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Hullabaloo


Thursday, May 27, 2004

 
Consider The Source

Eric Boehlert has an interesting post up in Salon's War Room '04. Discussing the NY Times sorta culpa, he notes the similarities between the paper's Wen Ho Lee apology and the Judy Miller debacle and then asks when it will have to answer for its even more egregious Whitewater coverage. (Never, is my guess.)

But, he says something in passing that is very important:

Of course the most troubling similarity is that in both cases Republican informants, operating with a clear political agenda, took the paper-of-record for a joy ride as they tried first to tar President Clinton with a China spy scandal in the late '90s and then set out to launch an unprecedented U.S. preemptive U.S. war against Iraq.


I would say this is troubling indeed. I have had a number of altercations with journalists over my characterization of them being spoonfed by Republican liars but it is a fact. It has been going on for a long time now and it is unlikely to stop.

Alterman, Conason, Brock and others have written about the SCLM and the echo chamber effect and the Mighty Wurlitzer. The information is out there and available. But, I'm not sure what it's going to take to convince the press that when a GOP operative is offering you a juicy story that is just too good to be true that it probably is.

The list of wrong stories, innuendos, misdirection, disinformation and outright lies that have been printed and broadcast on behalf of the Republican party in the mainstream press is staggering. It runs from bullshit about haircuts to rape accusations to trashing the White House to Bank Fraud to Chinese espionage to phony assertions about nuclear bombs and pending terrorist attacks. It goes on and on and on, escalating exponentially, and yet the media keeps writing up these falsehoods as if these people haven't been proven to be liars time and time again.

Judith Miller is only the most obvious culprit because her false stories have been so blatently exposed. But, it happens every day in the major papers and networks. These journalists have cultivated "sources" who are giving them misinformation. They continue to rely on these "sources" even though they have led them astray time and time again. That these sources are also Republican operatives or GOP power players with an agenda doesn't seem to engender much skepticism, I believe, because these sources always have such an entertaining and interesting "story" to tell.

But, why should an journalist worry much about such things? Getting stories wrong time after time after time doesn't seem to have any impact on your career. Unless you are caught red handed plagiarizing or simply making things up out of whole cloth, if you've got the inside Washiington track you won't be fired no matter how badly you get things wrong. As Judy says:

I had no reason to believe what I reported at the time was inaccurate," Miller told me. "I believed the intelligence information I had at the time. I sure didn't believe they were making it up. This was a learning process. You constantly have to ask the question, 'What do you know at the time you are writing it?' We tried really hard to get more information and we vetted information very, very carefully."


That seems to be good enough for the New York Times which is why they are constantly being played for stooges by the Republican party. And it's a good part of the reason why our politics are so fucked up.

In any normal organization Judith Miller would be gone. She committed journalistic malpractice of such a magnitude that people have died partially as a result of what she did. But instead, they are protecting her. After all, if she goes she'll take all of those "great sources" with her.







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