The Blame Game


Anya Kamenetz at the Village Voice tackles the much-discussed question of whether "Big Media" such as The New Yorker may have resulted in Baghdad blogger Salam Pax being netted by Iraqi authorities. Salam stopped blogging, she notes, the day the New Yorker article ran. To me, it seems more likely that the communications centers (or, God forbid, Salam's apt) were hit during that day of heavy bombing in Baghdad than that Iraqi leaders were sitting around reading "Talk of the Town" (a point Kamenetz mentions later in the piece). Still, the question of culpability of Western journos is worth addressing.

She slams New Yorker author Daniel Zalewski for including too many personal details, but really the question is whether influential journos should have touched the story at all. Once the authorities were tipped off, they could have dug up all the info they needed from his blog in a matter of hours.

So that's the question: Should The New Yorker, Reuters, the BBC, etc have kept their hands off the story? What about publications with less reach, such as the V.V. or Reason? Blogs? At what level of media would Salam have been safe? If Iraqi officials surfed the Web at all, then it seems that even the most humble of bloggers could have given him away, through the magic of search engines.

I thought about this question before I wrote about Salam. I decided to go ahead for a couple of reasons. First, Instapundit, a hugely trafficked site, had already written about him extensively, and a Reuters story had run. The word seemed out. Second, the war had already begun, and Iraqi officials had far worse threats to contend with than some writer who criticized the Bush administration practically as often as Saddam's. And it seemed a foregone conclusion that the U.S. would successfully get rid of the old regime.

Were those three things not true, I'm not sure I would have written my piece. Hard to say. I might have.

What is clear: Salam kept blogging after the first Reuters story hit. That means he either weighed the risk and decided he was safe, or bravely kept blogging, whatever the danger.

What is also clear: He'd better make it through the war safe, because we need answers to all these bloody questions.