It must be difficult days indeed at the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times if their editors have gone so far as to team up to justify their papers’ publication of the government’s secret SWIFT financial surveillance program. The two media outlets’ focus groups or private polling must have come back with some pretty negative numbers. Or maybe it was just the general feedback or the “evil” administration that made them resort to this, to my knowledge, unprecedented defensive and self-righteous measure, pitching the adage “Never complain; never explain” as far out the window as possible.
I will leave aside the specifics of the controversy – although it is obvious to me the editors did not, despite their protestations, think through what they were doing. Their analysis stops dead at water’s edge, making you wonder if they ever considered how these revelations might affect our partnership with the people who run SWIFT themselves. No matter. (This incident also detonates whatever small moral credit the same media gained via the Valerie Plame affair. But again, no matter.)
What fascinates me in all this is what a tin ear some of the major players in our media have to one of the most basic of all themes in American life – You don’t truck with stoolies! You would think anyone who had a seen even a couple of movies from the glory days of Hollywood – the thirties and forties when the movie industry practically invented our national character – would know better. There’s nothing more loathsome than a stoolie.
Now these stoolies are dressed in Brooks Brothers and even Armani suits and are employed by the CIA, the State Department, banks and the like, yet they are still stoolies. Worse – they are anonymous stoolies. We have almost no way of knowing the veracity of what they are saying and even less the motives for why they are saying it. But the Times and the Times insist that they have checked these people out, that they are not stoolies, but patriotic “whistle blowers.”
They are stoolies.
A man or woman of genuine courage would stand up and be identified if what they were leaking were truly in the national interest, no matter what the consequences to them. They would be heroes. Not here. These people are snitches, maneuvering behind the scenes for their own personal or political advantage. Our media manipulate these folks who in turn manipulate our media. It is as far from heroic as one could imagine. These are the very people you wouldn’t want with you in a foxhole. In fact, you wouldn’t even want to turn your back on them at a cocktail party
Indeed the SWIFT financial surveillance revelations were particularly cowardly and duplicitous in their motivation – not even the NYT makes a case that a crime was committed. The paper only trumpets vague warnings of civil liberties in jeopardy with, of course, no evidence whatsoever to show that has happened.
So what we have are newspapers that like to consort with stoolies for their own ideological advantage. But just as in the old saw that if you lie down with dogs, you get fleas, if you lie down with stoolies you turn as corrupt as they are. It may only be the leakers who will ultimately be prosecuted in this affair, but it is the media that publicize them whose already tarnished reputations will never recover.