Breaking Glass

The Book of Judith

As 2005 drew to a close, the scandal over the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame potentially threatened to overwhelm leading figures in the Bush White House.  Meanwhile, editors and journalists have been struggling to keep a straight face while affecting shock at the central revelation of the case—namely, that major news stories commonly derive from leaks within government and that, in most cases, such leaks are explicitly designed to damage some rival faction or tarnish some troublesome individual.  This obvious fact is so embarrassing because it so starkly discredits the Woodstein myth, the Watergate-era image of heroic investigative journalists struggling to discover and publish the truth at whatever risk to their own safety.

Yet while the Plame scandal thus shows us nothing new, it does remind us of some of the critical skills we need to apply when reading or viewing virtually any news story that depends on official sources—and that means, basically, all of them.  Speaking personally, this recognition is déjà vu all over again.  From the late 1980’s, I taught a college course on terrorism and always found wonderful mileage from a detailed reading of a New York Times analysis of one particular incident from that wave of international carnage.  This was the savage 1985 attack on Istanbul’s Neve Shalom synagogue, in which dozens of worshipers were slaughtered. ...

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