He will not be missed

James Carroll, Boston Globe, November 21:

“The free press is an absolute value not only because the unfettered flow of information is essential to the republican system, nor only because the fourth estate serves as a check on the power of the other three, but because public expression is necessary for the communal self-awareness that keeps the body politic alive. You routinely turn to the newspaper each morning not only to learn what happened, but to stroke the otherwise intangible bond you share with the neighbours and strangers in whose company you will spend the day. Reading the morning paper is like tagging up, a literal ”touching wood,” a dispelling of the darkness of night, all done in the knowledge that everyone else is doing the same thing, which gives you not only a place to start the day from, but a reassurance that you are not alone in your concern for the common good. The news media do for democracy what liturgy does for religion; what poetry does for experience; what gesture does for feeling. With words out of silence, the press tells you who you are.

“And why shouldn’t you be disturbed by Woodward’s fall? As Watergate was about the war in Vietnam, so the Valerie Plame affair is about the war in Iraq. Woodward turns out to have been just another embedded reporter, doing the war-work of the Bush administration while pretending to be independent of it. But, speaking generally, the press has not been independent since the traumas of the autumn of 2001. Newsrooms were themselves targeted by the anthrax killer, and the fear that paralyzed the nation was felt as much by reporters as by anyone.”

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