Friday, July 08, 2005

Pride (In The Name of Rove)

Yesterday I read the New York Times' half-page editorial expressing "pride" in Judith Miller's refusal to obey a court order. The sum and substance of the piece: "The press" has a constitutional right to disobey such orders.

[Miller] is surrendering her liberty in defense of a greater liberty, granted to a free press by the founding fathers so journalists can work on behalf of the public without fear of regulation or retaliation from any branch of government.


Mr. Fitzgerald drove that point home chillingly when he said the authorities "can't have 50,000 journalists" making decisions about whether to reveal sources' names and that the government had a right to impose its judgment. But that's not what the founders had in mind in writing the First Amendment. In 1971, our colleague James Reston cited James Madison's admonition about a free press in explaining why The Times had first defied the Nixon administration's demand to stop publishing the Pentagon Papers and then fought a court's order to cease publication. "Among those principles deemed sacred in America," Madison wrote, "among those sacred rights considered as forming the bulwark of their liberty, which the government contemplates with awful reverence and would approach only with the most cautious circumspection, there is no one of which the importance is more deeply impressed on the public mind than the liberty of the press."

This is laughable. Do you see where Madison argues for the right of journos to disobey a court order? Of course you don't.

A quick check of the First Amendment reveals a reference to "no law ... abridging the freedom of speech" along with freedom of the press. Either we all have a First Amendment right not to speak in the face of government coercion, or none of us do. The Times doesn't want a privilege, it wants special privileges.

And anyone who reads Atrios will get a chuckle out of this bit of self-deluded twaddle from the editorial:

While The Times has gone to great lengths lately to make sure that the use of anonymous sources is limited, there is no way to eliminate them. The most important articles tend to be the ones that upset people in high places, and many could not be reported if those who risked their jobs or even their liberty to talk to reporters knew that they might be identified the next day. In the larger sense, revealing government wrongdoing advances the rule of law, especially at a time of increased government secrecy.

That last sentence is a paraphrase from a senior Administration official who requested anonymity on the ground that Rummy's dinner parties are really no place for shop talk.

The editorial even compares Ms. Fucking-Miller to Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jnr. and those involved in the Underground Railroad. An apt comparison, except for the fact that those folks were fighting against (or defying) unjust laws which denied equality to residents of this country, rather than for special consideration. When the NYT argues for the repeal of the laws that require you and me, as well as it, to testify before a grand jury when we really rather wouldn't, then I'll take its argument seriously.

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