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Links? We Don’t Do No Stinkin’ Links: Cognitive Dissonance at the New York Times


For a masterpiece in cognitive dissonance, just look to the foreign editors and the managing editor of the New York Times, who managed to run two closely related stories making opposite points in Saturday’s paper without referencing each other at all.

The first, Algeria Sowed Seeds of Hostage Crisis as It Nurtured Warlord, by Adam Nossiter and Neil MacFarquhar, reports on how the Algerian government essentially enabled and encouraged the crisis in neighboring Mali by backing -- even hosting in Algiers -- an Islamic militant leader and local warlord, Iyad Ag Ghali, who then tried to take over Mali by force, including taking Algerians and other foreigners hostage at an oil drilling site, leading to a deadly Algerian battle and now a war in Mali that has drawn in the old colonial powers. The article talked at length about the risks of working with such militants. The risks for Algeria, that is; not the risks in general of such a practice.

On the same day, the paper ran a second article, this one by C.J. Chivers, titled A Rebel Commander in Syria Holds the Reins of War. This piece is a glowing paen to Abdulkader al-Saleh, aka Hajji Marea, a rebel leader in the Syrian civil war. The article paints the man whose nom de guerre is comfortingly (and incorrectly) translated as meaning “the respectable man from Marea” (it actually means “the man from Marea who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca), is clearly aligned with a radical Muslim group, the Al Nusra Front, which the article notes, is “blacklisted” by the US as a terrorist organization.

Abdulkader al-Saleh, America's 'Man in Syria'...for now at least.Abdulkader al-Saleh, America's 'Man in Syria'...for now at least.


Typically, when two articles that are clearly related run in a newspaper, they are run side-by-side, with one appearing as a kind of side-bar to the other. In this case, though, the first article, on the warlord Iyad Ag Ghali, ran on page one, jumping to page eight, while the second, on Hajji Marea, ran on page 9, separated by several other articles in the intervening columns of both pages. Even in the Times’ online edition, where it is easy-- and standard procedure -- to include links to relevant other articles, there is no link between these two stories.

story | by Dr. Radut