Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Hyman v Thomas Jefferson (Our Money's on TJ)

Hyman continues to ignore the pink elephant in the room in his second stab at “Turd Blossomgate” in as many days. Attempting to shift the focus from wrongdoing in the White House to that dastardly media, Hyman wonders rhetorically whether reporters should have the right to keep mum about their sources, even if they might have committed criminal acts.

In making this point, Hyman makes two fantastically ridiculous comments that even he doesn’t believe himself. First, he claims that the media is hypocritical because they (according to Hyman) called the potential leaker a criminal, but are now saying that jailing journalists for revealing sources will intimidate future whistle blowers. Which is it, Mark asks, criminal or whistleblower?

This is yet another case of Hyman insulting his audience’s intelligence. Hyman himself doesn’t actually believe that there’s any actual hypocrisy here, but by making a superficial claim that there is, he thinks he can help perpetuate of the “liberal elite” media.

For the record, though, let’s swat this one out of the park and move on. First,
as we pointed out here in April (when Hyman again accused journalists of being hypocritical about the Plame affair), even the supposedly liberal Washington Post’s coverage was careful not to call the leak a crime. Certainly some left leaning commentators were suggesting a crime had been committed, but if the Post is any indication of the media’s coverage of the issue, it’s been extremely careful and guarded. This doesn’t fit Hyman’s characterization of the world, so it is ignored.

Moreover, no journalist that I’m aware of has implied that Karl Ro…oops…I mean, the “anonymous White House source” is a “whistle blower.” That term simply doesn’t apply (not because of any value judgment, but simply on the basis of what the term “whistle blower” means). What journalists are saying, Mark, is that if reporters are made to reveal their sources in this case, it will have a chilling effect on those who might want to provide confidential information on important issues. The point is that even a bottom dweller like Kar . . . ummm . . .the “anonymous White House source” needs to have his confidentiality assured if the press is to do its job.

Which brings us to the second of Hyman’s inanities. At the close of the commentary, Hyman compares journalists maintaining a source’s confidentiality to a gangster’s refusing to name a source (how and why mobsters would use “sources” isn’t explained). Hyman says that “journalists aren’t gangsters,” but then suggests that his analogy is appropriate anyway.

Again, this is so stupid that even Hyman doesn’t buy it himself. We’ve even
gotten into this subject before with Hyman, but apparently he’s forgotten, so let’s play along. The difference, Mark, is that the job journalists do is not only legal, but an essential public good in a democracy. Sure, some so-called journalists and news organizations do shoddy work (we’re not naming any names), but journalism as a whole is essential for the public good. For that reason, there has been a traditional respect of the journalist/source relationship.

An infinitely more apt analogy than your lame mobster comparison would be to compare this relationship with the doctor/patient, lawyer/client, or the clergy/penitent relationship. You ask whether journalists should be allowed to play by different rules than everyone else. But what about psychiatrists, defense attorneys, and priests? Doing their job well demands that those who come to them be assured of confidentiality, and both the law and society as a whole accept this. Are you saying that priests should be compelled to reveal what is said to them in the confessional, Mark?

If journalists are made to reveal their sources, the freedom of the press will be harmed, and a democracy can not maintain itself without a free press. Great thinkers on democracy, from Thomas Jefferson to Hugo Black, have recognized this and spoken eloquently about it.

It’s also sadly ironic that someone working for a supposedly journalistic enterprise would attack one of the foundations of a free press.

Ironic, but not surprising, given who Mark Hyman works for.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 2.04


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