In a remarkable piece of historical inevitability, the father of access and anonymous sourcing, Bob Woodward, has come under fire for hiding a source. Judith Miller (who I am not a fan of) was in jail for protecting a source. The New York Times has committed pages upon pages from it's public editor and elsewhere to define and redefine and defend and qualify their own sourcing and editorial practices.
I do find all this extremely enlightening. It's is important to get access to power and that means that those who provide us with that access, the press, should be scrutinized from time to time. The abuse of journalistic privilege by sources ("Scooter" Libby, Karl Rove) shows how easily journalists can become inadvertant propoganda tools, and can become the very message that they are trying to analyze. Should all anonymity be defended without rhyme or reason. Probably not. Especially when the source is using that anonymity to commit a crime.
That being said, the troubling thing is that the news has become the news itself, and not the newsmakers. Take for example the Valerie Plame case. What does this story consist of? A long list of journalists, a special investigator, a reporter thrown in jail, questions of anonymity and the public's right to know, blah, blah, blah. But what is the actual story: We were being lied to, and the person that said so, earliest and most bravely, was attacked, through the press. By the top and crop of the administration.
The Bush administration has a tried and true way of defending itself, which is to attack the messenger. When the larger anti-war protest ever organized showed up before the invasion of Iraq, a protest that spanned several continents, Bush was never taken to task for their argument. He simply said that he wasn't going to make decisions based on a "focus group." By reducing the messengers status, he ignored the message.
He does so with the press. He refers to the Press as "the filter." He questions their reporting even as his own people send them false information. He uses Fox News (indeed) to dilute the message of the mainstream press. In this way, how the messages are received becomes our news, and the actual news becomes only a theater in which this plays games are played.
The truth is, the Bush administration lied to get us into a war, and then committed the sin of absolute incompetence. But their failures don't start and stop in Iraq. This administration has attempted to institutionalize legal torture; it as curtailed countless civil liberties; it has given the CIA and FBI broad new powers to peak into our lives; it has attempted to influence public broadcasting; it has fallen down on disaster aid; it has nominated both cronyies and idealogues to the Supreme Court; it has endlessly used false claims to attack it's political foes; has promoted religion in science classes; has politicized the FCC and the FDA; and it has alienated the US from the rest of the world.
That's the news. The news is that he is still the President after all bloodshed and falsehood. That's the shame of the nation.
Who why are we talking about Judy Miller or Bob Woodward? Why are they the ones on trial?
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.