In Act of Penance, NY Times
Reporters Climb Building
(reposted from my blog www.richieville.com)
Richieville News Service, NEW YORK, NY
The New York City Police announced today that contrary to earlier reports, the two men who scaled the outside of the 52-story New York Times skyscraper in Manhattan were not publicity-hungry thrill seekers. Instead they were the first of a group of Times staffers who are climbing the building as an act of penance for their failure to challenge the Bush administration's rationale for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Today, other groups of current and former reporter-penitents were engaged in similar symbolic acts of contrition.
"We just feel so guilty," said former reporter Judith Miller as she dangled by her fingertips from the building's exterior curtain twenty-seven floors above Eighth Avenue. Ms. Miller was the author of several front page Times stories that made the administration's case for the war. She struggled to talk as she inched her way up the side of the building. "I know that my propagandistic cheerleading paved the way for the biggest foreign policy disaster in U.S. history. I'm hoping this will purge me of the terrible feelings of self-reproach that have plagued my every waking moment since then."
Down at street level, columnist Thomas Friedman readied himself to begin his own ascent of the building. He paused with his hands on the horizontal ceramic rods that form a ready-made ladder for those seeking to expiate their sins.
"I've been trying to run away from my sense of shame with all this, 'the Earth is flat,' nonsense," he said, referring to his recent book about globalization. "I thought if I changed the topic I could erase the memory of my self-indulgent and intellectually dishonest efforts to give a liberal cover to what was really just a naked act of aggression. Alas, no. I only hope climbing this building without a safety harness will finally give my soul some peace."
Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. an avid climber, waited his turn behind Mr. Friedman. "Maybe it was the McClellan book," he said, explaining the sudden urge for repentance. He was referring to former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan, whose recent book accuses the press of being too soft on him. "When a weasel like Scott McClellan accuses you of being a weak, ineffectual lap dog, then you really start doing some self-examination."
The dramatic act of atonement, with dozens of reporters, editors, publishers, fact-checkers and proofreaders all waiting their turn to climb the sides of the building, seemed to have pricked the conscience of journalists in other media outlets. Blocks away, at Rockefeller Center, anchor Brian Williams was explaining his decision to wear a hairshirt during all future broadcasts of the NBC Evening News.
"Climbing a building feels a little lacking in the proper humility to me," he explained. "Sackcloth and ashes or a hairshirt, something that induces quiet and constant suffering, that's the way I hope to remind myself of our terrible failure to tell the American people the truth."
Meanwhile. at CNN headquarters in Atlanta, Wolf Blitzer spoke in favor of self-flagellation. "Mortification of the flesh is the only way to go," he said, as he tested the heft of several different whips and scourges. "I must feel pain to atone for the pain I have inflicted." However, Mr. Blitzer did express a wish that the period of mortification, penance and contrition not last too long. "I want to get through this so I can get back to reporting," he said, selecting a heavy birch branch. "I'm doing a piece on John McCain - he's such a maverick."