Chronicle of a Wanker Retold

New York Times Editor Bill Keller’s lengthy memoir of and apology for his paper’s involvement with Wikileaks is a strange combination of People Magazine and scheisse porn. The People parts include his slavering recounting of encounters with authority (“I have vivid memories of sitting in Oval Office […]”, “Holbrooke […] pulled me away from the crowd to show me the fusillade of cabinet-level e-mail ricocheting through his BlackBerry”). The scheisse parts come from his clear desire to wiggle down his monogrammed silk boxers and take runny dump on the head of Julian Assange. We learn that Assange has B.O., that he “considers sex as both recreation and violation”, that he dressed like a homeless person until he became a celebrity, and that he sometimes skips down sidewalks.

Above all, we learn that the Times’ best and brightest, some of whom have won actual Pulitzer Prizes, were all that stood between us and the utter anarchy that the Wikileaks’ revelations threatened to unleash. This, on Keller’s telling, is just part and parcel of the history of the Gray Lady, which was doing just fine, thank you, before Assange showed up:

At least until this year, nothing The Times did on my watch caused nearly so much agitation as two articles we published about tactics employed by the Bush administration after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The first, which was published in 2005 and won a Pulitzer Prize, revealed that the National Security Agency was eavesdropping on domestic phone conversations and e-mail without the legal courtesy of a warrant. The other, published in 2006, described a vast Treasury Department program to screen international banking records.

Notice the time period (since 2001) and the qualifier (“on my watch”). That’s how you can get away with stroking yourself over your rag’s awesome performance during the Iraq War while neglecting to mention the Judy Miller-sized elephant in the room.

Setting aside the massive, sticky load of preening and self-justification that occupies a good part of this emission, it’s really remarkable how far out of his way Keller went to shit on a source. Julian Assange is a wacko, but so are a lot of potential leakers. A journalist can do his duty without accusing his source of having dirty socks and skidmarks in his underwear, especially when doing so will only deter other sources. Who wants to risk their career and perhaps their life for someone who’s apparently more concerned with your grooming habits than the information you’re bringing to the table?

My guess is that Keller’s arrogance is driven by two factors. First, he and his establishment paper have become ever more uncomfortable the anti-establishment role that printing Wikileaks’ information represents, and his lengthy apology to the Village was probably spurred at least in part by fears that they would be written out of the sphere of the serious. Second, he’s building his own version of Wikileaks, so he thinks it is safe to cut out the middleman.

What this arrogant fool doesn’t realize is that Wikileaks’ success comes from a combination of technology and credibility. Assange may be a strange ranger, but he and the other Wikileaks gang aren’t the ones who burned Bradley Manning, and they’re not going around talking about Manning’s personal habits. The next Mannings will keep that in mind, and I doubt that many of them will be choosing Kellers “E-Z Pass lane for leakers”.

30 replies
  1. 1
    Karen in GA says:

    I had seen it on the Times’ site earlier and immediately thought, “hit piece.” Read the first page, had my suspicions confirmed, and stopped.

    I know I should read the whole thing, just so I can at least say that my negative opinion is an informed opinion. But really, life’s too short.

    ETA: Didn’t the Times hold off for a year before they published the 2005 eavesdropping article? IIRC, wasn’t the Times’ reasoning for the delay that they didn’t want to affect the outcome of the election?

    Does Keller think this somehow proves the Times has credibility or something?

  2. 2
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Shorter Keller: “Forgive me, fellow Villagers, for I have sinned against the Village by publishing Wikileaks!”

    For my general attitude toward the Village, see nym :P

  3. 3
    BGinCHI says:

    Just the fact that Keller engages in any personal running down of someone like Assange is a huge tell in this case.

    That’s the gold standard right now in journalism: it’s about personalities and trivial factoids. Given the gravity of the leaked material and the potential consequences releasing such information might have for how governments keep power through secrecy, not to mention how journalism/media function in a democracy, you would think Keller et al would be focused on the substance.

    But alas, no, it’s optics, personal anecdotes, and snarky shit about clothes and grooming.

    ‘Serious’ journos act like fucking teenagers and they ought to know better. It’s disgusting and disturbing. Great post.

  4. 4
    HyperIon says:

    Here’s my favorite comment on this very stoopid NYT piece:

    I hate to point this out but if you are worried about what the government thinks, maybe journalism is not the best profession for you.

    Oh never mind. Look, over there, it’s WMD.

  5. 5
    Kyle says:

    he’s building his own version of Wikileaks

    It’s the new, improved WeakyLicks(TM), where the NYT hides embarrassing truths and offers sloppy blowjobs to the rich, powerful, establishmentarian and especially conservative, while smearing and exposing dirty fucking hippies and other Enemies Of The State.

    Methinks this will be as pathetic as that lame-ass Fox News ripoff of the Daily Show that was cancelled after about ten minutes.

  6. 6
    Gin & Tonic says:

    Bill Keller, who had the opportunity to atone for the Pulitzer awarded to the odious Walter Duranty and declined to do so will forever be a sad excuse for a human being. Nothing he does surprises or appalls me any more.

  7. 7
    cathyx says:

    It’s a mea culpa to his masters.

  8. 8
    kdaug says:


    That’s the gold standard Goldline right now in journalism: it’s about personalities and trivial factoids.

    Buy high! Sell low! Profit!

  9. 9
    Mike G says:

    Shorter Bill Keller:
    Julian Assange lacks the social graces to attend my cocktail parties, so I refuse to listen to him.
    Also Al Gore is fat and uses electricity, therefore global warming is fake.

  10. 10
    Li says:

    #3 “‘Serious’ journos act like fucking teenagers and they ought to know better. ”

    No, no, you misunderstand. The reason that our establishment pushes them as ‘serious’ is precisely because they are entirely superficial people who never left high school. Such people are easy to control with access and money, and you can trust they will never do anything of real substance to undermine their access and wealth. Like so many words in our Orwellian state, ‘serious’, in the Village, has come to have the opposite meaning of its dictionary definition.

  11. 11
    JWL says:

    “The first, which was published in 2005 and won a Pulitzer Prize, revealed that the National Security Agency was eavesdropping on domestic phone conversations and e-mail without the legal courtesy of a warrant”.

    Published in 2005, and yet a story that was first brought to the Times attention in April of 2004, i.e., a full six months before GW Bush was re-elected (and around the time when the Abu Ghraib revelations were front page news around the world).

  12. 12
    DougJ DougJson says:

    This is a very shrill post.

  13. 13
    Karen in GA says:

    Okay, I read the whole thing anyway. Jesus, Keller’s a simpering little worm.

    This is a newspaper! It’s my job to pretend journalism is my job! I had no choice! Forgive me?

  14. 14
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    That was a rather crass piece of writing. Keller should be ashamed of himself.

  15. 15
    Jason In the Peg says:

    Why does wikileaks exist again?

    Published in 2005, and yet a story that was first brought to the Times attention in April of 2004

    Oh right, that’s why.

  16. 16
    geg6 says:

    What a disgusting worm Keller is. He comes off exactly as what he is: a simpering fool more interested in polishing the knobs of the worst and slimiest of the Villagers than in anything resembling journalism or ethics. Newspapers, or the national versions of almost all of them, can’t die fast enough.

  17. 17
  18. 18
    salacious crumb says:

    this is Bill Kellers way of getting a blowjob from war loving “journalists” John Burns and Michael Gordon.

  19. 19
    jwb says:

    I can’t wait till the NY Times starts charging again for access so I have an excuse to stop reading them.

  20. 20
    Arundel says:

    Yeah, it’s that prep-school cruel snobbishness that shines through for me. See, Assange was a smelly peasant, acted like a fairy with the skipping, an eccentric and “unserious” person- why, look at how he dressed! But now he wears fashionable slim-cut suits- how dare he! It’s this focus on the petty and personal details, Keller’s looking at Assange and putting him in his place socially, that’s most interesting to me. And of course, far from the point.

    Meanwhile the Guardian’s been doing some interesting work, the Wikileaks are pretty much an on-running series, a sifting of the flow of info, every day. While Keller preens and expects a medal for seeking government approval for reporting, committing journalism. And ha ha on me- he’ll probably get one.

  21. 21
    Nerull says:

    This from the paper that broke the Pentagon Papers. But I guess that was completely different. Really.

  22. 22
    Tim says:

    Mistermix, did you really have to go and call Assange a “wacko?” I am getting really sick of allegedly progressive writers aiding and abetting the Village meme that Assange is defective and bizarre and to be looked down upon.

    How about he is simply somewhat “eccentric” and leave it at that. Lord, where would the world be without the creative, adventurous, unusual, risk taking, misfits who make all the most important things in history happen?

    Read a bio of Ben Franklin sometime. Now there’s a wacko. A very COOL, genius level wacko without whom this country may not even exist. But then, Bill Keller would turn up his snotty nose if he met BF’s equivalent today.

    So…please quit feeding the meme that Assange is somehow beneath the level of decent folk. In my book, he’s a fucking hero and a genius of sorts.

  23. 23
    Resident Firebagger says:

    @Karen in GA:

    Hells yeah the NYT sat on the story till Bush was safely re-elected. I believe it was the black sites story, though…

  24. 24
    sukabi says:

    @Karen in GA: yes, they had the story and sat on it until well after the election… they didn’t want to provide actual information to the electorate…

  25. 25
    AdrianLesher says:

    There is this brief reference to the coverage during the run-up to the Iraq war: “We can be overly credulous (as in some of the prewar reporting about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction) or overly cynical about official claims and motives.”

  26. 26
    El Cid says:

    You don’t tell me what good journalism is — I tell you!

  27. 27
    bjacques says:

    I think this is more about Keller pissing his pants a couple of months back after a number of prominent rightwingers were calling for Assange to be assassinated or else given a fair trial and then executed *and* the GOP retook the House. Hedging his bets for 2012 I guess.

  28. 28

    Mistermix, you are losing your perspective and, at least in my eyes, your credibility.

    The NYT column is utterly, completely unrecognizable from the breathless, bitter post you wrote about it.

    Your performance here resembles nothing so much as a right-winger whining about the liberal media, not because a story was biased against a preferred candidate or policy, but because it wasn’t sufficiently biased in his favor.

    OMG, their description of Assange includes unflattering details! Attack attack attack!

    Insisting that any discussion of this famous person must be hagiographic is a dangerous diversion for the important issues about policy, law, and secrecy raised by the Wikileaks episode.

  29. 29
    bwunderlick says:

    Kellner is engaging in serious journalism when he refers to Assange as a Stieg Larsson character, twice!

    What’s the point of the last bit about the joke from someone on the Wikileaks legal team? It’s kinda funny, but am I supposed to want a world where government officials can say there is a santa clause and the times will report no definite evidence exists of santa’s non existence?

  30. 30
    Alesis says:

    @joe from Lowell:
    True enough, but far more common in the (American) media’s coverage is a seeming insistence that any discussion of this famous person must include “unflattering details.” (notice how there never seem to be any flattering details?)

    Mistermix is approaching this with perspective. That article was not entirely given to the negative aspect that Mistermix highlighted but they were frequent and consistent enough throughout the article that were it any other public figure we’d happily admit they were being bashed. You think you’ll see the NYT talking about Sarah Palin that way, despite how many (thousand) time she’s earned it?

    To make an (admittedly rough) analogy. Complaining about insistence on more positive positive (or neutral as our media pretends to be fond of) portrayal of Assange and Wikileaks in the States is like complaining about racism against white people.

    Sure it happens but it’s not significant on the macro scale.

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