By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The Globe’s new op-ed columnist

I’ve been tied up with family business the past few days, so it didn’t immediately register when — out of the corner of my eye — I saw my friend the Outraged Liberal fulminating over something outrageous he’d spotted in yesterday’s Boston Globe.

I backtracked this morning. Sure enough, the Globe ran an op-ed piece by Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who was responsible for the terrorist killings of 271 people over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. The Globe now presumes that Gaddafi may instruct us on how best to engage with Russia. Unbelievable.

Mr. O.L. writes that “it would be fascinating to know how this piece wound up in the Globe. No offense, but how many other newspapers rejected it? Who is representing Gaddafi? How much is the author being paid?”

In the New Republic, James Kirchick unloads thusly:

[G]iving shrinking editorial real estate to a dictator so that he may offer his thoughts on a subject that doesn’t even remotely effect the national interests of his country is a new low, not just for the general unseemliness of the exercise, but because of the more traditional and unremarkable concerns of journalistic responsibility. If Gaddafi were willing to write a signed op-ed revealing something new about Lockerbie, it would certainly be newsworthy, and the Globe would have obtained a genuine scoop in publishing it. But the thoughts of the Leader and Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya about Russia are not only irrelevant, they also happen to be just plain unoriginal and uninteresting.

If the Globe still had an ombudsman, perhaps he or she could root around and tell us how this happened. Kirchick seems to think it was a deliberate act, but my own view is that you rarely go wrong in attributing such things to more mundane human frailties — laziness, stupidity or, given the time of year, vacations.

In any case, we deserve an explanation. It will be interesting to see if one is forthcoming.

Photo (cc) by Amanda Slater and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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  1. Adam Gaffin

    Oh, the company the Globe keeps. The Washington Times also ran the piece

  2. Suldog

    Wow. Who in hell gave the go ahead to that? Utterly amazing.

  3. Michael Pahre

    I think you are too quick to reject the concept of a dictator like Gaddafi, from a country aligned with the USSR/Russia in modern times (and with whom the U.S. reestablished full diplomatic relations two years ago), writing about how relations between east and west might be improved. He deals with Russia regularly and might possibly have insight into how other countries could improve their relations with Russia — even though he has an awful background in terrorism.But then you read the load of crap that he wrote and the Globe published.It could’ve been news or insightful, but it reads like Russian-written propaganda. Methinks Gaddafi didn’t even write the piece. I need a shower to clean off this filth. The Globe needs to learn where on their keyboard is the delete button.

  4. jvwalt

    Is the Globe angling for one of those Economist-style country-sponsored advertising spreads? “Invest in Libya: Growth Center of the North Central Sahara!”

  5. Ani

    It feels as if everyone is vying for Obama's attention: Pakistanis & Indians; Israelis & Palestinians; here, Russians. All this and the economy, too! Maybe Biden had a point about Obama getting tested early on.

  6. O-FISH-L

    I believe that unlike Barack Obama fundraiser / terrorist Bill Ayers, Mr. Gaddafi has actually repented for his terrorist acts. Maybe if Gaddafi said he “regrets not doing more” terrorism, like Bill Ayers, he would be cause celebre in Media Nation.

  7. Boston Venerable Bede

    I agree with some of the various writers. This feels bizarre in some regard.How do you be an international paper in our modern era? I believe having international journalists reporting stories and news is the start. Reprinting propaganda does not make THE BOSTON GLOBE an international paper.

  8. Bill H.

    Fish, speaking perhaps for others who occasionally check in here, sometimes I worry about you. Comparing a lunatic who actually blew up 271 innocent people, to a feckless, incompetent wannabe 60s terrorist, all in an attempt to taint Barack Obama, is really, really troubling. You need to get a grip. But Happy New Year anyway.

  9. O-FISH-L

    Bill, a sincere Happy New Year to you and yours, too. My understanding was that Bill Ayers and co. were planning on bombing the NCO club and killing hundreds of our troops at Ft. Dix. But for the incompetence of Ayers & friends, the planned devestation would have rivaled the carnage caused by Timothy McVeigh. In fact, what Ayers hoped for would have been far worse than what Qadaffi caused over Lockerbie. That Obama continues to associate with Ayers is troubling to me, but maybe not to you. We can agree to disagree.Still Bill, please do worry about me and even pray for me. If something bad happens to me, you might be allowed to go unchallenged in person, not just here.

  10. Dan Kennedy

    Fish: Your understanding is wrong. If Ayers is telling the truth, those plans were going ahead without his knowledge or support, and he didn’t learn of them until after they blew themselves up.

  11. O-FISH-L

    Riiiiiiiiiight Dan. I guess “pillow talk” was verboten at that time too. PLEASE.So, now that you are defending Ayers, what exactly did he want to bomb and who did he want to kill? What does he wish that he did “more” of? Standing-by.

  12. jvwalt

    Sad to see a guy having to drag Bill Ayers into the debate over and over and over again. Sign of bankruptcy of ideas, I guess. If Obama is a terrorist-by-association, Fish, what about the administration and Regents of the University of Illinois, who have been paying — er, bankrolling — the “unrepentant terrorist” who is apparently worse than Qaddafi? What of all the prominent Republicans, not to mention the Annenberg Foundation, who have chosen to associate with Ayers? What of all the educators who respect Ayers as a leading educational reformer? Are they all evil, too? Or is Barack Obama somehow uniquely tainted by his relatively tangential association with Ayers?

  13. Neil

    Way to hijack the discussion, Fish. I can’t imagine what the Globe op-ed editors might have been thinking when they gave this column the go-ahead. It reminds me of a similar thread in today’s Globe, in the article Defending clients, and choices, about Harvey Silverglate filing a lawsuit (surprise!) about the Armenian genocide. He claims the issue is the right of people to express different viewpoints. But this isn’t the same–nobody’s questioning Gaddafi’s “right” to have an opinion about Russia or anything else, just the judgment of the Globe, for giving him a platform. And presumably paying him. Ugh. Why are they enabling this murderer? Maybe whoever’s left in charge at the Globe is too young to remember? Man that is some appalling shit. Let him publish his opinions here, where they refer to him as “The Leader”, and they refer to Israel as the “Zionist Terrorist Army Organization”.Oh and look, the first US ambassador to Libya in more than three decades arrived in Tripoli just last week, “in a further sign of the two nations’ improving ties”.U.S. officials said the last big obstacle to normal ties was removed in October, when Libya paid $1.5 billion into a fund to settle claims by the families of U.S. citizens killed in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, a 1986 attack on a West Berlin disco and some other incidents.So the answer is maybe, this guy is okay, because he gave us money. Maybe the Globe got a taste, to help “improve the ties”.

  14. O-FISH-L

    The filth and taint of Bill Ayers was confirmed by Barack Obama himself, the master campaigner, who made sure that Ayers was kept under wraps during the campaign. With Obama’s nod to Rick Warren, I trust that Obama has seen the light with the likes of Ayers. Obama is starting to “get it.”Obama, part Irish, must have heard from his ancestors the old County Leitrim saying, “show me your company and I’ll tell you what you are.” Meanwhile, Ayers should emulate Qadaffi and beg forgiveness.

  15. Brad

    Awful lot of commentary on whether or not Gaddafi should be listened to at all, rather than commentary on whether what he’s saying is relevant, useful or perhaps even astute.Kirchick did say that the ideas were “just plain unoriginal and uninteresting” but the accompanying virtriol makes me question his objectivity on that assessment.Look, Gaddafi is a worst class scumbag of a dictator…responsible for the deaths of thousands. So are many members of the Bush administration. Kill a person and you’re a murderer…but kill a million and you’re a statesmen. And hell, some people still think Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr were terrorists, too. It’s dangerous to assume that just because you disagree with someone that they automatically have nothing worth listening to. Even if it’s just to understand your enemy better, you want to listen to what they have to say.My initial instinct is that given how dictatorial Russia’s Vladmir Putin seems to be, perhaps Gaddafi really can offer some insight? After reading his op-ed, I would agree that his take on this situation offers nothing new or insightful, but as far as I can see, he’s basically correct in his analysis.Hell, the Globe gives space every week to Jeff Jacoby, who gives far LESS reasoned and informed opinions than Gaddafi did. What’s the problem here?

  16. jvwalt

    Again, Fish: if the “filth and taint of Bill Ayers” is so pernicious that it permanently poisons Obama as a public figure, why the hell does Ayers have a professorship at a major public university? Why is he regarded as an educational innovator and reformer? Why do so many people OF BOTH PARTIES have much deeper relationships with him than Obama, whose ties with Ayers are spotty and tangential at best? You don’t answer because you don’t have an answer.

  17. William

    My thought is that the only reason Bill Ayers is an issue is because the only way the GOP could get Vietnam into the discussion during the election was via Ayers, since Obama was not old enough to serve in Vietnam. Everyone except for the die-hards on the right seem to have made their peace with Ayers, as jvwalt notes. Even McCain realized the issue was a non-starter, leaving snow-for-brains Palin to flog a dead moose. Furthermore when someone says “In fact, what Ayers hoped for would have been far worse than what Qadaffi caused over Lockerbie.” we’re on very dangerous ground. I’m sure Bush “hoped” his administration would have responded better to the Katrina crisis and I’m sure Bush “hoped” the occupation of Iraq would have been more successful, but they weren’t. So what do we judge people on? What they “hope” for? Or on what the record says actually happened? The criminal justice system didn’t find reason to prosecute Ayers so why then Fish, do you continue to try to plant evidence on him?

  18. Ani

    Fish,I detect a theme in your comments about people getting away with something and not being held accountable, from your point of view, whether it’s Bill Ayers or Caroline Kennedy, for examples. When I feel that way, I remind myself that maybe it is being handled some other way, in a way that I don’t yet see or understand. “Through a glass darkly,” yes?

  19. Neil

    Fish the expert thread-hijacking troll. Stop feeding the troll!On-topic Brad, you make the point I think. We should listen to what Gaddafi has to say, similar to Silverglate’s point in his lawsuit. Similar to this a couple of years ago, Judith Miller was a guest on She had just done a piece about the process of recruiting suicide bombers, in the West Bank as I recall. It was horrible–depressed women, mentally unstable people were identified as candidates, and nurtured by the community. It was a very interesting story, but the reaction in the comments section was similar, all about how dare provide this Iraq war-enabler with a forum, etc. The fact that her new story was worthy of discussion didn’t even enter the picture, which was unfortunate.My problem isn’t with Gaddafi’s opinion per se, it’s with the Globe–I don’t trust that their motivation is pure. At least they should explain their decision to publish the piece.

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