A reader writes:
I think that Ms. Palin is handling the matter perfectly. Why in Heaven's name would she fulfill what you call her "burden of proof"? Why would she "clear up a question for which there must be a mountain of readily available medical records"? The political calculus - one that seems entirely accurate - is that she does not benefit from proving that she is Trig's mother and that she benefits from refusing to prove that she is Trig's mother.
If she is not Trig's mother, then any effort to prove that she is increases her vulnerability to exposure. Exposure, whether done voluntarily (because she confesses) or involuntarily (because she is incontrovertibly discovered) hurts her, probably irreparably. If she is Trig's mother, then any effort to prove this fact not only doesn't benefit her politically (since those who doubt Trig's maternity won't vote for her regardless), but it diminishes her core narrative that the media is out to get her and her family. She gets tons of sympathy from the Trig rumors, even from people who don't particularly like her, so why give that up?
You and all others who care about Trig's maternity have the right to pursue the story. And certainly, if you can demonstrate that she is not, then you have accomplished a good thing by exposing a political lie. But if you think that she's going to help you undo her because she somehow "ought" to, then you're certifiable.
Enough already! If indeed there is "overwhelming and easily available material evidence to resolve the matter entirely" then, for God's sake, go out and find it! Spend a couple of months tracking down the story like a real journalist.
As it happens, I think you're right; I think there IS something fishy about the whole story, but sitting at your computer whining about it isn't going to get the job done. Dumping on other journalists for not doing their jobs isn't going to do it either. If you think this story is important, and obviously you do, then do the country a favor and go get it. Work your contacts, get the interviews, do the leg work, get the evidence for or against and then write the damn story. Make some history!
I came to the US in 2001 as a foreign correspondent for an Australian newspaper. Yet I've found the deference to authority and sheer ineptitude of US mainstream journalists both disturbing and sad: disturbing because their collective failure has such serious consequences, and sad because they have turned their backs on the very impulse to expose the truth that drives so many to enter the media in the first place.
It's also not that people don't understand the dynamic between reporters and sources, and the trade-offs inherent in that relationship. It's tough to fearlessly expose the truth when you have to simultaneously maintain your day-to-day contact with sources that you rely on to actually do your job. Should there be those trade-offs? No. But they exist. Absolutely.
The problem is that the US media has just given up. It's forsaken any pretense at objectivity by dutifully "reporting" both sides of an issue, as though crack-pot ideas are worthy of the same prominence as verifiable facts. And, at the same time, journalists seek to be respected not for what they do, but who they are.
We used to say journalists who switched to public relations had joined "the dark side": it was where you went once you succumbed to the dollar-laden lure of being paid to twist and manipulate facts, rather than report them. Yet I find the mainstream media in the US - both inside and outside the beltway - now indistinguishable from the dark side. Fox shills shamelessly for the right, MSNBC for the left. The Wall Street Journal op-ed page believes it can create its own reality, while The New York Times adjusts the facts to suit whatever an administration tells it to.
Against this current, I can only applaud your continuing effort regarding Sarah Palin and the plain weirdness of the Trig situation. Whether you like Palin or not and whether you believe her or not is immaterial. The point is that she's a public figure who has used her Trig prominently to advance her career. Asking for the truth is what journalists do. If you want to be a stenographer, the line for Palin's press secretary forms to the right. Anyway, it's a long-winded way of saying: keep fighting.
Keep on refudiating!
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