07/07/2005: "DC Irony Eruption!"
I seem to have a hyperactive sensitivity to irony. I’m not sure whether I was born with it or acquired it via professional experience. It is true that I’m in one of those professions where tiny inconsistencies can blow up into painful fiascoes, and what is irony if not sensitivity to inconsistency? This is the reason that irony deficiency is a native characteristic of right-wingers. If they had any sensitivity to inconsistency at all, they couldn’t be who they are! The big question is whether people drift off into the right wing because they have a natural inability to recognize inconsistency and thus have nothing to arrest a human being’s natural attraction to simplistic solutions, or do they become hardened to inconsistency having first reached simplicity? A point to ponder. In any case, we also have to recognize that there’s a bit more to irony than mere inconsistency. Irony has a certain artistic or poetic quality to it. The best ironies are those that are just too amazing to be believed, Murphy’s Law materialized into the real world for all to see. A perfect case in point is the jailing of New York Times reporter Judith Miller. Everything about this episode screams irony! She’s going to jail to protect Bush Administration lowlifes who likely won’t be going to jail. The case involves protection of confidential sources, a legal privilege provided by the overwhelming majority of states but not the federal government. The unmasked CIA operative was at the end of her covert career and was operating at that point virtually identically to the tens of thousands of DC-based CIA employees that show up at the Langley headquarters every workday. The prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, already has access to ample alternative sources. Then consider that she never even wrote a story on it! Even in the face of all of this, the prosecutor seems obsessed with jailing Miller. For example, he expressed a strong preference for the overcrowded DC jail rather than the Danbury federal facility, saying “Certainly one who can cover the desert in wartime is far better equipped than the average person jailed in a federal facility.” In other words, she deserves tougher treatment because she’s shown willingness, in volunteering to cover the war in Iraq, to subject herself to hardship for her profession. Now that’s irony! In any case, let me express my personal admiration to Ms. Miller for the tremendous example she is setting by adhering to principle even in the face of the enormous irony of the situation. It reminds me of a story that Douglas MacArthur told of his West Point career. As a plebe he was physically hazed to the point of collapse. The Tactical Department demanded the names of the offenders, names MacArthur refused to divulge on principle. This brings up the final and most glaring irony of all, that Miller’s willingness to forfeit her freedom on a matter of principle has been just about the only principled act to be found in the news so far this year!