Friday, September 08, 2006

NY1-sided 9-11 Forum

Casting aside any pretense of impartiality, NY1 (Time Warner’s local NYC news channel) last night presented a forum on the trade-off between security and civil liberties after September 11th, which clearly tilted the playing field in favor of those opposed to aggressive anti-terror measures. Of the four panelists, two were explicitly opposed to the Bush administration’s homeland security initiatives. One was Norman Siegel, formerly of the NYACLU, and perennial candidate for public advocate (a useless elected office in New York City). The other was Mohammad Razvi of the Council of Peoples Organization, evidently an advocacy group for illegal aliens from the Middle East whom federal authorities have sought for questioning. There were no advocates of the Bush Administration’s policies per se, or conservatives of any stripe to be heard from. Richard Aborn of Citizen’s Crime Commission, a consultant to urban police forces, and Richard Pildes of NYU Law, were generally sympathetic to law enforcement, but straddled a mushy middle on policy questions, showing no desire to counterbalance the more partisan panelists. As one would expect, Siegel and Razvi were allowed to dominate the terms of the debate.

NY1 most vividly tipped their hand in the flagrantly biased wording of their so-called snap poll questions. The first was:

“Since September 11, my civil liberties have been challenged:
A. Too much
B. Not enough
C. The right amount”

The clear premise of the question is that current counter-terror policies represent a challenge to civil liberties—a leading question if ever there was. How to answer it if you don’t believe civil liberties have been meaningfully challenged? Much to host Budd Mishkin’s undisguised shock, B was the winner with 43 percent, despite attempts to lead poll voters. (On-line voting after the broadcast has brought the results more in line with NY1 presumed result. You can vote here yourself.) The second question was:

“In this post-9/11 world, which of the following concerns you the most?
A. Extra searches
B. Privacy issues
C. Racial profiling”

Evidently, being killed in a terrorist attack was not considered a “concern” by NY1.

An honest debate can be had on the balancing act between security and civil liberties. However, NY1 did not provide one. Instead they presented an obviously stacked deck that played to a partisan crowd, rather than elevating discourse.