LLR Pages

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Nation's Katrina Vanden Heuvel Issues Mediocre Apology to John Tyner

The Nation editor Katrina Vanden Huevel issues a mediocre apology to freedom-loving hero John Tyner for its direct hatchet/smear job targeting him. The reason I say it's "mediocre" because her apology does not extend to her rag's attack on renown occasional Free Talk Live co-host and blogger Meg McLain, who yesterday issued a very much-justified counter-assault on Yasha Levine and Mark Ames (the hack journalists responsible for their notorious and odious smear job that was in part aimed at her but mostly at Tyner).

Her apology would be more meaningful if it were also directed at Meg McLain, because Levine and Ames smeared her by tacitly and simply portraying her as part of an Astroturf operation that was a central thesis of The Nation hatchet job/hit piece. Her apology would be even more meaningful to's Pete Eyre, who was also a target in the article. Lumped in with McLain as purportedly being on the Koch brothers' payroll, the piece in part nastily writes about Eyre in the following context:

One of the libertarians that McLain met with, Peter Eyre, has spent much of the past five years on a variety of Koch payrolls: as an intern at the Koch-founded Cato Institute, a "Koch Fellow" at the Drug Policy Alliance and nearly three years as director for the Koch-funded Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University, home also to the Koch-funded Mercatus Center.

Eyre has since issued an outstanding "take-no-prisoners" rebuttal against the shoddy smear job.

George Donnelly, a co-founder of (as well as a good friend of mine), was also a target, although he was merely mentioned in one paragraph. He was unfairly lumped in with McLain in the following excerpt:

George Donnelly, a libertarian colleague of McLain's who writes that he "loves" her traveling libertarian friends in Florida and "learned a lot" from them, also happens to be one of two men behind the, one of the main websites pushing the "National Opt-Out Day" movement. The domain was registered on November 3, 2010, five days before McLain's fake airport incident. Donnelly provided McLain with the funds to return back to her libertarian commune in Keene, New Hampshire, after the (fake) incident.

Donnelly has leveled a brilliant attack on the rag with a blog piece, castigating them for tacitly framing him as a "Kochtopus."

Nonetheless, here is Heuvel's substandard apology in its entirety:

At we make it a point to practice fearless, bold, timely journalism that raises critical issues ignored by the mainstream press. On very rare occasions that ambition leads to mistakes, and when it does, we're committed to acknowledging them and setting the record straight. Unfortunately, a recent article by Mark Ames and Yasha Levine, "TSAstroturf: The Washington Lobbyists and Koch-Funded Libertarians Behind the TSA Scandal," was one such moment.

As Glenn Greenwald of Salon quickly pointed out (and as other writers echoed), the article wrongly suggested that John Tyner, the libertarian citizen-activist who coined the "don't touch my junk" protest against the TSA's security procedures, might be linked to an Astroturf operation. Ames' and Levine's article didn't directly call Tyner a plant, and they didn't say that he was funded by the Koch brothers. Nonetheless, their article gave that impression--by placing Tyner in the article's lead and by using a generally disparaging tone to refer to him. The article also used innuendo to cast doubt on Tyner's motives, and when Tyner denied any connections to lobbyists and to Koch-funded organizations in an interview, we printed his denial--but we didn't press hard enough to get clarity on his actions and intentions. We should have stopped and done just that, and if Tyner's story checked out, we should have removed him from the piece.

We have published a reply by Ames and Levine that acknowledges some of these problems, but as editor of The Nation, I also want to apologize to John Tyner. The Nation hasn't been--and never will be--in the business of muffling citizen protest.

We are, however, committed to bold reporting and to airing intelligent debates even--or especially--when they challenge our preconceptions and make our readers uncomfortable.

Citizens from across the political spectrum are right to call out the TSA's invasive procedures and the threat to civil liberties they represent. We have long opposed, and exposed, the continuing encroachments of the national security state, though we also think that those who applauded each sacrifice of liberty for security under the Bush administration should expect to be regarded with skepticism if the presence of a Democrat in the White House suddenly prompts libertarian concerns. As John Tyner pointed out, this issue "isn't Republican and it isn't Democratic." It is also simply a fact that the backlash against TSA procedures has led to calls for racial profiling and for the privatization of the agency.

I believe the furor over the TSA scans warrants further reporting and analysis. We do, however, pledge to do it with the care and integrity that marks The Nation's best journalistic traditions.

Now, if she would kindly extend her apology to Tyner to McLain, Eyre, and Donnelly, then my fellow lovers of Liberty and I would be doing the happy dance. But we won't be holding our breath. Until then, her apology is second-rate at best.


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