In the competitive world of journalism, the pin is mightier then the sword. But whenever journalists decide to obtain fame and prestige by fabricating a story, the pin is no match against the sword determine to slice their careers.
Just ask reporters Jayson Blair, Janet Cooke, Jay Foreman, Stephen Glass and Patricia Smith who share a common trait of being caught of overloading their stories with fiction. They embarrassed themselves and their editors with exaggerations, outright lies and embellishments to publish the big stories.
Judith Miller, a controversial reporter of New York Times, has already built herself a long record of violating journalistic ethics before being sentenced to jail for refusing to testify the leak of the CIA operative.
She misinformed public opinion that Iraq posed weapons of mass destruction threw dubious sources and untrustworthy officials such as Ahmad Chalabi – a proven liar and corrupted businessman whose opponents call him a charlatan. Even the hard neoconservative in Washington lost trust in him. Miller’s sensationalism forced New York Times to acknowledge her mistakes and reassess its coverage on Iraq.
She claims being an expert on the Middle East in her book God has ninety nine names. However, according to deceased Ivy League professor Edward Said in his book Covering Islam, she has little knowledge of either Arabic or Persian. She prefers to ignore prominent Muslim, Arab and non-Orientalist scholars to comment on Islam or Middle Eastern politics. She also defends her political views extremely on unreliable sources and Orientalist intellectuals. Said wrote “Miller in short is a shallow, opinionated journalist whose gigantic book is five hundred pages too long for what ends up saying, even though it is perfect compendium of what is wrong with the unthinking, unexamined assumptions taken up and circulated by the media”.
Miller probably assumes that being incarcerated for refusing to identify a source will recuperate her honor. However, her sensationalism is the sword that has left an incurable wound in her credibility.
In her rehabilitation, Miller should remember that history doesn’t forget those journalists who increased their fame with lies. In 1897, In the high tensions before the Spanish-American War, illustrator Federic Remington, during his time in Cuba, sent a telegram to New York Journal William Randolph Hearst saying: “Everything is quiet, there no trouble here, there will no war, I will return.” In response, Hearst said: “Please remain, you furnish the pictures, and I’ll furnish the war”.
Journalists have a social responsibility to search for the truth. On the contrary, whenever a journalist decides to mix journalism with literature to establish a conspiracy theory behind a historical event, such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it probably discloses a lot about the author’s real motivations – money.
Take for example, Pilar Urbano a prestigious Spanish journalist investigator and author of Leader Atta- the Secret of the White House. Her controversial book has sold 80,000 copies. She claims that the official story is hiding the fact that U.S military jets shot down American 77 and United Airlines 93. The damage at the Pentagon, she believes, was caused by a missile. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, flight 77 impacted the Pentagon and flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania after a passenger revolt disrupted the mission.
For some strange reason, Pilar Urbano considered appropriate to recreate the lives of the Islamic hijackers by defining their motivations, beliefs, inventing opinions and conversations between them. She gives the lectors the sensation to be at scene. Also, she invented decisions and conversations of the president and his staff on that crucial day. All this is permissible if you are writing a novel, but not for serious investigation.
She seems to allow her prejudice take control of her description of the 9/11 pilots. Hani Hanjour is pictured having hygiene problems; Ziad Jarrah in being a psychologically tramp between liberalism and extremism; Marwan al-Shehhi can’t hide his sexual appetite and Muhammad Atta having a strong hatred toward women and a certain interest with homosexual stories. She also calls one of the muscle hijackers Forrest Gump.
Ironically, one of her compatriots, journalist investigator Bruno CardeÃ?Â±osa in his book 9/11 History of an Infamy portrays a totally different Muhammad Atta. He claims that Atta (alleged Muslim extremist in the 9/11 Commission Report) had a girlfriend named Amanda Keller and lived together at a Floridian apartment. Supposedly, witnesses had seen them together drinking alcohol in nightclubs where she worked as an exotic dancer. They are even seen together eating pork- a prohibited Islamic consumption.
There two reasons why these “serious journalistic investigations” will transform into a sword mightier then the pin. First, both keep fooling their lectors with printed imagination, trivial investigation, selective witnesses, unexamined assumptions and unclear evidence. Second, they will represent a major blow for the serious 9/11 researchers if used as references.