Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Journalism 101

Glenn Greenwald delivers a Journalism 101 lecture to the lazy and complicit media and specifically Howie Kurtz and his "painfully shallow and misleading understanding of what the entire Padilla story is about".
And then there is the inexcusable outright factual inaccuracy of claiming that Padilla's treatment can be justified on the ground that he is "accused of plotting a dirty-bomb attack." It's fairly obvious that Howard Kurtz knows very, very little about what has happened to Jose Padilla.

Anyone who has paid even mild attention knows that when the Bush administration was finally forced to indict him, the criminal charges included none of the flamboyant accusations they had made in press conferences and via leaks over the last 3 years, including the accusation that he is a "dirty bomber." Contrary to Kurtz's claim, Padilla does not stand accused of that.


Kurtz's answer to the reader -- as well as his factual ignorance about this entire matter -- makes clear that he thinks there is nothing even notable, let alone objectionable, about the fact that the Bush administration imprisons American citizens and treats them for years like farm animals even though they've never been charged with (never mind convicted of) any crime. To Kurtz, that is not something even worthy of discussion.


With those premises snugly in place, "journalists" like Kurtz have spent the last five years doing the opposite of what they were supposed to be doing -- rather than skeptically scrutinize the conduct and motives of the Leader, they became his most enthusiastic followers. The President's promises of protection from the Scary Terrorists Who Want to Kill You resonated most loudly among the frightened, coddled media elites like Kurtz, who were more than eager to fulfill their end of the bargain by assuming the core goodness and honesty of the Government and never questioning that basic premise.

For the media to have any worthwhile function at all, it needs to be the least trusting group in the country, not the most. Their principal function is to serve as an adversarial watchdog over those in power, informing Americans when the Government's claims and behavior are suspect. That's just Journalism 101. It is vital that, if anything, they err -- strongly -- on the side of excess skepticism. Placing blind faith and trust in the actions of political leaders is the antithesis of the journalistic ethos, but those are the attributes which have been driving most of the nation's most influential political journalists throughout the Bush Presidency.


The Bush administration was able to invade Iraq, imprison and torture people (including U.S. citizens), and repeatedly and openly break the law not because the Howard Kurtz's of our country failed in their duty as journalists (although they did, profoundly). It goes beyond that. They affirmatively believed in those things -- and in many cases, still do -- every bit as much as the President and his government did, and they worked in harmonious concert with the administration to do as much, if not more, to enable it.
Glenn then shared this link to Ann Althouse (she's a law professor, if you can believe it) in which she provides this explanation for the continuing sensory deprivation torture that Jose Padilla is undergoing. He's forced to wear the "goggles" when he was taken in shackles to the dentist because of "a fear that he will communicate in code by blinking". Oh my gawd!


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