News Media
Miller Lite: not a timely brew for the times . . . The New York Times, that is!
By Ben Tanosborn
Online Journal Guest Writer

Oct 28, 2005, 14:48

(�It�s going to happen, she tells us. And why shouldn�t we believe her? After all, we have gulped down all her previous j-crap. Judith Miller is going to write for us a fifth book . . . then go back to her �reserved� post in the newsroom of the NY Times. No more blame for Flame, or Plame . . . or the silly WMD game. Case closed. Or is it?

Ms Miller obviously feels we haven�t had enough [of her]. She promises (or menaces) to be back full of charm and enthusiasm to enlighten us once again with her creative writing on foreign relations, national security issues and affairs of intrigue; mesmerizing us with her boundless expertise on the Middle East. We could be in for the rebirth of a true-to-life, PC-age, Brenda Starr . . . a born-again queen of the fourth estate, and meyvn-in-residence for external dangers that may befall the US.

Should George W. Bush need another casus belli . . . against any nation (or individuals); all he�ll need to do is ask Judy Lite (or whatever other nick he wishes to bestow on her) for a helping pen. It�s all believable, yes; but it remains difficult for me to picture her in journalist�s garb, as a hitman of sorts, bat in hand, looking for yet another homerun against the visiting (or invading) team. But after almost three decades at bat she can hardly be considered a rookie in this league. However, after strong evidence of her use of calumnious steroids, this star player may find herself banned from the team . . . and the use of the sanctum sanctorum that allowed her to achieve celebrity: The New York Times.

This time around, defending the credibility of the NY Times entails more than shielding it from stones cast by jealous detractors. It�s going to take a pugilistic effort with regular, not kid gloves. Not a prelim fight; this is the main event. No Jayson Blair veniality here; this Judy Lite business should weigh heavily on the conscience of the NY Times. Journalistically, ethically and morally, what�s taken place is beyond a mortal sin . . . a mini-holocaust, for lack of a better term, of which she�s been, and made the NY Times, a part. (Perhaps her new book could be Part II of �One, By One, By One�; it would give the subject a new twist.)

To make things right, it will take a true sacramental stance by that celebrated periodical institution . . . starting with an examination of what originated such mess; followed by an in-house act of �perfect contrition� for what has occurred; then giving assurances to the staff of never-again reoccurrences; and finally, publishing a brief and to the point account (one-tenth the size of that recent 6,000 word narrative, sans tauroscatology) to the readership- an explanatory account, not an exculpatory editorial. A simple recantation around a sincere mea culpa is all that�s needed for reconciliation to take place. A course of action which in spirit deviates from that will push the endangered credibility over the precipice.

Face it once and for all, Sulzberger: this bejeweled journalistic maiden has forgone her journalist virginal attire eons ago. That faith! That valor! That vigor in waging battle to safeguard those First Amendment freedoms! All has been transparent pantomime at a level of a cheap carnie sideshow. The Pucelle of West 43rd Street is no Joan of Arc; her farcical, self-imposed 85-day penance was certainly no burning at the stake. And while the Pucelle from Orleans carried a fleur-de-lis banner, the Maven from the NY Times stood behind an escutcheon bearing a fleur-de-lies.

One gets the feeling that Judith Miller, more than a contortionist of the truth often exhibited by some journalists in their career-climb, is a reporter with an inventory of prewritten stories who aggressively charges on in search of facts, or factoids, which she may be able to intercalate skillfully in the text, and thus bring those stories to life. She is without a doubt a make-it-happen individual who masters her art . . . and artifice.

Chalabi et al never duped the Pentagon . . . or Judith Miller. These were the perfect textbook, symbiotic relationships . . . no pawns here. Everyone achieved his/her objectives. So when our Judy Lite, wearing her mebin-ity, shrugs her shoulders and says, �If your sources are wrong, you are wrong,� she is not just diminishing basic principles in investigative journalism, but dismissing the elemental logic she must have been taught at Barnard . . . and insulting our intelligence, to boot.

For the NY Times, this isn�t �Miller time- let�s take a break -the WMD may yet be found.� It is infinitely more serious than that. Deception needs a burial . . . without honors, or it will resurface again.

Judy Lite and her basket of tulip-bulbs are, or should be, at the end of the journalistic tulip craze revived by the White House after 9/11, and replanted along the mainstream media field. Of all the bubbles building up in our nation, we pray for this to be the first to burst, Judy Lite with it.

� 2005 Ben Tanosborn

Ben Tanosborn, columnist, poet and writer, resides in Vancouver, Washington (USA), where he is principal of a business consulting firm. Contact him at

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