Guilt by association is bad journalistic ethics

Guilt by association is bad journalistic ethics
Chelsea Manning (Image: YouTube screen grab via ABC News)

You are not responsible for someone just because they cite something that you wrote. I have written over 6,000 blog posts and published over 300 letters to the editor in major newspapers like the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post.

As a result, thousands of people of every conceivable ideology have cited things I have written. For example, Larry Flynt and Chelsea Manning cited something I wrote about the federal hate-crimes law. But both of them are obviously to my Left, politically. I am not responsible for any positions they have taken or their legal battles. And they may have agreed with me about absolutely nothing other than the federal hate-crimes law.

It now looks like someone may be writing a story that mentions me and may discuss the fact that I am quoted by the web site of Ron Unz, whose thinking has apparently changed a lot over the last decade. People at his website cite what I have written about government bailouts, government waste, stimulus spending, and special-interest pork.

I don’t know Ron Unz, and have never met him. I am not responsible for what he thinks, nor is he responsible for what I think.

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I became aware of Unz in 1994, when he was a libertarian who opposed Proposition 187 (the California law that sought to bar illegal immigrants from tax-funded services). A journalist who dislikes him claims that Unz — who is ethnically Jewish — has now become a “holocaust denier.” This claim is based on Unz’s web site allegedly containing messages from other people who fit that description, not anything Unz himself said.

I don’t recall citing Unz, but it is conceivable that I cited something Unz said or wrote in the past. This would not be surprising, because many journalists and think-tanks have done so, including people across the political spectrum. For 13 years, I worked for a libertarian-leaning think-tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), and if I ever cited Unz, it was probably under the impression that Unz was a Republican with libertarian leanings. An Iranian-American immigration-policy analyst at CEI once approvingly cited Unz as follows:

As California Republican businessman Ron Unz notes, Republicans do not gain many votes by being rabidly anti-immigrant and the few that they gain don’t last for more than a few election cycles.

My wife is an immigrant. My wife and daughter are also Jewish, and I detest anti-Semitism and have publicly denounced it many times. For example, I have written about the evils of anti-Semitism many times, at this very blog. See, e.g., Bader, “The Vile Poison of Anti-Semitism,” February 7, 2019; Bader, “The Ugly Resurgence of Anti-Semitism,” Sept. 2, 2018.

For example, I have commemorated the liberation of Morocco from pro-Nazi rule during World War II. My wife’s mother was a child at the time. Jewish Children like her were forced out of school by the Vichy Regime, at a time when other Moroccan and Algerian Jews died in forced labor on the Trans-Saharan railway.

I have also highlighted the horrors of the Holocaust in publicly celebrating the heroes who saved countless lives in the Holocaust, such as Romi Cohn, and Georges Loinger. (See, e.g, Bader, “Georges Loinger, Who Saved Children from Holocaust, Dies at 108,” January 1, 2019; Bader, “Coronavirus claims more lives, especially in New York,” March 27, 2020.)

Publicly and privately, I have always recognized the existence and horrific scale of the Holocaust.

For most of my life, I have had Jewish bosses, all of whom I enjoyed working with. That includes Sam Kazman — the child of Holocaust survivors — Michael Rosman, Kenneth Marcus, and Stephen Menashi.

As I discussed in 2018:

My wife’s mother was a Jew born in Morocco. But her family was forced to flee to France in the 1950s due to escalating anti-Semitism, including violence. They were forced to leave almost all of their worldly possessions behind — including a house in a prosperous neighborhood of Casablanca that my wife’s grandfather built by himself.

They had also weathered an earlier phase of anti-Semitism they could not escape: living under the rule of the pro-German Vichy Regime, which took over France and its colonies, such as Morocco, after Hitler’s Germany defeated France in 1940. In November 1942, American and British troops took over Morocco in Operation Torch, liberating it from pro-Nazi control. This saved Morocco’s Jews from the fate of thousands of Jews in France, who were sent to concentration camps such as Auschwitz. The U.S. also took control of neighboring Algeria, which was also a French colony at the time; there, America was aided by 400 mainly Jewish French resistance fighters.

My wife’s mother was everlastingly grateful for being liberated by American troops. …

My wife’s grandparents were elated when flyers announcing the impending liberation fell from the sky from American airplanes, like manna from heaven. One of these flyers is in my wife’s possession, an item I also cherish as a memento of an event that enabled my wife and daughter to later exist. A copy of the flyer in our possession is also posted at Wikipedia. The flyer pledged to restore religious freedom and France’s democracy. France’s authoritarian Vichy Regime had eliminated the democratically-elected French parliament, banned political parties, and imposed anti-Semitic decrees. The flyer, bearing a “message from the President of the United States,” was written in both French and Arabic. Its words sounded majestic in either language.

I have always opposed genocide because all lives matter. The first letter I ever wrote to a politician was as an elementary school student, when I sent a letter to the president about atrocities committed by the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. Enclosed with my letter was a picture of a mound of skulls that I had clipped from the Washington Post.

Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. He also once worked in the Education Department. Hans writes for and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” Contact him at


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