Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

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.

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.

Nor do the reporters on either piece include any historical background or context in their reports. Thus Timesreaders are left blissfully unaware of the many examples of blowback that the US has experienced from its decades of faustian bargains. The most damaging of these, of course, was the CIA’s setting up of the Al Qaeda organization during the Jimmy Carter presidency, when he and his national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski came up with the brilliant idea of encouraging, funding and arming local and foreign Islamic fanatics to foment a civil war in Afghanistan with the goal of undermining the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul and “bleeding” the Soviet Union. Of course, the Mujahadeen became the Taliban, and among those foreign Islamic fanatics the CIA- trained and armed to fight the Soviets was Osama Bin Laden and his merry band.

And we know how that turned out.

Surely at least a paragraph reference to that debacle would be in order when one is writing about the latest Algerian experience with blowback, or about America’s latest support for religious fundamentalist fighters in its campaign to oust Syria’s current government. (The Obama administration has floated stories suggesting that it isn’t arming Syrian rebels, but the London Times has reported otherwise, citing a decision to go forward doing so on a covert basis. History suggests that the London Times has it right.)

But no. We’re instead given two disjointed and poorly written pieces that add little to the readers’ understanding of these latest hotspots in the Middle East. And yet, incredibly, one offers an example of what can go wrong when a government — Algeria — cozies up with a bloodthirsty killer and religious fanatic, while the other tells how the US government is doing exactly the same thing in Syria.

Dave Lindorff is a  founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He lives in Philadelphia.


Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Qaddafi
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Winslow Myers
Christopher Brauchli
Wonder Woman at the UN
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
Lee Ballinger
Tupac: Holler If You Hear Him
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”
October 20, 2016
Eric Draitser
Syria and the Left: Time to Break the Silence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Extreme Unction: Illusions of Democracy in Vegas
Binoy Kampmark
Digital Information Warfare: WikiLeaks, Assange and the US Presidential Elections
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Bogus History Lesson
Bruce Mastron
Killing the Messenger, Again
Anthony DiMaggio
Lesser Evil Voting and Prospects for a Progressive Third Party
Ramzy Baroud
The Many ‘Truths’ on Syria: How Our Rivalry Has Destroyed a Country
David Rosen
Was Bill Clinton the Most Sexist President?
Laura Carlsen
Plan Colombia, Permanent War and the No Vote
Aidan O'Brien
Mao: Monster or Model?