Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Martha in the news! (re: TPM's Marshall)

But I don't know who wrote this-- it was a quote within a quote which I clipped, but them I went back to find the author to attribute, the comment had dropped off the blog somehow or I forgot where'd I'd found it.

Perhaps someone will inform me re: the author of this pithy Martha Mitchell reference:

..bloggers will realize how reckless their actions have been and will learn some valuable lessons from this episode. They need to learn how journalism really works and to understand what drives modern journalism you have to go all the way back to the Watergate scandal, which many bloggers are too young to remember.

After Richard Nixon was forced to resign the presidency because of the Watergate scandal, he told David Frost in an interview, "If it hadn't been for Martha Mitchell, there'd have been no Watergate." Martha Mitchell was the wife of Nixon's Attorney General John Mitchell. Before the Watergate scandal broke, she began calling reporters late at night and telling them that her husband was engaged in illegal activities. Reporters, of course, didn't believe anything she said and tried to help her by telling her husband what she was doing. He had her locked away and leaked a story to the press that she had a "drinking problem." The character of Martha Logan in the television series 24 is based on her so you can see why no one believed her and why she was so dangerous.

Although some blame for Watergate must also go to Mark Felt, the disgruntled FBI employee who has since been revealed as Woodward and Bernstein's source Deep Throat, it was Mitchell's indiscretions that first put the poisonous idea in the heads of reporters that our own government can't be trusted, which ultimately weakened our country. Just as people working for Gonzalez tried to stop U.S. attorneys from talking to reporters by threatening to release damaging information about them, John Mitchell tried to stop The Washington Post from writing about Watergate by warning, "[Post Publisher] Katie Graham's gonna get her tit caught in a big fat wringer if that's published."

Regrettably, The Washington Post went ahead with the story anyway. In the wake of Watergate laws were passed limiting what the government could do. Because of these laws government officials were barred from using all of the resources necessary to protect our country. So Mitchell was partly responsible not only for damaging the credibility and the power of the U.S. government for years to come but possibly even 9/11. It has taken years of painstaking work by the Bush Administration to restore some of the credibility and power the government lost after Watergate through laws like the Patriot Act. If one delusional, alcoholic woman, who just happened to be right in this one instance, can do so much damage despite the concerted effort of many reporters not to believe her, think what damage an army of Martha Mitchells could do. To journalists that's what bloggers are--an army of Martha Mitchells.

The idea of an army of Martha Mitchells is terrifying to reporters. Sure, Josh Marshall and other bloggers happened to be right on this one story, just as Martha Mitchell turned out to be correct despite the fact that she was a delusional drunken gossip. But that shouldn't tempt the Jay Carneys of the world to pick up the phone the next time one of these Martha Mitchells calls and tries to put subversive ideas in their heads. I think Carney and other reporters realize the damage Watergate did to this country and they are trying to undo it by returning journalism back to where it was before Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein ruined it. Unfortunately, there is an army of Martha Mitchells out there constantly ringing up journalists in the middle of the night, waking them up when they are trying to sleep.

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