Press Corp ‘Dean’ Preaches ‘Purposeful Ignorance’

Quoting John Dewey’s warning about “the proper role of the press in a democracy”–“a class of experts is inevitably so removed from common interests as to become a class with private interests and private knowledge”–Eric Alterman finds it (Nation, 5/6/09) “difficult to imagine a more telling–and disturbing–manifestation of Dewey’s prediction than the current torture debate in Washington”:

Even after the disgraceful performance of so many armchair warriors during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, who would have dared predict the willingness, nay, eagerness, of respected journalists and pundits to argue in favor of purposeful ignorance? Sadly, many of them have shown less interest in potential war crimes committed by the Bush administration than little Misha Lerner, the Jewish Primary Day School fourth grader who quizzed Condoleezza Rice about her inability to explain the legality of these policies to a group of Stanford students.

While many have made the case to varying degrees, Peggy Noonan made it most explicitly: “Some things in life need to be mysterious,” she said of America’s role in torturing terrorist suspects. “Sometimes you need to just keep walking.” And while defenders of the insider establishment may note, as a mitigating factor, that Noonan is less a journalist than an ex-Reagan flack who plays a journalist on the Wall Street Journal editorial page and ABC‘s This Week, what, then, to say about David Broder?

And how does Alterman describe the recent writings of the man who “sets a tone for many of his colleagues and represents a goal to which many if not most of them aspire”?–Well, “he, too, advises his colleagues to keep walking, eyes wide shut.”