Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Definitely not a journalist

I've had occasion a couple of times previously to call into question Michelle Malkin's self-description as a "professional journalist."

Now, I think, she has permanently laid any such questions to rest -- especially among the ranks of actual, working journalists who understand what the work entails.

As Will Bunch at Attytood limns in sharp detail today, Malkin's recent post on the continued detention of Iraqi photojournalist Bilal Hussein, an Associated Press stringer, is nothing short of a right-wing anti-journalistic diatribe:
Powerline, Michelle Malkin and the others like them have no respect for the American principle of a free and unfettered press, no understanding of what a photojournalist does or the importance that uncensored photos can play in the political debate half a world away. The bottom line is they'd like to destroy any photographic evidence of how badly their president's lie-laden misadventure has gone in Iraq.

Malkin has been making accusations against these AP photojournalists for some time now, and they have in fact tended to indicate her utter ignorance of what it is that journalists do -- not to mention her eagerness to accuse the people who supposedly are her colleagues of colluding with the enemy. Some colleague.

By Malkin's standards, journalists like myself and Bill Morlin of the Spokane Spokesman Review must be militia members or neo-Nazi white supremacists, since we both have been known to spend inordinate amounts of time with them. Certainly, we've both been accused of serving their agenda because of our close reportage on them. Fortunately, we never were among them when federal authorities arrested any of them; otherwise, no doubt, Malkin would be demanding we go to the klink as well.

It's entirely possible, of course, that Hussein is in fact an Al Qaeda sympathizer. But his ability to get close to them and record their activities is not, and never has been, de facto evidence of that. All that means for certain is that he's very good at his job, which is to photograph the activities of Iraqi insurgents.

In fact, Malkin's assumption of Hussein's guilt -- that is, of his complicity in the insurgents' activities -- is terribly self-revealing regarding her evident conception of how journalists operate. It's clear that Malkin believes journalists primarily gather information by involving themselves wholly in their subjects, consciously taking their side, thereby becoming essentially propaganda organs for them. Considering the ridiculously biased nature of the entire body of her work, though, that this is her approach is fairly self-evident.

But there are larger principles at stake here than mere journalistic ones. Greg Sargent points out that Hussein is being held without being charged; the Associated Press isn't so much simply demanding that he be released, but that he either be charged with something or be released -- that is, that he needs to be accorded the basic principles of due process.

Just in case anyone needs it spelled out, Glenn Greenwald does the honors:
This principle is just axiomatic -- the fact that someone is accused by the Bush administration of being a terrorist or suspected by the administration of working with terrorists does not, in fact, mean that they are a "terrorist." There is a distinction between (a) being accused or suspected by the Bush administration of working with Al Qaeda and (b) actually being in cahoots with Al Qaeda and being a "terrorist."

In recent weeks, we've read instances of innocent Canadians being captured by Americans and turned over to Syria for torture; of some 14,000 people being held in a network of secret prisons under similar circumstances, the only known evidence of their guilt being authorities' say-so.

It's revealing enough that people like Malkin have no respect for the workings of a free press, for basic journalistic principles and the everyday work of reporters and photographers in the field.

But it is far, far more revealing that these self-anointed defenders of "freedom" (ostensibly threatened by the Islamofascists) are so eager to stand by and applaud as the Bush administration bulldozes such time-honored foundations of freedom as due process and fair play.

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