Monday, March 11, 2013

Bill Keller: A Tool of the Elite Classes

Bill Keller, elite wanker.
Yes, Bill Keller is a tool, but you probably already knew that. The former executive editor of The New York Times is occasionally allowed to write op-eds for the paper, and when he does I generally read his product with a sense of foreboding, knowing that I'm sure to be reminded of what the worst of our journalistic elite have at their core.

I'm especially incensed at this morning's offering on Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, the unfortunate whistle-blower that didn't quite get that he wasn't going to be greeted as a Daniel-Ellsberg-style hero for dumping terabytes of diplomatic cables, videos, and other artifacts of the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters via WikiLeaks. Here's a taste of what an elite journalist considers good writing:
If Manning had connected with The Times, we would have found ourselves in a relationship with a nervous, troubled, angry young Army private who was offering not so much documentation of a particular government outrage as a chance to fish in a sea of secrets. Having never met Manning (he was in custody by the time we got the WikiLeaks documents), I can only guess what that relationship would have been like.
In the first sentence, Keller describes Manning. In the sentence that follows, he says he never met the man he just described. It takes a very particular kind of snob to think we wouldn't notice the incongruity. The elite are allowed, before all others, that special gift of understanding their lessors without deigning to mingle with them.

I'll let you judge how hollow a line like "offering not so much documentation of a particular government outrage as a chance to fish in a sea of secrets" is, considering much of the released material led to unbridled outrage, especially the videos of aerial attacks on unarmed Iraqis.

"Having never met Manning" doesn't mean Keller doesn't know that had he offered a scoop to The Times, life might have turned out better for Manning, as in not being liable to be sentenced to life in prison. Says Keller:
If Manning had delivered his material to The Times, WikiLeaks would not have been able to post the unedited cables, as it ultimately did, heedless of the risk to human rights advocates, dissidents and informants named therein. In fact, you might not have heard of WikiLeaks. The group has had other middling scoops, but Manning put it on the map.
And, finally, if he had dealt with The Times, maybe we would better understand Bradley Manning. Lionized by WikiLeaks and his fan base as a whistle-blower and martyr, cast by his prosecutors as a villainous traitor, he has become dueling caricatures.
So, let's get this straight: Keller describes Manning as a "nervous, troubled, angry young Army private" that he's never met but "if he had dealt with the Times, maybe we would have better understood Bradley Manning." Okay. I should have gone after The Times' editorship instead of mucking about teaching and writing. Editing's not a very demanding job, turns out, by Keller's standards.

No, Manning would have been better off leaking directly to The Times:
But if Manning had been our direct source, the consequences might have been slightly mitigated. Although as a matter of law I believe WikiLeaks and The New York Times are equally protected by the First Amendment, it’s possible the court’s judgment of the leaker might be colored by the fact that he delivered the goods to a group of former hackers with an outlaw sensibility and an antipathy toward American interests. Will that cost Manning at sentencing time? I wonder. And it might explain the piling on of maximum charges.
Of course, to be clear, Keller states that The Times would have been obligated to throw Manning to the wolves anyway.
The most important thing that would not be much different if The Times had been his outlet would be Manning’s legal liability. The law provides First Amendment protection for a free press, but not for those who take an oath to protect government secrets. This administration has a particular, chilling intolerance for leakers — and digital footprints make them easier to catch these days — but I can’t imagine that any administration would have hesitated to prosecute Manning.
Bradley Manning, criminal mastermind.
Great. If Manning had given the scoop to The Times, they would have gotten to know him better, and he might not be treated as badly as he was for using WikiLeaks, but he would have been prosecuted to the fullest because any administration would do it, in spite of The Times.

I'm glad Bill Keller grabbed valuable Times' Op-Ed-page real estate to carefully explain this to us. What he did explain -- and this may actually be his underlying purpose in this, as in life -- was that he is not a tool, he's an elite tool.

Thanks, Bill, for setting the record straight, again, and again, and again.

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