Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Reporter admits pervasive anti-Clinton bias in media!

In his latest Newsweek column, Jonathan Alter complains that Judith Iraq-war-enabler Miller and Matt Cooper may face jail time for refusing to reveal who in the Bush administration leaked Valerie Plame's name. This targeting of the press, Mr. Alter frets, will adversely affect the public's ability to get "real news." I agree. Because, by God, if freedom of the press means anything, it means the freedom to dutifully assist the executive branch of government in its attempts to intimidate and silence its critics, and to protect the intimidators from scrutiny by the judicial branch.

Alter worries about the consequences to the "broader American public" if reporters face judicial consequences for failing to reveal their sources: We "may be entering an era where our news consists of press releases, spin and nothing much that the government does not want us to know." Of course, what he's defending is not some brave government source exposing government wrongdoing, at risk to the source's job: No, Alter's defending journalists who are protecting government sources who leaked information designed to harm a man who called attention to misleading statements made by the president.

Of course, as Mr. Alter notes, in this instance it was Robert Novakula who was the government tool - Miller and Cooper never wrote anything based on the information that was leaked to them. After mentioning that he's friends with Miller and Cooper, Mr. Alter observes that the "coziness of Washington" prevents Novakula's CNN colleagues from asking Novak about his role in the Plame leak (and the subsequent investigation). In other words, Mr. Alter acknowledges that his media colleagues are more concerned about staying cozy than pursuing a story that's right under their goddamn noses. That being the case, why on earth does Alter expect anyone to take seriously his argument that jailing Miller and Cooper will have a chilling effect on the press? The press has long been effectively self-chilled by its widespread institutional laziness, groupthink, and fear of alienating the right.

As Mr. Alter himself notes: "If this were the Clinton era, we'd be treated to constant speculation about whether it was Sidney Blumenthal or Harold Ickes or maybe the Clintons themselves (!) who had committed this dastardly deed." No shit, Mr. Alter, and no one other than you and your colleagues is responsible for your own failure to subject this administration to anything near that kind of scrutiny.

: This is kinda funny: Contrast what Alter was saying in October, 2003 with his current column. I guess his position has evolved since his friends became implicated.

Alter, October 2003:

The knee-jerk reaction of most reporters is that leaking the name of the Wilson leaker would harm the efforts of all journalists dealing with all confidential sources in Washington. This fear is unwarranted. Sources don’t leak to do us favors, but for a complicated series of other reasons that are often out of self-interest. They always have and they always will. The whole game of reporters and their confidential sources has gone so far in Washington that too many of us have forgotten our first obligation. It’s not to the Oliver Norths of the world and the reporters protecting them. It’s to readers and viewers and, yes, to the truth.

Alter, February 2005:

But while lawyers, clergy, psychiatrists and, under a recent Supreme Court decision, social workers can protect confidentiality before federal grand juries, journalists cannot.

This is scary stuff.


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