About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Judy Miller

Fascinating article by Judy Miller in the New York Times, about her recent testimony in front of a Federal Grand Jury investigating the possibilities of crimes committed in relation to the leaking of a CIA agent's name to the press.

Miller is the NYT journalist who went to jail in order to protect her then anonymous source (apparently, that bastard of Robert Novak, who actually published the name of the agent, is off the hook for unspecified reasons).

Two things I'd like to note here. First, the woman has guts. Regardless of what one may think about the appropriateness and limits concerning the use of anonymous sources in journalism, Miller went to jail in order to stick to her self-imposed ethical standards. If Bush were 1/10 that ethical, he would have resigned from the Presidency before his first inauguration day.

Second, as much as many people (including myself) are often critical of the limits of American democracy, it is refreshing that a journalist can freely publish her account of a Grand Jury testimony, without fear of reprisal. But don't take my words for it, read her article!


  1. I'm not so sure I'm ready to give her any praise. Her actions are starting to appear more like that of a co-conspirator than a journalist trying to protect a source. A CBS journalist Bill Lynch points out that Judy had a Department of Defense security clearance while she was in Iraq, which he assumes means that she had to have signed confidentiality aggreements. He notes that "This is as close as one can get to government licensing of journalists."


  2. Hume :)

    yes, Miller does talk about her embedded status in Iraq and special clearance in the article. I disagree that it is similar to having the government licensing journalists, but this is only my current opinion, I may change my mind (it has happened, a couple of times! :)

  3. Hey, that's cool, I might change mine.

    Its just that with Jeff Gannon, Armstrong Williams, Mike McManus, Maggie Gallagher, and the fake news segments I'm a bit weary of Plame's actions. Especially so, since she spent 6 months leading up to the invasion of Iraq uncritically reporting all of the White House Iraq Group's WMD propaganda, and the source she is protecting apparently outed an agent for politically motivated reasons. I would think her loyalty to her readers would necessitate revealing that source, in this instance.

    Miller is like a worst case example of what Walter Karp cynically identified as the code of "objective" journalism: "Thou shall not think for thyself,seek instead a high-ranking source"

  4. Your post inspired me to blog about this myself. Here's my case for not praising Miller

  5. I'm with Hume's Ghost.

    She went to jail -- not to protect a source, but to help cover up a crime. --She says she was not writing a story.....

    (The one with real guts is Susan McDougal, who spent much longerin jail for refusing to lie...)

  6. I'm going to still respectfully disagree with both Hume and degustibus. This is a complicated story, and Miller's role in it is indeed not entirely clear. Likely she is neither the black witch nor the white knight. Still, I see no reason why somebody would go to jail to cover somebody else's crime.

  7. Well, I don't know if you followed my link or not, but in that post I linked to an editorial from Raw Story and an article by Reason (yeah, I know, Libertarians) magazine's Matt Welch who believes that Judy went to jail to protect her cozy relationship with high-ranking officials who provide her with the access that has made her who she is.

    Even the journalistic community is now lambasting Miller - all kind of journalistic issues were violated by her and her times editors. Check Media Channel or Editor and Publisher for these stories.

  8. It still makes little sense to me to go to jail to protect your access as a journalist (and you are right, I rarely think that libertarians get things right :), but I would never argue that people don't do things that don't make sense...


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