August 30, 2005


Free Judy Miller (NY Times, 8/29/05)

The New York Times reporter Judith Miller has now been in jail longer for refusing to testify than any reporter working for a newspaper in America. It is a very long time for her, for her newspaper and for the media. And with each dismal milestone, it becomes more apparent that having her in jail is an embarrassment to a country that is supposed to be revered around the world for its freedoms, especially its First Amendment that provides freedom of the press. Ms. Miller, who went to jail rather than testify in an investigation into the disclosure of an undercover agent's identity, has been in a Virginia jail 55 days as of today.

Last week a Paris-based journalists' organization called Reporters Without Borders sent around an impressive petition in support of Ms. Miller. It was signed by prominent European writers, journalists and thinkers including Günter Grass, Bernard-Henri Lévy, the French philosopher, and Pedro Almodóvar, the Spanish filmmaker.

The Timesmen must feel right at home, The Failure of Gunter Grass: Another Nobel bomb (David Pryce-Jones, 10/25/99, National Review):
Grass's Tin Drum, published in 1959, flourishes a vivid style, but in every other respect it is a misleading book, whose success has been pernicious.

The central concept in the novel is that Hitler really was a devil and Nazism essentially the spell he cast, a bewitchment. If that was so, then Germans were the victims of a higher power against which they were defenseless, and they cannot be held accountable. The reasons that Germans became Nazis are open to rational analysis, but The Tin Drum instead encourages the mystification that they couldn't really help themselves. The opposite of the Solzhenitsyn truth-telling that enables people to understand their choices and their fates, Grass's approach smoothly converts Germans from active agents of Nazism into passive victims. The cop-out could hardly be more complete.

Grass went on to argue that the present was a replica of the past in many ways. The post-Nazi enemy was the United States, with its capitalism and its consumerism. The United States was responsible for starting and pursuing the Cold War, he insisted, while the Soviet Union was not oppressing central and eastern Europe with its military occupation, but merely taking legitimate precautions against U.S. aggression. Not a Communist, Grass became a model fellow traveler by default. A speechwriter and longtime campaigner for Chancellor Willy Brandt, Grass took the position that appeasement of the Soviet Union was an imperative. Victimized once more, the Germans were right to feel resentment and self-pity, but this time they had to take measures to help themselves.

Self-pity, Anti-Americanism, and appeasement of evil don't exactly convey moral authority to the rest of us though.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 30, 2005 2:53 PM

Americans won't pay attention to anyone with two dots above their name.

If they're waiting for an upwelling of popular outrage to free Miller, they will wait a long time. Most Americans see no problem with compelling a journalist to reveal a source if that source committed a crime. It's common sense. Journalists aren't priests, counselors or legal advocates. It's law enforcement, not political oppression. I suppose that is the distinction that stick's in Grass' craw. If it were political oppression he'd be comfortable with it.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at August 30, 2005 3:08 PM

I dont know, Blue yster Cult, Motrhead, Mtley Cre, and Queensrche all seemed to do well in the US. Not to mention Spinal Tap (though it beats me how to put an umlaut over an n).

So the NY Times editoral board interprets the 1st amendment "freedom of the press" to mean the press is free to break laws the rest of us must abide by. Big surprise.

Posted by: Shelton at August 30, 2005 3:52 PM

Except that no laws were broken--it is a political vendetta by the prosecutor for an earlier case:

Posted by: oj at August 30, 2005 3:57 PM

The second article, on Grass, also goes well with our discussion of free will, below.

Posted by: David Cohen at August 30, 2005 4:30 PM

True no civil law was likely broken. But the iron law of smart behavior was: Don't screw with a prosecutor with a grudge and a subpoena.

Posted by: Luciferous at August 30, 2005 4:58 PM

I wonder if Ms. Miller's husband is back from his cruise yet?

Posted by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 30, 2005 6:21 PM

Without getting into the subtelties of the novel, I will say that I was traumatized by being forced to read The Tin Drum for a "World Literature" class in 1976 at Bowling Green State University. I hated the book, I hated the discussions of the book afterward and I was foggy on the themes, implications and larger issues. I weren't no dumb collij student, I just hated THE TIN DRUM! When someone got the bright idea of making it into a movie, I cringed. It was the beginning of my estrangement from the medium of cinema!

Posted by: Brian McKim at August 30, 2005 9:13 PM

I knew her when she was younger - Judy wasn't "free" then, either.

Posted by: obc at August 30, 2005 9:18 PM

OBC: I don't she was worth buying.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 30, 2005 9:37 PM

It was late, I was drunk, and there was no money-back policy.

Posted by: obc at August 31, 2005 12:45 AM

I do not believe this is a fair or accurate analysis of Grass's works. Details here.

Posted by: sammler at August 31, 2005 10:32 AM

OBC: Coyote Love;-) None of the women I knew that way ever got famous later.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 31, 2005 1:45 PM