Wednesday, July 13, 2005

This article pretty much sums up how I feel about the Judith Miller affair: about Miller herself, what her case represents as a legal issue, and what I think about the media.
That elephant, of course, was Miller herself, and the notorious role she played during the Bush administration's buildup to the war in Iraq. I myself wrote an article last December suggesting that Miller and her newspaper, having been thoroughly hustled by Ahmed Chalabi (possibly at taxpayer expense), bore more responsibility for the Iraq misadventure than anyone this side of George W. Bush.

On one hand, many members of the public -- especially liberals who ought to be staunch defenders of the Bill of Rights -- seem unable or unwilling to grasp the idea that a matter of fundamental principle might be at stake, even in the murky and seemingly bottomless waters of the Miller-Plame-Rove affair. No reporter can be expected to check out the legality or ethics or motivations of all sources in advance. All sorts of surprising people talk to reporters when they probably shouldn't, for all sorts of personal and political and psychological reasons. If journalists can only receive confidential information from the saintly and the pure of heart, the entire enterprise might as well become "The View."

...But the public's baleful view of the press is not totally without merit. Media insiders have become so obsessed by their own internal debates and so mesmerized by their own pseudo-professional codes of conduct that they've failed to notice how badly they've lost the public trust.
The problem is that the journalistic establishment has no way of dealing with someone like Miller, who screwed up massively [on WMD reporting], but did so within the rules the profession has set for itself.
A constant tide of right-wing complaints about the media's alleged liberal bias has also taken its toll on mainstream institutions like the Times, CNN and CBS News, which have tried to triangulate toward some ever-receding middle point in the political discourse. Like so much that the media does, this intellectually empty strategy is based on a misreading of public intelligence; Americans may be increasingly cynical, and not well-informed as a whole, but they're also not dumb. The right will of course continue to discern traces of "cultural elite" snobbery in mainstream media coverage, while the left will feel that the press has abandoned critical thinking and capitulated to mindless nationalism. For once, both sides will be right.


william t nelson said...

The post puts a lot of blame on Miller for messing up prewar reporting. I think the writer is just looking for someone to blame and is being quite smug in blaming the times.

Not that I revere the times anymore, because I get political news from public broadcasting/comedy central now, and iraq news from a website, so I don't bother reading the times except occasionally for culture articles that don't really relate to my world anyway.

CNN/Time and subsidiaries and the TV competition have more power than the times/post combo. Rove controls the message from the white house and therefore essentially controls policy. I think his power to control the attention of the US is partly why the latest scandal is so exciting for the journalists breaking it. the press briefings at the white house have been awesome the last three days. of course they can't push any further because the WH is so good at holding ground.

since you posted a long article, I will restrain myself and post only a short cartoon:

Elaine said...

Part of it may be that the Times has allowed irresponsible reporting in the past: on Whitewater, on Wen Ho Lee, now on Iraq.