Thursday, July 07, 2005

Judith Miller goes to jail - a bad thing

VALOIS, NY - The jailing of Judith Miller for refusing to give up her source is, well, just a bad thing.

It's bad because journalists (and their editors and publishers) are already so goddamn timid it's awful. They're timid because of threats of lawsuits (which are expensive to defend), their fear of losing advertisers (again, $$$$), and because the public doesn't understand how important a confidential source can be.

I teach students every year that using confidential sources is important - to find out what they hell is going on. You use what they tell you to track down the facts in the matter and then publish. You don't need to say, a confidential source said, except in very extreme conditions. But if that confidential source won't speak at all - because they are afraid of losing their job, or maybe even fear for their life - then the journalist may not find out what's going on - and neither will you, the reader.

But, in America, I'm beginning to believe many people don't want to know what's going on. The truth can be pretty uncomfortable.

What is truly bizarre - or perhaps it's just so obvious we don't notice it - is that conservative columnist Robert Novak, who published the same information as Judith Miller, is sitting at home sipping a latte while she goes to a jail cell.

No threats, no prosecution and we have to put up with his smug rodent face on several television talking-head programs.

If it turns out that Karl Rove is indeed the person who outed the CIA agent, and Judith Miller is going to jail to protect the principle that she gave her word to keep her source confidential, well, of the two, who has a place reserved in heaven? And who should choke on undercooked ribs at a GOP fundraiser?


  1. Karl Rove and his ilk are truly dangerous to our freedoms. His calculated moves are so convaluted that most people begin to glaze over when you try to explain about Karl. He committed a crime outing aC.I.A operative, but he is too insulated with lackies to feel the heat. But I am sure that Hell has a special room for his kind. The elections can't come too soon for me, not that I have much faith left in the american people knowing who to vote for. Power to the People and Peace please!!

  2. Michael - You are the first observer who I've heard or read make mention of Novak. It's truly amazing to me that journalists aren't all over the story that Novak gets a free ride on this, when he's the one who actually published the CIA agent's name.

  3. Well, Michael, you're absolutely correct about the jailing of Judith Miller and Mr. Novak, who is to journalistic ethics as Enron is to pension funds. Still, there is an interesting sidebar to the whole affair, and that is that jail time will do for Miller what death did for Elvis, i.e., it's a good career move. Remember that it was only a short while ago that Miller was being excoriated, particularly by her peers, for being such a shameless journalistic cheerleader for the Bush administration's claims that Saddam's Iraq was awash in WMDs, not to mention her chummy relationship with Ahmad Chalabi. It was also Miller who celebrated the journalistic pool system during the first war with Iraq, despite the reality that it effectively blunted the possibility of good journalism during the Gulf War. But then history is full of ironies, as we should have learned with the election of your favorite governor, The Arnold.