Glenn Greenwald reports that Benjamin Wittes, a writer for the Brookings Institute wrote: “The [New York] Times is not an advocacy organization whose job it is to ‘aggressively challenge’ the government’s claims of the rates of civilian casualties – except to the extent that those claims are untrue.”
Wittes was responding to an article by NYT suggesting that the NYT could do a better, more aggressive, job of scrutinizing the drone program of President Obama. Greenwald points out the problem with those who criticize those who dare to question the government:
It’s amazing that someone not only believes – but is willing to say publicly – that it is not the job of a newspaper to “aggressively challenge” government claims on a highly controversial assassination program that is shrouded in secrecy and uncertainty. That, more than anything else, is the core purpose of journalism (at least in theory): the reason “freedom of the press” is protected in the First Amendment. And it’s precisely the media’s systematic failure – more accurately: its unwillingness – to engage in this function that has produced the last decade’s most destructive outcomes . . .
There really is no point in having media outlets that do anything other than “aggressively challenge” the claims of those in power. Actually, there is a point in having that: it allows government assertions to be glorified as true even when there is no evidence that they are. That is why so many power-serving Washington mavens are so eager to defend that model and demand adherence to it. And their success in that mission is why so many destructive government falsehoods are able to flourish without real scrutiny.