Monday, May 01, 2006

The high utility of myth and ignorance

This USA Today editorial tries to defend good leaks (Mary McCarthy, Joe Wilson) without jumping off the get Rove bandwagon. When faced with a tough task like that, it never hurts to trot out an old chestnut or two. Being willfully ignorant never hurts either.

Coincidentally, a memoir arrived this week from Watergate's "Deep Throat." It reminds us that some leaks are leaks of conscience, from public-spirited individuals trying to blow the whistle on government practices at odds with American ideals.

W. Mark Felt, then second-in-command at the FBI, writes: "From the start, it was clear that senior administration officials were up to their necks in this mess, and that they would stop at nothing to sabotage our investigation." Events proved how right he was.

Felt is one of many. Defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon papers in 1971, after he couldn't get anyone in the administration or Congress to take seriously the implications of the detailed history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam that he had compiled

I've done over a dozen posts on the myths, errors and outright lies that the press pedals about Felt, Deep Throat, and Watergate. Start here and scroll up through the June and July archives.

Then there is this:

More recently, a still-unidentified person leaked the photos of prisoner abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib, sensing that the only way to stop such practices was to appeal to the sensibilities of the public.

Harmful to U.S. interests? Definitely. Essential to protect U.S. values? No doubt. The same dichotomy applies in the secret-prison and wiretapping stories
Note how they are certain that the "unknown" leaker was just trying to do good. I guess the editors have selective ESP. "We don't know who Sy Hersh's source was, but we can sense his pure motives."

Edward Jay Epstein and the Mudville Gazette (also here and here) provide a corrective to this sanctimonious pap.

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