Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Pot and Keller

by Jeff Huber

The latest assassination attempt on Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s character comes from Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times.  Talk about a classic pot and kettle scenario.  Keller accusing Assange of journalistic misdeeds is like an X-rated filmmaker blaming computer geeks for the pandemic rise of web porn. 

Bill Keller calls Julian
Assange "black."
Keller, you see, was the dude who brought Assange into the NYT fold and, as far as Keller is concerned, legitimized Assange and his work.  Now that Assange is ground zero of just about every sling and arrow that just about every agency in the executive branch can hurl at him, Keller needs to create some distance from his one-time ally, and fast.  And Keller has chosen to do so in a notably unctuous manner.

In his Jan. 26 hit piece (“Dealing with Assange and the Wikileaks Secrets”), Keller entertains us with a description of Assange, provided by NYT Pentagon stenographer Eric Schmitt, looking “like a bag lady walking in off the street” and smelling “as if he hadn’t bathed in days.”

“Reporters,” Keller tells us, found Assange to be “arrogant, thin-skinned, conspiratorial and oddly credulous.”  As best I can tell, Keller uses the term “credulous” in the sense of “gullible” or “unsuspecting.”  How anyone can be both conspiratorial and unsuspecting in the same sentence is something I find “incredulous” in that it makes me “dubious” about what Keller has to say about Assange, and that I’m “skeptical” about Keller’s motivation for attaching pejorative modifiers to Assange without making it altogether clear what specific “reporters” made those judgments, if they really did in fact make them.

But then phantom sourcing has become a hallmark trait of New York Times reporting.  The astounding Sept. 7. 2002 piece of mendacity by Michael R. Gordon and Judith Miller that convinced America Saddam Hussein was seeking yellowcake uranium for nuclear weapons from Nigeria cited unnamed “officials” of one stripe or other more than 25 times.  One can’t blame Keller for the Time’s part in the Nigergate debacle, of course.  Shoot, Bill was just a lowly “op-ed columnist and senior writer” back then.  He didn’t become executive editor until July 2003.

But when the unnamed “editors” of the Times issued their non-apology titled “The Times and Iraq,” Keller was the head editor.  Keller and his cowboys allowed as how “we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been.”  Nonetheless, they “found an enormous amount of journalism that we are proud of.”  Although “some critics” of the Times’ war coverage “focused blame on individual reporters,” the editors’ “examination” of the problem indicates that it “more complicated.”   So the Times was sorry for less than rigorous coverage here and there but nobody was to blame, so let’s forget about all the unpleasantness, shall we?

And Keller was well established as executive editor when, in July 2005, he spoke in defense of Judith Miller for not coughing up the names of those unnamed sources who used her and the “newspaper of record” to lie America into a war.  That we now know those sources were Judith’s pals in Dick Cheney’s stooge asylum is no thanks to the New York Times. 

Keller has a personal stake in absolving both himself and his newspaper from culpability for the hoax that launched our country into the Pentarchy’s Long Quagmire.  Keller himself was a leading “liberal” cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq.  In a Feb. 8 2003 Times op-ed piece, Keller gushed suds about how many liberals, like him, were behind the war, forming what Keller adorably dubbed “The I-Can't-Believe-I'm-a-Hawk Club.”  (It just happened so suddenly, but now that it has I feel, I don’t know, all goose-bumpy I guess!)

In the same 2003 puffery piece, he noted that even Sen. John Kerry had come down off his anti-war horse “after Colin Powell's skillful parsing of the evidence.”  Keller must have been making gargle noise every time he talked after that, right up to the time, only weeks later (Mar. 22, 2003), when he rolled Powell over and popped him in the sitter, saying that the war in Iraq was “a failure of Colin Powell's politics.”  (Funny how, at the time, I was thinking the war was a failure because of the hallucinatory policies of young Mr. Bush and Big Dick Cheney and Dandy Don Rumsfeld and their sycophant generals.  I was so glad when Keller set me straight on that score.)  Keller essentially argued that Powell should leave to make way for a state minister who would just do whatever Rumsfeld told him to do so Boy George wouldn’t have to worry about all that pesky internal debate stuff; a relationship, oddly enough, that we presently have between Uncle Bob Gates and Hillary. 

Keller condemns Assange for putting lives “at risk” by publishing the Wikileaks material online.  It was okay by Keller, though, when Judith Miller participated in a conspiracy to out undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame and put every one of her contacts at risk.  Keller says that by working with Assange, the Times and other news organizations “compromised their impartiality and independence.”  Christ in a camisole, what an absolutely breathtaking statement.  Nothing compromises the impartiality and independence of the New York Times more than the fact that its executive editor is Bill Keller. 

I don’t have anything especially nice to say about Julian Assange.  From what I read about him, I’d probably wind up kicking his kiester if I spent much time around him.  But then, everything I’ve read about Assange has come from the likes of Keller, who has put the New York Times on an even keel, credibility-wise, with FOX News; and that statement may be an unfair slight to FOX News.  I might actually like Assange.  He might even smell okay.  

It doesn't matter what kind of person Julian Assange is; he’s filling a vital fourth estate role that the mainstream media relinquished long ago, and no one is more directly responsible for the downfall of the MSM’s integrity than Bill Keller.   

And if Keller and the rest of the septic media were doing their job properly, Assange wouldn’t have one.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) is the author of the critically applauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a satire on America’s rise to global dominance. 


  1. Commander,

    A NY Times article... with a tish of merit.


    One interesting thing about the protests in Egypt was the only news organization that the Mubarak government wanted restricted, censored, and banned for the stellar "on-the-ground" reporting that they do...... was Al Jazeera. And, of course, it's one teevee news organization.... not readily available to people here in the United States. Some cable providers carry a little programming, like Link TV... on Dish...but most carry none..because it .Scares the hell out of them that the American people might see and hear the unfiltered truth, and not propaganda filtered by the corporate media......

  2. It's a good thing that Keller was there manning reception the day that 'stinky' "walked in off the street" with his 'revelations'. It would be nice to think that any of the 'packing case dwellers' over on 5th Ave would receive his personal ministrations when they show up 'downstairs' at the Times.

    Bill, obviously, knew who Assange was and what he wanted, or he wouldn't have pulled himself away from the koffee kart to meet with him. Bill IS important, and very busy, ya know?

    Keller just doesn't want to get lumped-in with the other 'bad apples' - so far just Assange,the archtraitor Manning and possibly, the English 'renegade' who's letting the former sleep on his couch. He's just dodging any possibly evil stink eye looking up from Washington.

  3. Maybe Keller just resents the fact that Assange has groupies and NYT writers don't.

    Nah, couldn't be that. The man's a professional, after all.

  4. JP,

    I want to meet the woman who's a Keller groupie. Wait. No, I don't want to meet her.

  5. Excellent article again sir.
    Yeah, that old gray lady sure has credibility doesn't she? LOLMAO. I do not think any person with a functioning brain believes much that is printed by that rag. Sad to say that the "New York Times" is no longer worthy of any real respect outside the beltway and maybe a few other minions of the military-industrial-media-oil conglomerate.
    I also agree with you that IF the media actually had real reporters that "Wikileaks" would not be needed at all. Too bad that real reporting is hard to find in any US media today. And the country is much the poorer for that sad fact.

    On a side note al-Jazeera English is available for FREE by going to Livestation.com and just download a small program and you can get al-Jazeera English also RT (Russian TV news) and Press TV (from Iran in English). Plus many more channels for FREE. Seriously. I have had it on my computer for more than three years.

  6. Cool, Charlie, thanks.

  7. Commander,
    I love reading Robert Fisk for a lot of reasons.
    He not only reports on the Middle East, he lives there. I have looked (of course in vain) for info like this in our MSM.


    Conflict of interest. I would think so.


  8. Lovely, EL. I'll probably use that in tomorrow's post.