Quit while you’re ahead.
Just received notice from the Federal Bureau of Investigation that I am a criminal.
Well, could be a criminal. Aim to be a criminal? Not sure. The statute of limitations must be up on this puppy from 10/10/01 – KASBAH ROCKING:
“Right now a Columbian refugee is having dinner with an overtly effeminate Taliban gunrunner in a quaint bistro on the outskirts of Jalalabad, Afghanistan. They’re discussing the coming ski season and desert fall fashions. Drinks are flowing and names are innocently exchanged. Every witty aside by the young gunrunner is met with hearty laughter, as a hidden tape recorder hums inside the Columbian’s left breast pocket.
By morning the gunrunner will be missing. Word will spread through the sequestered Taliban offices, memos will be sent, and maybe a few more soldiers will defect to the Northern Alliance. But after a few days, there will be no mention of him. When his family comes calling, they will be sent to a briefing, and perhaps, also turn up missing.
A few days later maps and phone records will mysteriously disappear. There will be internal arguments and stepped-up security. Rankled officials will call for strip searches, and someone might be shot for treason. Word will spread that two or three training camp security personnel didn’t show up for work that morning, and relative innocents will be tortured. The air of paranoia will thicken and the stench will spread quickly.
And what of the friendly Columbian gentlemen?
He will be enjoying a weekend in Paris by Halloween, and several other well-versed, highly cash-motivated ex-cons will take his place long before he boards the airplane.”
Oh, yes; those were heady times; mere weeks after 9/11 when reporters were afraid to print such nonsense, but the Reality Check News & Information Desk was on duty. Now, it seems, the FBI, to which we warned only two weeks ago, has gone Gestapo on us here at the Fourth Estate; The Government Will Decide The Difference Between Good Investigative Journalism And Treason.
By the mere exercise of excelling at my job (which I have avoided for lo these many years since my journalism professor at Trenton State wanted to know why I chose TV Guide for the semester’s internship), I stand accused by a system I am sworn to watchdog like the Dairy Council sitting on the board of review at the FDA and claiming that milk is good for the bones of a human over five months old when all of the science argues against it. Yeah, like that.
These are strange times to be a journalist, especially one on the fringes like myself and Geraldo Rivera, who once told me over several cocktails, and I assume from his manic stuttering and distracted blinking, a dangerous amount of cocaine that if one were to really think about it, what passes for journalism is at best a crime.
Ah, yes, but a threat to national security?
The nation’s greatest journalist, Mark Twain once wrote to a friend in 1880; “Journalism is the one solitary respectable profession which honors theft (when committed in the pecuniary interest of a journal) & admires the thief…However, these same journals combat despicable crimes quite valiantly—when committed in other quarters.”
Or as investigative journalist extraordinaire Carl Bernstein once imparted to me in the press box at Shea Stadium during Game 3 of the 2000 World Series, “Quit while you’re ahead.” I had asked him about the future of investigative journalism, such as it is beyond TMZ, which at the turn of the century had yet to exist but nonetheless had forefathers of wonderful schlock like Inside Edition or The Drudge Report. Oh, how we laughed.
Bernstein knew a few things, more so than his partner in the greatest of all scoops, the Watergate Scandal, which so many today wish would crop up again so they can say they were there, but they would be wrong, because for journalists there was only one “there” there and it was that steamy night in D.C. when it all went wrong for Dick Nixon. Lately Bob Woodward has been feeling the heat from the current White House. Maybe he’s no longer welcome at Pennsylvania Avenue, even with a Democrat in there.
But Woodward, like Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, is a registered Republican, although he did not work for Ronald Reagan like Noonan did or write 17 books feeding into the myths of Reagan. None of this could be helped, because Noonan is an idiot, and I am not writing this to be mean or biting, she has an obvious mental disability, and if they allow her to speak anymore on Meet The Press, THAT would be criminal.
Speaking of long-running “news” shows, I once received a fax here at The Desk from David Westin, then president of ABC News, when the great Ted Koppel was sent packing to make room for some Hollywood bullshit, to which I sent this response and then later to press (THE RAPING OF ABC NEWS – 3/13/02): “Trouble is news doesn’t bring the big numbers anymore, otherwise how could anyone explain these infinite obsessions with Monica Lewinsky, O.J. Simpson and Jennifer Anniston? Maybe you can convince Koppel to chair a panel show where inbreeds beat each other with tire irons or maybe he can join degenerate imbecilic couples on blind dates and report on the wacky results?”
So nobody understands more than I that aside from pedophiles and terrorists, journalists are the most reviled of groups. I expect backlash to hearing incessantly and with little humor that you are not what mommy told you, but criminal? Not sure that beats the hell out of being hunted, as in the immediate wake of 9/11 when I sent to press this observation on the anthrax/journalist scare (CASUALTIES OF WAR – 11/7/01): “Most of these people are frightened now. You have to wear rubber gloves just to deliver pizza at the New York Times and everyone at the GE building are issued gasmasks and need four kinds of ID to get on the main floor of the NBC Nightly News.”
There were tougher times to be a journalist, like during the opening months of prohibition when giants in the business like H.L. Mencken would storm through Baltimore newsrooms flailing his arms about like a spastic ape spitting pistachio shells at secretaries. No booze is worse than being labeled a criminal by the FBI, believe me. Take me down, but leave the gin.
So now I hear they’re discussing passing another goddamn law called the Shield Law, which will officially grant the First Amendment to those whose livelihoods depend on it.
Shit, it’s more than freedom for some of us. It’s, you know, definition. Like congressmen wearing flag pins.
Not all obsessions need a symbol, bub.
Do yourself no favors and “like” this idiot at www.facebook.com/jc.author
James Campion is the Managing Editor of the Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus” and “Midnight for Cinderella”