I wanted more for my 9000th post, but nothing came up... So, you'll just have to suffer through this C&P...
My five-year old granddaughter, Madelyn, is mixing with some older children for the first time this summer, and she is sometimes shocked at their behavior.
When a sevenish girl stuck out her tongue with anti-Madelyn malice aforethought, the gently raised angel was so shocked she told the teacher about it. As a public-relations vehicle, this action proved to be, surprisingly to Madelyn, a disaster, as the other children began calling her a tattletale. That night at home, she asked her mother what such a word could mean.
What's a problem for children at summer day camp is a problem as well for adults in their world. If philosophers have definitively answered the question as to when it is ethically correct to rat out someone else, and when it is not, I am unaware of it. It seems to me one of those things where an individual must simply make a decision and live with the consequences.
In the popular media, however, the question has been answered with precision, and the answer is this: if you rat out a Republican, you are an honored and reliable source of information. If you rat out a Democrat, you are a skulking low-life scoundrel.
Mark Felt. Linda Tripp. Two truth-telling whistle-blowers whose revelations contributed to the resignation or impeachment of Presidents. To one, encomiums are sung in the newsrooms of the world, while the other is written off as a heartless busybody.
A few days ago, I debated a noted journalist, now retired but once the Washington bureau chief for a TV network, a man I know well and of whom I am enormously fond.
"You can't compare Mark Felt and Linda Tripp!" he sputtered when I used their names in the same sentence, and then proceeded to do precisely that, to Tripp's great disadvantage.
"Can you name a single honorable whistle-blower in all history whose target was a Democrat?" I then asked, and he could not. Media people, even the best of them, cannot conceive that their views represent a form of bias, but when they say that Bill Clinton's Lewinsky-related transgressions, as exposed by Tripp, are inconsequential because they are "only about sex," that is a biased statement.
It never dawns on them that responsible people might disagree, might view promiscuous sex as a serious public issue. Simple morality aside, one can blame promiscuous sex for the most important public health problem in the world for the past quarter century (AIDS), as well as for being the greatest cause of poverty in America; but for single parent families, the vast majority of which exist as a result of men being unwilling to either curb or take responsibility for their sexual activity, U.S. poverty would virtually disappear.
But such a viewpoint has no chance of being fairly represented in the media, and Tripp has no chance of getting credit for coming forward with the truth.
Instead, we find the glorification of Felt, who at the very same time he was ratting out Nixon was himself authorizing illegal searches and seizures of Americans, in a blatant subversion of the Constitution - the very accusation I heard two reporters independently make against Nixon last week, with far less cause than it could be made against Felt, or for that matter, Clinton (remember the FBI files?).
Felt is said to represent the best case for the protection of journalistic sources. I don't think so. I think Felt would have been far more honorable if he had come forward with his information in a public manner, for example, by asking to testify before the Senate Watergate Committee on live television. Bob Woodward and every other reporter would then have had the story, and more importantly, so would the Nixon defense, which could have cross-examined Felt. Why wouldn't that have been fair? Instead, Felt gave his information exclusively and secretly to Woodward, who agreed to keep his identity unknown for the rest of Felt's life.
What a great deal this was for Woodward! No doubt he never imagined that Felt would live into his 90's. And Woodward has always known that once Felt died, he had a blockbuster book on his hands, with no one alive who could contradict anything he put into it about their clandestine relationship. But when the senile Felt's family discovered the Deep Throat secret, and, in effect, asked Woodward for a share of the profits, he told them to take a hike. Thus does the sordidness of Watergate continue even to the present day.
Little Madelyn will learn a lot about tattling as she goes through her formative years. But when she gets old enough to study history, and learns about that old scandal called Watergate, I very much doubt she will be taught the truth.