Thursday, November 10, 2005

NYT: Judy's gone but don't celebrate -- Dexy (among others) remains (editorial)


Round, round, round, he gets around. And this morning's he's out of the Green Zone. Who let the propagandist out? Who? Who? Who? Who let the propagandist out?

Yes, Dexter Filkins. A man present at the November 2004 slaughter in Falluja who was too busy grooving on good vibrations to tell the truth. (So busy that it took him days and days and days -- was it five? -- for his "award winning" article to make it into print.)

Now Dexy's hooked his star to Chalabi. Did they fly into DC together? Did Chalabi's niece, the former Times' employee, join them.

Former Times' employee, we're not supposed to mention that. Because if the paper of record doesn't mention it, it just didn't happen. Right? In their world, that's how it works.

So Dexy Filk files "Iraqi Deputy, Back in U.S., Strives to Rebuild Reputation." From DC. Presumably the black t-shirt clad Geen Zone body guards didn't accompany him but was he still packing his piece? Propagandist and gun slinger.

Filk tells you that Chalabi dismissed questions of WMD and his own involvement with the lies. Well, he found the perfect paper to appear in, didn't he? The Times dismisses their own involvement in that as well. Irony, this is the edition of the paper that also announces Judith Miller's departure. Chalabi's being rehabiliated and Miller's leaving the paper. It's the life cycle of corporate media.

So Filk hems and haws but never explores. Never addresses the huge monies (government monies, US government monies) paid to Chalabi over the years, never addresses so much. Does he cover his eyes when he "reports"? Is that the explanation for his "award winning" Falluja reporting?

Miller's gone and there's a lot of back slapping going on online. Of the Times reporters, Miller got America over to Iraq, Dexter keeps us there.

Today, Dexy plays freak of nature. He offers us on the one hand (Chalabi didn't provide info on WMD that effected our decision), on the other hand a current investigation is studying it and on the third hand:

Another report, issued in 2004 by the Senate intelligence committee, did conclude that parts of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq produced in 2002 had been based on information provided by a defector associated with Mr. Chalabi's group who had previously been identified as a fabricator.

Here's a tip for Dexy, besides humans not having three hands, the Sentate intel committee says it happened. That's the report you start with. You don't muddy the waters. (Unless you're the New York Timid.)

Each day in Iraq, Dexy manages to get out the talking points so it's not surprising that he's trying to once again tell which way the administrative winds are a blowing. (This was Chalabi's latest audition. Apparently not successful enough to give Filkins the ultimate answer so hems and he haws.)

I'm sure Dexy was well recieved at the AEI sponsored dinner. I'm sure to him it was quite amusing, the seating arrangement. But "safe in His Green Zone," Filkins apparently hasn't learned that America's not laughing with him. (If he's hearing snickers, they're at him, at him.)
With 2058 American troop fatalities and 15,568 American troops wounded in action, I'm doubting many Americans find either seating arrangements or the attempts to rehabilitate Chalabi amusing. He's had enough access, take away his keys and cut him off.

Miller's left the paper. Here's a section of her farewell letter that Rachel e-mailed to note:

After 85 days, more than twice as long as any other American journalist has ever spent in jail for this cause, I agreed to testify before the special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald's grand jury about my conversations with my source, I. Lewis Libby Jr. I did so only after my two conditions were met: first, that Mr. Libby voluntarily relieve me in writing and by phone of my promise to protect our conversations; and second, that the special prosecutor limit his questions only to those germane to the Valerie Plame Wilson case. Contrary to inaccurate reports, these two agreements could not have been reached before I went to jail. Without them, I would still be in jail, perhaps, my lawyers warned, charged with obstruction of justice, a felony. Though some colleagues disagreed with my decision to testify, for me to have stayed in jail after achieving my conditions would have seemed self-aggrandizing martyrdom or worse, a deliberate effort to obstruct the prosecutor's inquiry into serious crimes.

I've got several e-mails about her statement regarding 85 days in jail. As I understand it, Miller is correct. Someone being jailed for sedition or some other charge is not being jailed for refusing to name their source. I'm not a Miller fan (obviously, see Rudith Miller) but unless someone can come up with a case where a journalist was jailed for a longer period for not naming their source, I'd argue Miller is correct. (And based on Constitutional law courses, Miller is correct. Maybe the texts and profs missed something? If so, please point it out but being jailed on charges of sedition or libel or any other charge is not the same as being jailed for withholding the name of a source.)

She wasn't allowed to publish her letter as an op-ed. I think that was a mistake. (But I'm not remembering even a letter being run by Jayson Blair.) The Times doesn't want to be self-referential. That's fine. But the claim that they don't want to be involved in a back and forth is not valid. They've chosen to be involved in that. They ran stories on Miller. Having done that, having published Dowd's column on Miller, as well as the public editor's (who techinically is outside the paper), I'd argue it would have been more than appropriate to have run a farewell column by Miller.

I shed no tears for her. But they front paged her, they did numerous stories on her. Not on her reporting, don't make the mistake of thinking they did that. The paper has never done that. (Filkins doesn't do it today when writing on one of her prime sources.) They talked about her style of interaction (or alleged style), they talked about a derogatory nickname, they did a lot of things. They didn't examine her reporting.

The reporting doesn't stand up. I'm not arguing that it does. But the Times didn't do hard news on Miller after she got out of jail. They did gossip-filled, chatty feature stories. Having done that, to anyone, they owe it to the person to let them respond.

Those who remember the way the Times humiliated Jayson Blair will remember articles addressing this inaccuracy or that claim, etc. They didn't do that with Miller. They didn't and they won't. To do it would require that they take a serious look at the lies that led us to war. (Which would be a little too hard hitting for the administration and the Timid prefers to stay Timid while they wait to see if Bully Boy's polling numbers continue to remain low.) Instead they ran a series of articles that were largely useless and largely gossip.

When the Times does that, whomever they treat in that manner -- Wen Ho Lee, whomever -- has a right to respond. The woman Jeff Gerth distorted (Beverly Bassett Schaffer) wasn't allowed to respond. Or what of the students who protested when the Times altered a quote of Al Gore? ("That's the one that started it all" became "I was the one that started it all.") The Times made the decision not to let Miller respond. In my opinion, that's wrong. And cowardly.

Bravery would have been dropping the office gossip from the Miller coverage and actually dealing with the realities of her (bad) reporting. But the Timid's always up for office gossip (especially from anonymice). The Timid just lacks the guts to get to the heart of the issue which isn't Judith Miller. It's that the paper printed bad stories (that's being generous) and it's why the paper printed those stories. It's about the culture at the paper that will now let Miller be the scapegoat.

And we're all supposed to cluck our tongues over Miller as though she were the editor, publisher and everyone down to the carrier delivering those editions each morning. (Delivering them late, from e-mails coming in this week. The Times has no quality control in its organization.) That's not reality.

Reality is that the paper carried stories that didn't pass the basics of journalism. Why?

Because the paper wanted this war (or wanted to support it). So they silenced dissent and ridiculed on the op-ed pages -- Safire, anyone? They didn't cover the voices who were speaking out (that goes way beyond Scott Ritter), they weren't interested in covering the protests, they weren't interested in examining the snow job Colin Powell presented to the UN.

It didn't start with Judith Miller, it didn't end with her. Why, for instance, was the BBC breaking the news that the Jessica Lynch "rescue" was a hoax? Why did that reality take forever to make it into print at the paper of record? Dexy's covering Chalabi today but the paper doesn't want to tell the truth about the photo-op with the statue of Saddam -- that in those pictures, you see Chalabi's people, flown in for that photo-op, playing "average Iraqis" thrilled to have "freedom."

The paper wants it to all go away, the criticism, with the departure of Judith Miller. No tears shed here for Miller but she was encouraged and applauded for her stories in real time. More importantly, a lot of other lies made it into print by other writers. It didn't begin with Miller and it doesn't end with her departure. "Award winning" Dexter Filkins is proof of that.

The Times, the original Survivor, has spoken. Everyone's to feed on Miller now. The Times walks and Miller will pay for her bad articles (lies) as well as the ones she didn't control or write.
It's a nice little narrative. Popular even. Cautionary tale of the woman who was too "driven" or whatever retro/backlash narrative they want to trot out. And bash the bitch will be played loudly and with glee. But the problems at the paper didn't originate or end with Miller. (Nor can they all be pinned on Howell Raines, though the mea culpa attempted to.)

I'm not shedding tears for Miller but I'm also not stupid and the narrative is as false as most of what makes it into the Times these days.

In Exceptions to the Rulers, Amy and David Goodman talk of many of "the lies of the Times." On a protest that underreported the number of participants, they note that the writer wasn't even present for the protests (she "interviewed" participants by cell phone -- how very Jayson Blair of her). But the reporter did find out that the estimate she was going with was wrong. She attempted to correct before the article went to print, but the paper wasn't interested. They also weren't interested in printing a correction.

Unless someone wants to kid themselves that the decision there and in every other instance was first run by Miller for her approval, Miller's departure doesn't change a thing.

In the real world, here's a scheduled topic for today's Democracy Now! (via Rod):

* Italian economist and writer Loretta Napoleoni discusses her new book "Insurgent Iraq: Al Zarqawi and the New Generation."

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