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                                       politics + culture

Sunday, October 16, 2005

scandals of the day

Greg Mitchell has a scathing editorial to offer the New York Times:

"It’s not enough that Judith Miller, we learned Saturday, is taking some time off and “hopes” to return to the New York Times newsroom. As the newspaper’s devastating account of her Plame games -- and her own first-person sidebar -- make clear, she should be promptly dismissed for crimes against journalism, and her own newspaper. And Bill Keller, executive editor, who let her get away with it, owes readers, at the minimum, an apology instead of merely hailing his paper’s long-delayed analysis and saying that readers can make of it what they will...[snip]...

Keller should also apologize to the “armchair critics” and “vultures” he denounced this week for spreading unfounded stories and “myths” about what Miller and the newspaper had been up to. If anything, this sad and outrageous story is worse than most expected


Indeed. Read the whole thing, it's like savoring a strong cup of morning coffee. Aromatic and flavorful, but with a bracing caffeine kick that smacks you in the face...and a bitter aftertaste that lingers in the esophagus.

Sentimental attachment to the Times dies hard, as Old Yeller notes in a comment below:

"The New York Times had hit an iceberg long before the Titanic. It is the paradigm for a generally corrupt and sycophantic press. It's odd that some people on the so called "left" have just discovered that. I guess its hard to give up one’s own mythologies. When one approaches reading any piece with the assumption that it's just going to be a pack of lies, one can glean more truth from it and one does not become as disappointed.

Corruption is endemic in the US, and the carousel of crime, corruption, and psychoses will go on long after the Judith Miller, Plame, Iraq, WMD, stuff is forgotten."


How true and well put. At yet, at the same time, having been cornered more than once at a cocktail party by a venom-spewing critic of the paper of record...I would argue that outraged, cynical disappointment and engaged, yet resigned, engagement, spring from the same dual reality. The Times will write, and we will read, in a dance that whirls through the decades. Those hungry for an alternative, have yet to find one that speaks outside the narrow confines of the "towers of the left"...ivory and otherwise. We are left with the scandals of the day.

What strikes me, waking up today and mulling again that last paragraph of yesterday's kinda culpa from the NYT, is how blind and insular it was:

"The Times incurred millions of dollars in legal fees in Ms. Miller's case. It limited its own ability to cover aspects of one of the biggest scandals of the day. Even as the paper asked for the public's support, it was unable to answer its questions."


Our nation is at war in Iraq, and Judith Miller's reporting in the New York Times is now most certainly part of the historical record that led to that bold misadventure...an escapade that will have cost, soon, two thousand American lives and those of countless Iraqis...and we are mourning the loss of dollars? In contrast to this dank myopia, the Fitzgerald investigation is simply one detective walking down a fetid alleyway holding up a lantern. Something may come of it...or it may prove to be a cul de sac. He is chasing, after all, but one tentacle of an octopus...but at least he is investigating.

Scandals of the day? Yes, if the Times wants to cast its lot with DeLay and Frist and Abramoff and Rove...if they want to throw their hat in with that unmentionable White House Iraq Group, they are welcome to. But if it turns out that they protected Miller and her sources against their reader's interests and their own policies, if they knew about her security clearance, and spoke nothing, then they are but another tentacle of a growing, and much larger scandal. Perhaps a "mistakes were made" angle is one that will allow them to climb out of the dumpster they find themselves in and live to write another day. It is clear to most of us, however, that they are merely shame-facedly avoiding looking at themselves in the mirror, and their current reporting is dropping crumbs like Hansel and Gretl.

These times we live in, as Old Yeller points out, this "carroussel of crime, corruption and psychoses" demand a more thorough and clear-sighted understanding of where we've landed, four years and a month from 9/11.

Scandal has a way of creating a haze of facts and innuendo. The psychosis of this day may be that faced with jarring realities we chose to cling to commonplace comforts: for liberals...the illusion of the forthrightness of the New York Times...for many Americans, the comforting myths of George Bush's war on terror. Indeed, clinging to illusions seems to have been our national response to the attacks of 9/11. Our simplistic, normanrockwellesque need for reassurance may be the main reason that the world-at-large has been left with an extended dancing partner named George W. Bush. Like readers of the Times who held out hope that their image of a forthright newspaper might be reflected boldly some Sunday morning in an expose on its front pages...the nation is left saying..."Say it ain't so, Joe"...to the whole sordid illusion woven by BushCo. and its willing executors.

U.S. nationalism, in its isolation and easy illusions, at the end of the day, has proven to be a force as baleful and ill-equipped as nationalisms past. I am not optimistic about what may happen when that slumbering beast awakes to these new realities. Old Yeller's image merges with my own....we are left bickering and finger-pointing on a sinking ship...indeed, they are bickering on the life rafts in New York today. And if the Titanic is sinking, our best hopes may lie with those lone defenders of freedom of the press and constitutional checks and balances.

Our hopes rest with those bearing lanterns up dark alleyways...with the real whistle blowers and ardent investigators. Judith Miller and Bill Keller, as Greg Mitchell points out, have exited stage left licking their wounds...they are distractions busy slinking off into irrelevance and the history books. We can only hope that those who know, whomever and wherever they might be, have the courage to shine a ray of truth on the heart of this rotten mass of lies and corruption.

Somewhere, the vulnerable eye behind these tentacles of scandal waits in trepidation.

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4 Comments:

  • the way this is shaping up, hara-kiri is looking increasingly appropriate. pity the culture of the insider cocktail circuit hasn't cultivated a decent sense of shame.

    By Anonymous wu ming, at 3:31 PM  

  • Thus one of the best (i.e. worst) lines in the NY Times piece: "On Sept. 29, Ms. Miller was released from jail and whisked by Mr. Sulzberger and Mr. Keller to the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown for a massage, a manicure, a martini and a steak dinner."

    And think of all the details we don't get in this article.

    By Blogger awol, at 4:02 PM  

  • awol, lol.

    By Blogger NYBri, at 8:15 PM  


  • Indeed. Read the whole thing, it's like savoring a strong cup of morning coffee. Aromatic and flavorful, but with a bracing caffeine kick that smacks you in the face...and a bitter aftertaste that lingers in the esophagus.


    Uh, how terribly vivid.

    wu ming said...

    the way this is shaping up, hara-kiri is looking increasingly appropriate.


    My thoughts tend to run more toward group suttee.

    By Blogger Thesaurus Rex, at 10:59 AM  

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