"Is This Journalism Or Advocacy?"

November 18, 2011 5:58 pm ET — Walid Zafar

Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin is peeved over this story in The Atlantic. Here's a quick summary. Joshua Kucera, a D.C.-based freelancer, has a piece up at EurasiaNet.org and The Atlantic making the case that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice blames Georgia for starting a war with Russia back in 2008. (She seems to be more upset about the title of the post than the content of it.)

Rubin writes that she avidly follows Russian affairs and knows two things about this issue: No official in the Bush administration would have blamed Georgia, and Russia totally started it. As to the latter point, only a handful of people actually agree with this conclusion and virtually all are either Republicans or Georgians. Most other observers rightly understand that Georgia, provoked or not, started the fight.

Rubin quotes this Weekly Standard piece where Rice is asked about the accusation. "I just don't think that is accurate," she says, adding, "It is true that we were worried that the Russians would provoke [Georgian president Mikheil] Saakashvili and that he would allow himself to be provoked." Read that how you might, but Rice is clearly suggesting that Georgia might have been provoked to start the war.

Here is where it gets interesting. Rubin, who is very friendly with the pro-Georgia lobby here in Washington, sees something amiss. She writes:

Why is the Atlantic running work of this quality? Moreover, why did it allow the original, and now obviously misleading, title of the post to remain up? The piece was written by one Joshua Kucera, originally for an outfit called Eurasianet.org. What is that? Well, Atlantic tells us that outlet is a "partner site." Atlantic explains on its Web site: "EurasiaNet.org provides information and analysis about political, economic, environmental, and social developments in the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus as well as in Russia, Turkey, and Southwest Asia. It is operated by the Central Eurasia Project of the Open Society Institute."

If you follow conservative chatter at all, you'll know what comes next:

What?! The Open Society Institute is George Soros's piggy bank for funding a variety of his leftwing front groups. And yet, the Atlantic puts this extreme group's advocacy up as if it were legitimate, nonpartisan journalism. In doing so, it turns itself into a mouthpiece, an unreliable one at that, for a group whose animus toward many of American foreign policy objectives (even in the Obama administration) is well known.

Several things are wrong with this paragraph. One, other than mouthing right-wing pieties, what are Rubin's criteria for labeling the Open Society Institute "extreme"?

And two, what makes an organization a front group? A front group is usually set up by a corporation to make its PR seem organic and genuine — like physicians groups that advocate for smoking. But Rubin doesn't explain how progressive or left-of-Rubin groups are fronts. Who are they "fronting" for?

And here is the kicker. One of those "leftwing front groups" was actually the pro-democracy group that helped establish Georgian democracy. Rubin follows Russia very closely. But not closely enough to know that Soros was one of the key backers of the Rose Revolution that brought Saakashvili to power.

This is the problem when you're supposed to spin world affairs to conform to your Cold War mentality. You tend to ignore important facts.

"Is this journalism or advocacy," Rubin titles her post, with no apparent hint at irony. Or any indication that she knows the difference.