Leaks and Timing

The New York Times has returned to the glory days of journalism. They have to be as excited as the heady days of Watergate and the Pentagon Papers. They’re actually back to releasing truly bad news and casting bad lights on bad situations. They’ve released portions of thousands of pages of classified documents leaked to them about the situation in Afghanistan. As anticipated, the news is bad.

My point here is not to argue the merits of their actions or how this affects the troops, the war, our psyche, etc. My point here is to compare this particular look into a particular time period with another story on Mark Twain. Recently a fuller version of his autobiography was released 100 years after his death. He left instructions to do so because his most private thoughts were so pointed and sometimes “mean,” he didn’t want his image ruined. He wanted time to run its course so a future generation could possibly more properly evaluate his feelings.


We don’t deal with it very well these days. And this is what I am trying to say about the New York Times and our culture’s rush to judgments. We just don’t allow time to evaluate anything anymore.

We can read those classified documents but we may not know the context of any of those documents. We could read an operative’s report on a particular day and the news is bad. Some Pakistani informant lied to him and a convoy was blown up. Bad news. We read it. We see it.

But what if we’re only get a snapshot into a very thin slice of the pie? Again, I’m not trying to argue the merits of this war. I am trying to point out that when we are so close to “real time” it makes it incredibly tough to evaluate the longer view and a fuller perspective. It’s like blogging. People stop by today and read this post and don’t look at any others, and they could think, “Oh, a political conservative blog.”

Take elections. Barack Obama has been in office 18 months or so and pundits are already talking his chances in 2012.

We are too quick to make snap judgments and not get the long view. Certainly the long view 50 years after 9/11 could be what you are thinking of it right now. But, it might not be exactly the same if we are able to step back, read more accounts, look into a fuller record, and evaluate.

The leaks concerning Afghanistan make for good journalism. I am not convinced they make for good analysis.