Friday, January 14, 2005

No Sale

Leonard Pitts in today’s Miami Herald on the Armstrong Williams story.

Granted, every political administration seeks to spin the truth. But has any ever worked quite so energetically to propagandize the people, to subvert their right to know? Has any ever been so dismissive of their right to unvarnished facts? If so it’s news to me.

Under the present administration, facts are routinely varnished like fine wood. That is, when they are not ignored outright. Consider the record. Where official reports have clashed with politics, they have been edited. Where science has offended political supporters, it has been quashed. Where the administration’s own experts have contradicted its worldview, they have been ignored.

And henceforth, I suppose, where journalists are for sale, they will be bought.

[…]

It’s becoming an occupational hazard as more and more income opportunities open up to high-profile journalists. I speak as one of the at-risk. Writing this column has led to speaking engagements, teaching positions and book contracts I could never have envisioned when I started it 11 years ago.

I won’t lie to you: With apologies to Jimmy Stewart, it’s a wonderful life. But the first day I don’t understand that it is an ethical crime to rent this podium to the highest bidder, somebody please take me out in a field and shoot me because I have become too stupid to live.

Metaphorically speaking, that’s pretty much what has happened to Williams. Tribune Media Services, which distributed his column (as it does mine), dropped him like a hairy spider right after the story broke.

To his credit, he has expressed regret forthrightly. He says he simply never saw himself as a journalist.

I think he’s sincere. I also think it doesn’t matter. The line he crossed is red neon. And once you’ve gone over it, you can’t go back.

So as for not thinking of himself as a journalist, he needn’t worry. No one will ever mistake him for one again.

Read the whole article here. The man is brilliant. Period.