Response to Andrew Sullivan
(Sullivan's 10/30/02 Salon Column can be found HERE)
by Michael I. Niman 10/31/02
Andrew Sullivan’s tirade against my October 28th
Alternet column crossed the boundary from media criticism into the realm of a
bile-laden partisan attack. First
off, Sullivan alleges that I seem to “believe that Wellstone might have been
murdered by the U.S. government.” Anyone
reading my piece can see that I never made this allegation.
Nor did I write that Wellstone “was probably bumped off.”
Editors need to check Sullivan’s facts before running his attacks.
Similarly, “Niman’s bizarre conspiracy theory,” is
also the product of Sullivan’s imagination.
I have questions about Wellstone’s sudden death, and I reported that
many people are concerned that Wellstone may have been murdered, but I offer no
conclusions. While a litany
of similar deaths of political figures fuels this concern, at this point, there
is also no evidence of foul play in any of these deaths, nor is there evidence
of a conspiracy. A full investigation, however, is needed to confront widespread
suspicions and concerns. This is
what I called for. It is quite
normal to have a comprehensive investigation when a leader of the political
opposition anywhere in the world meets with an unexpected death.
The more international involvement there is in that investigation, the
more credible the results are. The
concept is painfully simple, and it’s not new.
While I might not feel Wellstone’s death was necessarily
the product of a conspiracy, another journalist would certainly have the right
to reach that conclusion. And while
I’m not “way out there on the left,” as Sullivan mistakenly reports, there
certainly is nothing wrong with a journalist being way out on the right, left,
or any other political fringe. In
America we value our diversity, and that includes diversity of political
opinion. We also value our free
press, which should reflect that diversity of opinion.
Sullivan’s zeal in attacking a journalist for raising difficult questions is chilling. For debate to survive in a democratic society, we need dissent. It is the responsibility of the press to provide a space for opinions that deviate from the status quo. Questions about Wellstone’s death fit into this category. While Sullivan certainly has a right to disagree with my call for an international investigation, his baseless personal attack against me, for the crime of writing about an unpopular subject, is also a stifling attack upon our free press. Sullivan’s actions support the current environment of self-censorship in the American press, whereby journalists forgo reporting on controversial issues such as Paul Wellstone’s death, in order to avoid nasty slanderous attacks by the likes of Andrew Sullivan and his ilk. Sullivan’s writing is a pox on the institution of American journalism.
Please Note: Andrew Sullivan's publisher, Salon.com, refused to run this reply.