed by a major media company": "The reason the
New York Times issued that correction is that if you print something
about the Lee family, they will sue you in Singapore courts, which they
control, and then they will win, and then they will seize any assets you
happen to have in Singapore. For the New York Times, this is an issue.
If you have ever wondered about the strange kid-gloves treatment the
rather noxious family gets in the international media, that’s why."
- Part of
Singapore Libel Case The Huffington Post's Alex Kennedy reports the $114,000 libel case behind the
correction, which required Times editors and writers to pay massive sums
to Singaporean officials. "The leaders of the authoritarian city-state
have sued journalists and
political opponents several times over the years for alleged defamation.
They have won lawsuits and damages against Bloomberg, the Economist and
Dow Jones & Co." Kennedy frames the libel case as the Singapore
government's way of censoring the press.
- Life in Singapore
Matthew Yglesias sighs,
"The price of doing business in Singapore is that you need to compromise
your coverage in some respects. [...] it's hard out there for a
newspaper of record."
- Subtly Mocks Singapore Conservative
blogger V.J. Morton suggests the
correction was cleverly written so conform to Singapore's demands while
making clear to Western readers just how absurd the whole thing is. "maybe it a CYA for the writer, but written in a
way designed to elicit WTFs from Westerners -- everybody wins"
Nepotism Here Liberal blogger Duncan "Atrios" Black
quips of Punch Sulzberger, the 84-year-old former New York Times
chief who inherited the newspaper, "pinch sulzberger was a
merit hire. i apologize for suggesting otherwise." He adds of Singapore's famously open business laws, "singapore is a
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments
or send an email to the author at
mfisher at theatlantic dot com.
You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.