(or, Even Some Publishers Are Human)
I want to be clear on this: The Epstein case is outside my baliwick.
It’s a matter of justice. So long as it remains so, it’s for courts; it’s not politics. There may be political results, and when there are I’ll discuss them. Until then… it’s not that I don’t care; it’s that I’m focused on other things. Besides, any opinion I might have on a criminal case will necessarily be uninformed, and that happens to me quite enough as accident for me to pursue it from intent.
However, there is one aspect that I’d like to comment about, because it is within my purview. This has been bugging me for a couple days, and I’d like to try and express it. I hope you’ll bear with me.
Writing is the larger part of what I do these days — writing about politics, mostly. One of the big pitfalls of what I do particularly is that I have to be careful of my tone. I’d like to complain loudly every time someone puts partisan politics ahead of the public good — but it happens so bloody always that it just wears me out. Especially as nine tenths of my readers are so very confident that their side is right — and they’re all in opposition, in an arena where every side is always at least partly in the wrong.
The way I get through it is to keep some distance between myself and my subject. It can’t be personal; I can only judge a certain amount and no more or I lose myself in the story, don’t finish the article, and end up rocking back and forth under a blanket, keening softly in a minor key.
Current memes are lambasting major media reporting for failing to adequately condemn Epstein for his alleged role, and for using neutral language — “nonconsensual sex” with “underage women” rather than “raping little girls”. People are going so far as to blame the detachment of The Times and The Post on their unwillingness to overtly condemn the major political figures (Bill Clinton and Donald Trump to name only two) who have hobnobbed with the man. And that may be part of it; the rich and powerful do have the best lawyers. But I don’t believe it’s all, or even most.
I don’t think I’m unique in this: There is only so much inhumanity that I can face at a time, and “alleged wholesale child prostitution among the rich and powerful” says all I need to anyway. Of course I disapprove, and vehemently; so does The Times and The Post; it quite literally goes without saying, because it can. Even observing that most street prostitutes are underage and wondering aloud why only wealthy abuse gets headlines is really unnecessary in this case; you were thinking it anyway.
There is little chance I could produce a thousand words on the subject if all I do is confront it directly – baldly – brutally. There are writers who can. They’re more calloused toward inhumanity than I am. The caveat of this is that they won’t feel so strongly about the subject, and that means they also will tend to use neutral language.
This is human nature, and reporters, writers, editors, and even some publishers are human. I don’t see a way around it, and I’ve been trying to for a couple of years now.
Bottom line? I’m pretty sure Hunter S. Thompson was right:
“So much for Objective Journalism. Don’t bother to look for it here — not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.”
(from “On The Campaign Trail”)