Tom Keane’s column in today’s Boston Globe Magazine is the mix of truth, fudging, piety and self-serving dishonesty which commonly happens whenever members of the scribbling class wax on about the Freedom of the Press. To mix the Pentagon Papers case, perhaps the greatest example of press responsibility in the history of the First Amendment, with Judith Miller’s covering up for crime within the executive branch for the purpose of preventing the truth being reported (ultimately to promote an unprovoked, illegal and disastrous war) is dishonest and beneath contempt.
This, Tom Keane, is why any thinking person looking at the “press” in the United States today is rethinking the meaning of “freedom of the press” and the context in which it can exist. Judith Miller was not protecting a source, she was covering up for criminals. Those criminals were in the business of breaking the law in order to silence anyone who might be tempted to report the truth in the very paper involved in the Pentagon Papers case and which had carried Joe Wilson’s debunking of the Bush II junta’s case for invading Iraq. The point that she didn’t “report” on Valerie Plame’s undercover work and so those who leaked the information to her were not “sources” is a minor one compared to the fact that a “reporter” who was a party to preventing The People finding out that Bush and Cheney were lying us into a war worse than Vietnam. The publisher of the New York Times took his sweet time in doing something about one of his star reporters acting like a hack for political criminals, she’d been promoting Bush War II in the guise of reporting all along.
The freedom of the press is not like an individual's freedom of speech. It is not a right held by individuals, it isn’t in any way an inherent right due to nature or nature’s God. It’s a right given to corporate entities with potentially more power than the voice of any individual. A right given to an entity more powerful than an individual should be given only for a very practical reason. If The People are to govern themselves they have to have as much of the truth, an understanding as close to reality as it is possible for us to have. The press gets freedom to publish, not for its enrichment or because of some airy-fairy notion of freedom of thought, it gets that freedom only to the extent that it serves its purpose of informing the public. When it neglects or gives up its purpose of informing the public it gives up its right to freedom. Our press has largely given up that purpose and, in a rather frighteningly elegant example of consequences following actions, the very establishment that it serves in opposition to The People is limiting its rights to freely publish. It’s not The People who are the problem, Tom Keane, it’s those whose boots the subservient media lick. NOT that most of the press will care. They aren’t in the business of reporting the facts, they are in the business of selling advertising and boosting circulation by pandering to the lowest in human weakness for sensation and the stimulation afforded by hate and resentment. It’s the fact that the corporate party has the ability to maximize those profits which has led the“free press” to choose who it will serve.
A Free people aren’t the ones who are destroying press freedom, it’s the ones corrupted by commercial media and the thugs they are told to vote for. That might not be a fact of life they taught you in law school but it’s a fact that is absolutely basic to a real understanding of what is necessary for freedom of the press to exist at all. But you won’t find that reality by juggling legal terms and bandying names of famous cases hashed out in courtrooms and law journals. You get it by facing the facts as they exist in real life. That's a reporter's job. Reporters who find the facts and report them, they're the only real journalists. The rest of us are just parasites which die without our hosts.