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The Perfect Epitaph For Establishment Journalism

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"If MI5 warns that this is not in the public interest who am I to disbelieve them?" says the former editor of The Independent

Top secret stamp
Some journalists view this as an inviolable decree that may not be questioned or defied Photograph: Alamy

Like many people, I've spent years writing and speaking about the lethal power-subservient pathologies plaguing establishment journalism in the west. But this morning, I feel a bit like all of that was wasted time and energy, because this new column by career British journalist Chris Blackhurst -- an executive with and, until a few months ago, the editor of the UK daily calling itself "The Independent" -- contains a headline that says everything that needs to be said about the sickly state of establishment journalism:


In other words, if the government tells me I shouldn't publish something, who am I as a journalist to disobey? Put that on the tombstone of western establishment journalism. It perfectly encapsulates the death spiral of large journalistic outlets.

Lest you think that the headline does not fairly represent the content of the column, Blackhurst, in explaining why he would never have allowed his newspaper to publish any of the documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, actually wrote:

"If the security services insist something is contrary to the public interest, and might harm their operations, who am I (despite my grounding from Watergate onwards) to disbelieve them?"

Most people, let alone journalists, would be far too embarrassed to admit they harbor such subservient, obsequious sentiments. It's one thing to accord some deference or presumption of good will to political officials, but the desire to demonstrate some minimal human dignity, by itself, would preclude most people from publicly confessing that they have willingly sacrificed all of their independent judgment and autonomy to the superior, secret decrees of those who wield the greatest power. 

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Chris Blackhurst has obviously liberated himself from these inhibitions, though not entirely, as he infuses insincere caveats like this into his paean to the virtues of obedience: "I'm cynical about officialdom, having seen too many cover-ups and appalling injustices carried out in our name." One would think that most journalists (particularly those who edit a newspaper called "The Independent") would want to maintain at least a pretense of independent thought and thus refrain from acknowledging such cringe-inducing things about themselves.

Still, what Blackhurst is revealing here is indeed a predominant mindset among many in the media class. Journalists should not disobey the dictates of those in power. Once national security state officials decree that what they are doing should be kept concealed from the public -- once they pound their mighty "SECRET" stamp onto their behavior -- it is the supreme duty of all citizens, including journalists, to honor that and never utter in public what they have done. Indeed, it is not only morally wrong, but criminal, to defy these dictates. After all, "who am I to disbelieve them?"

Please go to The Guardian to read the rest of this article.

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For the past 10 years, I was a litigator in NYC specializing in First Amendment challenges, civil rights cases, and corporate and securities fraud matters. I am the author of the New York Times Best-Selling book, How Would A Patriot (more...)

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All the news your government sees fit to print.... by Samson on Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 9:32:09 PM
And Samson was a testimony to the power of adverti... by Ralph Demers on Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013 at 12:26:03 PM
I agree, that Blackhurst fellow must be one of the... by Bill Johnson on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 9:40:20 AM
Calling his rag "The Independent" is right up ther... by Paul Kinzelman on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 11:16:56 AM
Obama got the Nobel prematurely for his efforts wi... by Ralph Demers on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 11:52:02 AM
the Empire without nukes ?never happen !great wind... by thomas vesely on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 6:49:07 PM
Before Obama's Nobel it was Henry Kissinger. ... by Maxwell on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 12:41:32 PM
Nobel Peace Prize for Obama: lauded the change in ... by Ralph Demers on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 9:04:17 PM
Anyone can stand on a soap box and call for peace ... by Maxwell on Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013 at 8:50:55 AM
You'd laugh if you knew (or perhaps you do, but di... by Ad Du on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 11:31:17 AM
Newsworthy? Pot (Cannabinoids) Shrink Tumors; g... by Garry Minor on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 11:32:51 AM
Here's a prayer for you Glenn: "Lead us not into g... by Ralph Demers on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 11:41:58 AM
Wow. From which end did that come forth?... by Jim Arnold on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 12:18:35 PM
my prayer for you ;it is 4 am.  and there are... by thomas vesely on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 3:46:24 PM
Cretin LOL... by Ralph Demers on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 8:44:27 PM
refute rather than insult, if you are capable........ by thomas vesely on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 8:51:28 PM
             &n... by Ralph Demers on Friday, Oct 18, 2013 at 2:23:26 PM
The Nazi's and communist didn't want to question a... by liberalsrock on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 6:48:37 PM
Come on, man, that's slovenly, illogical thought &... by Ralph Demers on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 8:47:41 PM
Whereas flinging out ad hominems is irrefutable, h... by Maxwell on Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013 at 8:42:53 AM
From here, "Both the Wikileaks Iraqi and Afghan Wa... by Mark Langley on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 11:54:22 AM
If a government says, "This is secret or harmful t... by Fredrick O'Keefe on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 12:41:12 PM
Journalists themselves need to.  Else the who... by Maxwell on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 12:55:29 PM
we are wise enough.we also know this is blowback f... by thomas vesely on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 3:48:32 PM
It is not difficult. If the government thinks that... by Peter Hindrup on Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013 at 4:19:30 AM
"Fredrick O'Keefe" - Other than your "Tweet:" intr... by Ethan Allen on Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013 at 4:03:30 PM
"Lives have been lost" according to who? The same ... by Gary Williams on Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013 at 8:19:38 PM
Point of order:Will the person who also objected t... by Jim Arnold on Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013 at 11:46:29 PM
Indeed there are many reasons to believe that the ... by Daniel Noel on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 1:21:39 PM
No news organization can pass that test.  Not... by Maxwell on Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013 at 8:56:30 AM
Drop dead. At "free-fall speeds".....if not faster... by Gary Williams on Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013 at 8:22:01 PM
I think we're being too hard on Chris Blackhurst. ... by PCM on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 1:56:34 PM
Dangerous to whom? Dangerous how? Dangerous when? ... by Simon Leigh on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 6:28:03 PM
We're headed back to "The Three Estates of the Rea... by E. J. N. on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 8:16:04 PM
"E.J.N." - While I agree somewhat with your cursor... by Ethan Allen on Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013 at 3:11:49 PM
Every editor - publisher should have a driving&nbs... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013 at 9:29:13 AM
@ mod, that makes my reply also superfluous... by thomas vesely on Saturday, Oct 19, 2013 at 5:57:45 AM
Indeed. With the release of "...Manufactured Conse... by Gary Williams on Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 3:01:31 PM