Whatever my views of the New York Times and its editorial line, I've always respected the paper for the quality of its writing. Sure, I've sometimes had beefs with ungrammatical nonsense, like "neither A, B, or C," when "neither" necessarily poses a choice between two things and requires a "nor," not an "or." But by and large, the writing is sophisticated and polished.
So yesterday, when I read in a Times article about Dr. Wafa Sultan, a Muslim woman who attacked the clerics in an Al-Jazeera interview a few weeks ago, that she "compares [Muslims] unfavorably with the Jews," I had to finish the article to see what she had said.
Because, to me, and I think to most sentient beings, comparing A unfavorably with B means that you have a poor opinion of B and are trying to say that A is even worse. You don't say that "she loves chocolate cake and compares fried eels unfavorably with it." Instead, you say "he compares the late Slobodan Milosevic unfavorably with Saddam Hussein, whom he would garrotte if he were to meet him."
But when you read further in the article, you read this:
Speaking of the Holocaust, [Dr. Sultan] said, "The Jews have come from the tragedy and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror; with their work, not with their crying and yelling."So while she literally compared Muslims unfavorably with Jews, in the sense that she said that Jews had acted well and Muslims had not, it is simply poor writing to say that she "compares [Muslims] unfavorably with the Jews."
She went on, "We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant. We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church. We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people."
She concluded, "Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people and destroying embassies. This path will not yield any results. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them."
But it's not inaccurate to say that I am comparing the writing in this Times article unfavorably with the writing in the Washington Post.