James O'Keefe and Judith Miller Talk Press Freedom - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
James O’Keefe and Judith Miller Talk Press Freedom

Mention either James O’Keefe’s or Judith Miller’s name and you are likely to cause a stir.

Besides being two major figures in the world of journalism over the last decade, both have rarely shied away from stirring up controversy, whether with guerrilla stories that catch leftist organizations at their work (often unsavory), or with controversial missives from the Iraq War.

While both may draw up strong feelings in both supporters and detractors alike, neither can be said to have made no impact on the world of media — especially when you consider what both James and Judith have been through in the course of their work. Both have confronted their own media community, both have come under fire from their colleagues, and both have faced criminal penalties (Judith served 85 days in jail for refusing to give up her sources in the infamous Valerie Plame affair, James was arrested for criminal conspiracy, among other incidents).

The two sat down together a few weeks ago to discuss what it’s like being ousted from the media’s inner circle.

John Fund digests:

“Skepticism should unite all journalists, and also the desire to hear the other person out and never have a closed mind,” she says. “I find it interesting that I find much more openness at Right Online than I find in many more classic liberal circles. Unfortunately, I don’t think my side has gotten out, which is why I wrote the book.”

Miller is no conservative, but she clearly believes a double standard has developed in journalism. “Take the Clinton Cash book by Peter Schweitzer,” she says. “If a Republican president had done the same things, can you imagine the outrage, the endless invective that would have been hurled?”

The double standard of the mainstream media has been exacerbated of late by two events, Miller believes. First, President Obama has on many issues been given “a pass” because he’s the first black president of the United States. Secondly, the New York Times has moved further left since she left the paper in 2005. “The opinions of the editorial board have drifted and dribbled in the news side” more and more often, she believes.

You can watch the full interview above. In it, both James and Judith talk about the state of the media today, and how, in the last several years, the attitude — and, more importantly, the professionalism — of the once noble Fourth Estate has declined, leaving a profession that is less interested in sniffing out the real story than it is in fortifying it’s own pre-determined ideology, and feeding the vast connected network of partisan media on the left red meat to perpetuate their outrage. They also speak candidly about what its like to approach media now as an outsider – something that, according to O’Keefe, who gave an exclusive statement to The American Spectator, finds to be a uniting characteristic, not just between him and Judith, but among many outsider media professionals — and how the First Amendment has been absolutely essential to their work.

“The First Amendment protects several of the most cardinal freedoms offered by the United States.” noted O’Keefe. “As a guerrilla journalist rejected by the mainstream media, I find my First Amendment rights are often infringed upon. It is imperative that First Amendment protections for journalists outside the mainstream cabal are not tenuous. The First Amendment and the fundamental protections it affords U.S. citizens and journalists must be upheld with the strictest possible scrutiny. I have the utmost respect for individuals such as Judith Miller who stand up for the First Amendment. Judith showed staggering courage by opting to go to jail for 85 days rather than reveal a confidential informant.”

He’s right. While the First Amendment has been the most treasured resource in a journalist’s toolbox since the first “freedom of the press” cases were decided not long after the dawn of our nation, today’s journalistic landscape makes it essential. With mainstream media being populated by J-school graduates who care more about their personal agenda than they do getting a story, much is left to be discovered and investigated — journalistic jobs to be picked up by outsiders, videographers and bloggers. And when those outsiders make waves that demonstrate how out of touch and lacking the insiders really are, they often face persecution. The First Amendment enables them to keep moving forward with their work, keeping sources secure and exposing rampant corruption within the media and without. 

Judith Miller, in a quote to the Spectator reiterated the care with which the First Amendment should be protected and the importance of preserving press freedoms. “There’s a reason the First Amendment to our constitution came first. Thomas Jefferson said that if he had to choose between having a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, he wouldn’t  hesitate to choose the latter,” Miller said. “As a journalist, I believe you can’t have a free society without free expression. And that includes the right to be offensive and in James O’Keefe’s case, saying things people don’t want to hear and seeking information in unorthodox ways. That’s one of the many things that make America exceptional. Hate speech is not banned in America, as it is in much of Europe. ‘I may not agree with you,’ said Oscar Wilde, ‘but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.’ There’s a lot of that going on too these days.”

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