Tuesday, June 19, 2007

In the dark

Glenn Greenwald today looks at an Op-Ed by Richard C0hen of the Washington Post. The bulk of Cohen's column talks about the selfless sacrifice that marks Scooter Libby's life and how that means to all right thinking people (such as himself) that there is no way that Scooter should have to do time, and what a grave affront to humanity it would be if he did.

But the heart of Greenwald's analysis is this little phrase by Cohen, speaking about politics:
As with sex or real estate, it is often best to keep the lights off.
As Glenn says, this could be the official motto of our press corps.

And how does Cohen and merry band know what is best to keep in the dark? Tim Russert said that he classified everything he heard from government officials as off the record unless he was told otherwise, but this motto covers a lot more ground than telephone calls from Karl Rove. It is an instinct for what the public should know, and the higher one rises in the press corps the more ingrained and instinctive the knowledge is. A simple reporter might easily err on the side of shining a light where there should be darkness, but a good editor will notice the gaff and straighten he or she out.

Take the tragic case of Gary Webb. He focused his reporter's light on CIA support for drug dealers who were also involved in US efforts in Central and South America. That was something best left in the dark, but the editor of the San Jose Mercury News didn't understand that either and the reports were published. Instantly a whole army of reporters and pundits were denouncing the reports, the SJMN renounced Webb, and he ended up killing himself, a warning to all. I bet his editor still feels bad about that.

Before the 2004 election, the NYT knew that it was best not to mention the illegal NSA warrantless spying. It was something best left in the dark, just as is their motivation for printing it months later.

That is truly 'freedom of the press' for Richard Cohen, the freedom to support the interests of the political class and their attendant lackeys such as himself. The freedom to choose what the public needs to know in support of the political class, and what they don't need to know. He knows that, and that's why he and his crew make the big bucks.


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