'Demonizing the Press' | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 84 Issue 32 | p. 6 | Letters
Issue Date: August 7, 2006

'Demonizing the Press'

Department: Letters

I have been an ACS member for 44 years, and I am outraged after reading Rudy Baum's editorial (C&EN, July 10, page 3). Who does he think he is to use the pages of an American Chemical Society publication to present his Bush-hating, anti-Administration and, yes, anti-American opinions? There isn't anything in his editorial even remotely related to chemistry, chemical engineering, or issues affecting our industry. To have a disclaimer at the bottom of the page saying that the "views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS" is meaningless. I would like to call for his resignation and at the very least demand a printed apology on the editorial page. C&EN is clearly not the New York Times and should not be a source of political commentary on nonindustry issues.

Lawrence R. Brecker
Armonk, N.Y.

It finally happened! on many occasions, Baum has taken potshots at the policies of the Bush Administration under the guise of global warming or some other chemical situation. Today, he could no longer restrain his liberal political tendencies, and he surfaced with a pure political attack on the Administration. I did not see one chemical formula or chemical name in his editorial. What do Baum and his liberal cohorts seek? To shut down government attempts to shield us from an attack more devastating than 9/11? We are in a war that started badly for us and could get much worse. I am sure the government is not looking for the e-mail and financial records of honest citizens.

If Baum continues his anti-Administration liberal political views on the pages of C&EN, which is purportedly dedicated to chemical matters, then he should be reassigned, resign to join one of his beloved "three great newspapers," or be terminated.

Joseph Kelley
Westfield, N.J.

The press has no more freedom to speak than you or I. As a private citizen, I could be tried for treason for giving state secrets to the enemy. Of course, you are referring to the revealing of the monitoring of the Belgian clearinghouse known as the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). The press is just doing its job. They should be proud. If the U.S. media could only spend as much time digging up terrorist plots as they do exposing government ones. The British press has just as much vitriol for Bush as the U.S. press, but unlike here, they do spend the time and effort to expose terrorists who are trying to kill them.

The Supreme Court has held that bank records are not constitutionally protected private information. The terrorist who orchestrated the Bali resort bombings in 2002 was captured through the SWIFT program; a Brooklyn man who laundered $200,000 for al Qaeda through a Pakistani bank was tracked via the program. The Wall Street Journal says that last year's London subway bombings were investigated through the SWIFT initiative and that a facilitator of Iraqi terrorism has been apprehended because of it.

I don't pay dues to ACS for you and the other editorialists to vent their political views. I would be embarrassed if the editorial board shifted to the right and became as obstreperous as you. If that is what interests you, why don't you start your own blog? I am getting to the point where I cannot, in good conscience, support an organization with such an abject political mouthpiece.

Joseph Pellicano
Redmond, Wash.

I do not belong to ACS and read C&EN to be exposed to left-wing political rhetoric. Your recent editorial, "Demonizing the Press," certainly fits in with your past efforts to turn C&EN into your personal political forum. I would strongly recommend you resign from C&EN and look for a position in a more appropriate venue; for example, the New York Times. Can you tell me where in the ACS or C&EN mission statement it says that political rhetoric is a part of your job description?

I previously wrote to you suggesting you give both sides of the global warming issue: man-made versus natural, timeline going back beyond the last 1,000 years, and past predictions of a global freeze, et cetera. Apparently, your left-wing (or simply Bush-hating) position will not allow you to give a balanced presentation, even when technical data are available to anyone who is willing to look. Your bashing of Bush on the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance and international monetary monitoring issues is totally without merit.

Unless you have some inside information, there have been no aspects of these programs that have been ruled by any court to be illegal. In addition, no U.S. citizen or organization has made a credible claim that they were harmed in any way by these programs. We have an abundance of lawyers and don't need you or the New York Times to decide that you are protecting U.S. citizens' rights. The majority of U.S. citizens accept that the President's primary job is to protect our safety. Certainly George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and George W. Bush have shown they understand this to be true.

Robert D. DeMarco

Just a word to express my appreciation, which was great enough, in my opinion, to neutralize 20 dissenting letters.

Marshall E. Deutsch
Sudbury, Mass.

Anyone who reads C&EN regularly knows Baum's political affiliation. In my opinion, he has gone too far with his editorial "Demonizing the Press." I fail to see any connection between this editorial and chemistry. Our organization is not the Democratic Chemical Society, nor is it the Republican Chemical Society. Our organization should be apolitical, although some legitimate issues do have political connotations. The subject of climate change, for example, is one issue with which chemists should be concerned. It should be an apolitical subject but, regrettably, is not. I do not believe there is any justification for Baum's editorial appearing in C&EN. It belongs on the op-ed page of the Washington Post. Finally, I would be just as offended if C&EN published a similar right-wing political screed.

James H. Short
Montgomery Village, Md.

I strongly disagree with and object to your editorial titled "Demonizing the Press."

First, your opinion on this issue is wrong, in my opinion, and I believe a lot of other C&EN readers also disagree with you. What the New York Times did was wrong. To paraphrase your seventh paragraph−just because the New York Times thinks a program is secret does not make it illegal and just because the New York Times says they are acting for the good of the country does not mean they are. I think what they did clearly crossed the line of responsible journalism for the sole purpose of advancing their political agenda, and there should be some punitive consequences to their actions if possible and legal.

Second, and more important, I object to this kind of editorial in C&EN. When and if I want opinions on purely political issues, I'll go to the mainstream media. Your editorial obviously supports your political views, but not those of the American Chemical Society. I read C&EN weekly to get information that is pertinent to me in my profession. Not one iota of your editorial falls into that category. I understand that you have the right to express your opinion, but in a publication that has the scientific focus of C&EN, the editor's opinions on strictly political issues are out of place. There is no balance in this type of political editorializing in C&EN.

I believe that C&EN should adopt an editorial policy that requires only issues related to the scientific community be editorialized. There are enough of these important issues to allow you to express your editorial opinions weekly and that will also be pertinent to the readers of C&EN and members of the American Chemical Society.

Stick to science and leave the politics to other publications.

Ernest O. McLaughlin
Northville, Mich.

Your editorial "Demonizing the Press" intrigued me. You present the case that the Bush Administration should be taken to task for criticizing news organizations on a national security issue. While I respect your views, I must ask you: What does this have to do with chemistry and engineering?

You are the editor of one of the most widely read and respected technical trade publications in the country. Please do not use your editorial powers to advance your political views. I pay my ACS dues to read about science and industry, not politics.

Joseph Payack
Newbury Park, Calif.

In my 40-some years associated with ACS I don't ever remember such inappropriate editorials as most of those by Baum. I'd swear I'm reading some kind of Democrat or liberal newsletter. They are horrible, and many of my associates can't stand them. Let's get back to chemical and engineering news.

Ronald E. Wiita
Wadsworth, Ohio

C&EN has a strong tradition and, I believe, policy of accurately reporting the news in our industry while maintaining a strict position of political neutrality. Baum's editorial is a clear deviation from that position. As a result of Baum's incorrectly using his position as editor-in-chief to espouse his personal political views, he has weakened the integrity of C&EN. The editorial board should request Baum's resignation and if not promptly offered, immediately dismiss him.

Martin J. Van Sickels
Spring, Texas

As a 15-year member of ACS, I have always been impressed with the excellent quality of C&EN reporting and editorials. In my opinion, it is one of the very best weekly newsmagazines in print. Unfortunately, for the first time I found myself sincerely disappointed when I read the editorial titled "Demonizing the Press."

My concern is that the opinions stated by Baum are, at best, loosely related to the chemical enterprise. I understand that Baum is passionate about the issue as a reporter; however, I believe that he is not serving his customers well. C&EN is dedicated to the chemical enterprise from the perspective of chemists and chemical engineers. Many of Baum's past editorials have raised similar, appropriate concerns with the Bush Administration that are more closely related to chemistry and engineering. This editorial smacked of a personal agenda that deserves a different forum.

Please keep the content of C&EN focused on what I believe your readers want: excellent coverage of the issues that pertain to the chemical enterprise. Baum's opinion, although legitimate, belongs in another venue.

John Levins
Malvern, Pa.

Blatant political editorials by Bush-hater Baum do not belong in my society's magazine. If he cannot stick to the issues of chemistry, I would like to see him fired.

Frank Logullo
Hockessin, Del.

Rudy Baum, you are absolutely incorrigible. You persist in publishing editorials concerning political issues that each recipient of C&EN reads in his daily newspaper and news weekly and hears reported on radio and TV. I know you wish to express your strong opinions, but your political leanings do not concern us as a society. Write letters to the editor or guest editorials for your favorite paper. Your editorial added nothing to the storm surrounding the Times story; it's highly politicized and not a suitable editorial for a chemical weekly.

You are the editor of a weekly chemical review, and chemistry is assumed to be your field of expertise. Show the readers of your magazine that you do have the requirements to be the editor of a chemical review. Dazzle the readers with your brilliant analyses of chemical issues. Give them the view from every side, without the politics. Politicization of issues is rampant and the grist of elected politicians. The editor of a chemical weekly is a paid professional; he is an expert.

C&EN needs experts, not politicians. Do your job!

Anthony J. Di Milo
San Diego

Your July 10 editorial is so seriously in error and, indeed, so bizarre, that it could have been written by the Queen of Hearts in Alice's Wonderland. Are you seriously suggesting that our major newspapers have a constitutional obligation to mobilize all possible efforts to discover and reveal our government's most effective, secret antiterrorist programs?

If the year were 1942, would you be recommending that the New York Times assign their best reporters to discover our government's efforts to intercept and interpret clandestine communications between German ships at sea and sleeper agents on U.S. soil so that the details could be published to ensure that "as citizens, we [would] be informed of programs such as these," which you apparently would regard as "possibly illegal?"

The National Security Agency's monitoring of communications between known terrorists and persons in the U.S. as well as the program to track the movement of funds between terrorists over the international SWIFT network are the 21st-century equivalents of those World War II-era communications intercepts. If you prohibit or prevent our government from employing such clandestine measures, then what would you propose our government should do to identify and defeat those who are actively working to wreak death and destruction on our cities and our citizens?

Richard Kramer
Sharon, Mass.

In response to your editorial on freedom of the press, I would like to point out that in the Pentagon Papers decision of 1971 the Supreme Court clearly stated that, although there was a heavy burden of proof for the government, the executive branch did have the option to pursue a restraining order in cases where national security was truly affected. Barring this, they also had the ability to bring criminal charges against the newspapers and reporters involved, and this has been used effectively in the past in spying cases where the charges were "possession of a classified document," for example. That the Bush Administration did not pursue either of these venues strongly suggests that they recognize how disingenuous they are being about all national security issues.

Most appropriate to the present situation is the applicability of several statements from Justice Potter Stewart's decision: "In the absence of the governmental checks and balances present in other areas of our national life, the only effective restraint upon executive policy and power in the areas of national defense and international affairs may lie in an enlightened citizenry-in an informed and critical public opinion, which alone can here protect the values of democratic government."

Stewart described executive power over internal security as, "an awesome responsibility, requiring judgment and wisdom of a high order. I should suppose that moral, political, and practical considerations would dictate that a very first principle of that wisdom would be an insistence upon avoiding secrecy for its own sake. For when everything is classified, then nothing is classified, and the system becomes one to be disregarded by the cynical or the careless, and to be manipulated by those intent on self-protection or self-promotion. I should suppose, in short, that the hallmark of a truly effective internal security system would be the maximum possible disclosure, recognizing that secrecy can best be preserved only when credibility is truly maintained."

This Administration clearly believes the opposite.

Christopher Nielsen
Westfield, N.J.

I thought that the name of our ACS- published newsmagazine was Chemical & Engineering News. Your editorial was neither chemical nor engineering, and certainly not news since the subject has been reported and discussed in the media for the past several weeks. I think that if you wish to complain about freedom of the press you should do it in your local newspaper or the national newsmagazines and leave C&EN for science- and technologyrelated articles.

Donald L. Miller
Midland, Mich.

I want to commend your editorial for your stand in support of our freedom of the press for our free society. We need help from all sides. I hope you will be deluged with support for your position.

Alexander Surrey
Sarasota, Fla.

I would greatly appreciate it if Baum would cut back on his political editorializing against the Bush Administration. The most recent example is the July 10 issue in which he strongly castigated the President for his criticism of the New York Times for the Times's "outing" of the financial investigations the Bush Administration has used to track terrorist groups. In an earlier edition he wrote about how "chemists" dislike the President.

One can agree or disagree with the Administration's record against terrorists, but I would prefer that C&EN stick to chemistry and chemical engineering (my field) and related matters. I, for one, am a little tired of Baum's using this outstanding technical magazine as a forum for his very liberal political views.

Most of us are quite capable of obtaining our political information from a wide range of media outlets. For example, I read the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal cover-to-cover most days. I don't look to C&EN for that type of information.

J. Winston Porter
Leesburg, Va.

I take great pride in being part of the diverse community brought together by science and ACS. C&EN plays a role in this community by informing us of the current events in our field and the breakthroughs fellow members of this community have made. Therefore, I had to check back to the cover to make sure I had C&EN in hand when I stumbled upon Baum's piece on "Demonizing the Press." Whether it is a valid argument or not, what relevance does this piece have in C&EN?

I see this as a major misstep by Baum in taking advantage of his position to publish his personal political views in a publication that is dedicated not to politics, but to science. It was in further poor taste to veil his desire to express his personal views with an appeal to remember what makes our country great on Independence Day. Perhaps he needs to be reminded that the current Administration is trying to protect his right to irritate his readers from groups that are not too keen on freedom of speech. Mr. Baum, if you want to present your one-sided political viewpoint, do it in the correct forum. Leave us scientists alone and go work for the New York Times.

Michael P. Smolinski
Port St. Lucie, Fla.

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