Edward R. Murrow, confronting McCarthy, said that "We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty." Unfortunately, most of the media ignored that and, instead, went for profit margin, cheerleading and infotainment on the way into Iraq.
But the scrambling blather in the wake of Scott McClellan’s 11th hour confessional tour has been a hoot to watch.
During our Fitzgerald/Libby coverage, I kept asking myself: why weren’t the media doing their jobs? From the WHIG self-seeded news on the Iraq mess, to the plant and spin reportage of grand jury "secrets," to the Cathy Martin revelation that Russert’s MtP was Dick Cheney’s preferred venue (see the YouTube from Bill Moyers’ Journal as to why) — why weren’t they asking the questions that really needed asking?
And, more to the point, why could some bloggers working from home, using a bit of wits manage to unearth and report on so much more useful information simply by bothering to read original documents or phoning up potential sources and just asking a few questions?
Until I realized: you have to want to know the answers. If you don’t care about the questions, you don’t bother asking them. If the truth isn’t your aim, you don’t dig beyond whatever you are fed. You go along, get along, collect your paycheck and head out to the next quail wing BBQ cocktail weenie fete and move up the ladder by being everyone’s connected pal. You don’t report anything that might rock your well-connected access boat.
Or, like Tim Russert, maybe you just sit around, hoping someone will call you and hand you the fricking story, and pray they tell you it’s on the record or you are S.O.L. Because apparently it’s just too much bother otherwise.
But there were some reporters who asked tough questions. Like the folks from McClatchy (then Knight Ridder) — whose reporting, as Attaturk points out, has been superb throughout — who rip the CYA squirming a new one and — and deservedly so.
Good on them. And good on Dan Froomkin for calling for skeptical questions ages ago. And good for Helen Thomas, and Bill Moyers and every other reporter out there who remembers what it means to be a working journalist. Kudos. (Suck on this, "reporters" who didn’t. This means you, Thomas Friedman. You get extra FU’s.)
Glenn has a dissection of the media’s cognitive dissonance on the smarmy McClellan realization that there is money to be made in breaking omerta only after your former boss’s approval ratings tank. Glenn’s point is not about McClellan, himself — it’s about journalists trying not to ask themselves: "Why didn’t we do more? Is this, perhaps, our fault for not asking tougher questions and forcing the public to confront the fact that the Bush Administration was lying point blank?"
Heaven forbid they ruminate about what lies were told by and for the Bush Administration. Or why they spread them repeatedly instead of being skeptics. Who has the time when one is summering in Nantucket or quaking with the aspens?
Not expecting answers any time soon, thanks. Although, as Digby notes, Jessica Yellin apparently had a bit of a blurt on CNN about her former network bosses at MSNBC. (Ooooh, break out a fresh bottle of Macallan for Jack Welch.) Here’s to more inadvertent blurts to come…I’d hope for media soul-searching, but I know better.
Dissent isn’t disloyal. But keeping lies and manipulation of the public to yourself — when you know that other people’s lives hang in the balance? That sure as hell is as disloyal as they come.