Sunday, October 16, 2005

Silence not always the most reliable source

Ms. Miller said in an interview that she was waiting for Mr. Libby to call her, but he never did. "I interpreted the silence as, 'Don't testify,' " Ms. Miller said. "The Miller Case: A Notebook, a Cause, a Jail Cell and a Deal," NYT
In today's epic, the Times portrays itself as the "bruised," dull-witted protagonist of a mildewed soap. It's worse than that, however.

Much is wrong with Judy Miller's apparently sovereign decisions, the Times' handling of her and them, and its own efforts to report on these matters... See this and this, for example, suggesting negligence higher up. A certain fecklessness:
Last week, Mr. Sulzberger said it was impossible to know whether Ms. Miller could have struck a deal a year earlier, as at least four other journalists had done. NYT
It's especially impossible if you do not ask real questions.

Miller seems to have a penchant for interpreting silence, absence, invisibility -- e.g., her interpretation of the non-appearance of hard evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

The New York Times' inability to edit Miss Run Amok is part of a recurrent problem within its editorial agon: a certain inability to distinguish reporting on what is there from interpreting what isn't.

A problem shared by some psychotics.


Blogger Juke said...

Dissocial Personality Disorder - usually coming to attention because of a gross disparity between behaviour and the prevailing social norms, and characterized by:
* callous unconcern for the feelings of others;
* gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules and obligations;
* incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, though having no difficulty in establishing them;
* very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence;
* incapacity to experience guilt or to profit from experience, particularly punishment;
* marked proneness to blame others, or to offer plausible rationalizations, for the behaviour that has brought the patient into conflict with society.

There may also be persistent irritability as an associated feature.

So there's Miller and Libby, et al. The individuals involved.
The Times...? Well what's the New York Times when it's at home anyway?
A virtual presence, the way the smarmy adolescent voice of so many commercial narrations is now on the TV.
A personality by default, because it enters our minds, and yes our hearts, by the same channels as real personalities do.
The Times, and its empolyees have abdicated their responsibilities, egregiously.
To whom are the Times and its employees responsible?
Well, not to be all stertorous and obtuse about it, but who the heck to whom and what are we responsible?

10/16/2005 8:25 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

That could be me. So many disorders, so little time. Or Times. The voice of the Times does infiltrate the mediascape, within and without. No escaping the scape. The Times and its employees would seem to be responsible to the readers/market/other/public to which they address their invoices. When I read the Times, I usually hear the invoice more than any other voice.

But your latter question rankles. The public, the entity for which we stand, under Moloch, divisible. What voice does it have, can it have, in a world in which voices are monetized or suppressed.

The thing I keep coming back to is how other places (other than the US) retain some core sense of who they are. Here this is hollowed out. The public, a pubic hair on the Supreme Court's docket. Next case.

10/16/2005 11:53 PM  
Blogger Gas Fairy said...

Why didn't Jayson Blair say that he couldn't remember who his sources were? Then he'd still be writing for the Times, no?

10/17/2005 4:38 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Same amazing automatic writing, Mr. Squarks. Mme Blavatsky would be proud of Master Blair, finding his own words eerily anticipated in other newspapers, and even more proud of Ms. Miller, happening upon mysterious, vital notes in her notebook, in a hand uncannily like her own.

10/17/2005 8:38 PM  
Blogger AKMA said...

This would all be less distressing if one sensed that the Times recognizes what it’s lost — not only in reputation and integrity but also in former employees. . . .

10/20/2005 11:15 PM  
Anonymous Sheila said...

We work for the readers, most critically as a watchdog on government. Miller seems to have turned that on its head. The Times' failure is not in not editing her (we bloggers edit ourselves, and we don't make it up), it was in not making sure her reporting was accurate after it was contradicted by reports from other serious journalists, including its own Baghdad bureau.

Barbara Crossette, New York Times UN bureau chief, 1994-2001, wrote in a leter to Romenesko: "Ms. Run Amok had at least one very highly placed friend at the paper, and many Times people were afraid to tangle with her because of that."

("You're doin' a heck of a job, Brownie.")

10/23/2005 11:58 AM  
Anonymous brian moffatt said...

Nice blog! Great to see so much info on dissocial personality disorder, suppressed and monetized voices, and fecklessness.

Well, not to be all stertorous and obtuse about it, but who the heck to whom and what are we responsible?

The Hand. The Black Hand. The Invisible Hand. The Hand up the Puppets Arse. But I am wondering - have been the last couple of days, oddly - if, in fact, this personality by default, as Juke so aptly phrases it, does indeed enter through the same channels as real personalities do? It's almost as if we have developed an aversion to real personalities, it's almost as if in the private spaces of our mind's we have reached some new frontier, a new room in our brain, - oh look Bono's here! oh good all will be well, sing us a song, something we can't dance to, singalong with or otherwise feel anything for other than some heartfelt pang and mirthless gladness that there is in this world Success - a kind of blend of reverse shadenfreude, envy, and tooth grinding anxiety. I've even seen this quality celebrated with the online set, you know, where there is some glee that soon we will all be living free in our private utopias because we'll have the power to timeshift that which is mediated. Big fucking deal. Who wrote One Dimesional Man? Marcuse? We need a sequel, a remake. NanoDimensional Man. Or some such. I've recently thought about taking up hunting, just to see if killing a moose might not open up something tactile or something deep - something, anything!

Our social norms are catching up with the most wretched of our human behaviours. And in the parlance, it's all good.

10/23/2005 2:04 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

What you said, Sheila. Tho' in using the word "edit," I had in mind not merely the detail and fact checking that is standard, but the entire way the Times cannot tell the story of what Miller knew and when she knew it, straight. It abdicates the very act of making its own reporter intelligible. I suspect this is part of a more basic problem than Miller, having to do with the Times' unwillingness or inability to know what it thinks it means, both when it is perpetrating major journalistic error, and when it tries to correct it.

10/23/2005 8:51 PM  
Blogger Jon Husband said...

None of us are *real* any more, except in our bathrooms and when we sleep. As Brian points out, it seems we are more comfortable with mediated personalities, including our own, than we are with even hints of the real deal.

11/04/2005 8:51 PM  

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