Saturday, September 16, 2006

Penlight v. Lantern


The metaphors of the penlight and lantern have been used to illustrate the press' convenient amnesia and selective curiosity. The penlight's 'illuminating' beam is narrow, focused and biased in the direction the penlight is pointed to; while the lantern's 'illumination' represents the objectivity journalist, professional and citizen, should strive for.

The 'Penlight v. Lantern' theme is perfectly illustrated in Victoria Toensing's Opinion Journal piece entitled 'What a Load of Armitage!' (HT: BizzyBlog) as she asks the standard journalistic question 'What did he/she know and when did he/she know it' as it relates to Plamegate.

This is a powerful question made famous during Watergate because it seeks not only facts, but context. One may have tons of facts and be as bright as Ken Jennings, but wisdom comes when the facts are put in context. And it is in this interplay of facts and context that Ms. Toensing shows true wisdom.

There's one observation that Ms. Toensing makes, (Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit, also made it late last year) which historians will look back on and ask, "Wasn't anybody else curious about that?"

The lack of curiosity that many in the press have shown over the following sentence in Joe Wilson's Op Ed is, well, curious at least:
The mission I undertook was discreet but by no means secret.
That sentence should go down in history with Bill Clinton's "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is" and George H. W. Bush's "Read my lips: no new taxes".

Here's Ms. Toensing's take on the "discreet but by no means secret" mission (emphasis added):
By the time he indicted Mr. Libby on Oct. 28, 2005, Mr. Fitzgerald knew two conflicting facts about the classified nature of the Niger trip: since at least early May 2003, Mr. Wilson was discussing his Niger trip with the press (Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times) and claimed in his July 2003 NYT op-ed that his mission was "discreet, but by no means secret." Yet, the indictment states that around June 9, 2003, the CIA sent "classified" documents to the vice president's office discussing "Wilson and his trip to Niger." If the trip was classified for the vice president, why was it declassified for Mr. Wilson? Did Mr. Wilson violate any law by revealing his trip or did Mr. Fitzgerald choose not to know?

Update: Victoria Toensing was on C-SPAN's Washington Journal (09/16/2006) discussing her essay. Ms. Toensing segment starts at approximately 01:25:00 into the real media video archive.

David Corn was also interviewed on (09/18/2006) and discusses his role in Plamegate. His segment starts at approximately 00:46:00 into the real media video archive.



Anonymous john said...

I love the flying pink thing

September 16, 2006 at 10:10 AM  

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