Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Speak Not Ill of the Dead nor Tim Russert

The following was posted in the "Comments" section provided after selected news articles at the Internet sites of most major city newspapers. These particular words came after some rude anonymous remarks attacking Tim Russert, just the day after he passed away. My own opinion of Tim Russert's work follows.

Washington, D.C. from Arboretum 03008


Tim Russert may well have been a “presstitute”—I have no real opinion on that question.

However, I am shocked to see the degree of animosity expressed here and on the linked pages, especially the recourse to the vile words that are no less than symbolic profanation of his corpse.

I do NOT share the ancient adage "de mortuis nihil nisi bonum" (of the dead say nothing but good). There is certainly a place for a critical look at Russert's character and his career but not for post mortem hatemongering.

In 1625, Hugo Grotius, in his great work De Jure Belli ac Pacis (On the Law of War and Peace), writes about the respect that is due to dead enemies:
For, as Virgil (Aeneas xi:104) observes, all animosity against the vanquished and the dead must cease because they have suffered the last of evils that can be inflicted. ‘We have been at war,’ says Statius, but our hatred has fallen, and all our enmity is buried in the grave.’ And Optatus Milevitanus assigns the same reason for reconciliation. ‘If there have been struggles among the living, your hatred surely must be satisfied with the death of an adversary. For the tongue of strife is now silenced.’ Dio Chrysostom says, ‘For the hand of death, has destroyed all enmity towards the fallen'.
Condemn the man's words and actions if you will and celebrate his demise if you must, but at least accord him in death the dignity that befits every human being.

My Own Opinion

To begin with, any special emphasis, italics, bold, or enlarged text you see in this or any other document o' mine is my handwork and mine alone. I hate interrupting the reader with a note which states "italics mine" or "bold text not the authors." I do not interrupt people while they read my work or any other person's written text.

New York City 8670

I fully recognize that on some level Tim Russert was perhaps a corporate shill for General Electric (GE), NBC, Universal, and possibly other related entities. Mr. Russert collected a paycheck and was certainly expected to follow whatever guidelines, written or unwritten, he knew to be laid out before him.

But I know personally, from having awakened on so many Sunday mornings to see it myself, the host of Meet The Press upheld every responsibility bestowed upon the Fourth Estate by active citizens who depend upon the press to reveal the truth.

In the United States we enjoy a Freedom of Speech beyond that available in any other nation on Earth. Sure the French and English can march more freely in protest against any perceived wrongdoing. Certainly the Germans can shout sermons from a street corner longer than any small town U.S. cop will tolerate. But here in the United States of America we can write whatever the fuck we want in our books, pamphlets, blogs, e-mails, and on the backs of our matchbooks, with very little fear of any prosecution whatsoever.

Communist China has already warned the known activists in Shanghai. They will be jailed indefinitely if they speak out one word during the 2008 Summer Olympics. A special beating was meted out to Freedom Fighters in Tibet months ago for daring to speak freely. There is no freedom of speech in Communist China. The so-called "People's Republic of China" does not belong to the people. China belongs only to the rich leaders of the Communist Party and a few loyal servants.

In China and North Korea, in Zimbabwe and Communist West Bengal, in Belorussia and Singapore the wrong speech at the wrong time will earn you a beating, a lengthy jail sentence or execution. People are not free to speak their peace in those places.

In the U.S.A you can speak freely and I invite anyone in this country to do so.

Tim Russert Practiced Free Speech

Tim Russert asked the toughest questions to all the important leaders in the United States.

Tim Russert asked questions which made Presidents squirm.

Tim Russert asked those questions while keeping a sharp Irish eye on each Senator and he accepted no bullshit gracefully. He demanded straight answers from Democrats and Republicans and Independents. Tim Russert was one of only a few reporters I have ever witnessed to do such a thing.

Maybe because you had to get up by 9 AM on Sunday to witness the spectacle, many people rarely saw Mr. Russert in action. You also needed to know the real heart of an issue to understand how really tough Mr. Russert's questions were. That man, Mr. Tim Russert, was the last real, honest reporter for a major news network in the United States that I know about.

This does not mean freedom of the press or free political speech died with Mr. Russert.

Still, he stands tall among even the most daring press figures worldwide. I'm talking about Robert Fisk, Amy Goodman, Dahr Jamail, and a few others. Mr. Russert stands among those people because he asked tough questions and demanded tough answers.

I have no doubt that he could walk into the office of the President of NBC Universal and speak his peace. I also have no doubt he did not allow that same boss to dictate a single political restriction to Tim Russert the news man.

Russert asked questions that would get people fired at other networks. Those other reporters would not be afraid to ask because of freedom of speech but because corporations buy advertising or not. Russert always appeared unconcerned about any financial repercussions of his questions. And that is what places him alongside Amy Goodman, Robert Fisk, Juan Gonzalez, Mike Wallace, Dahr Jamail, or Ed Bradley.

Even the great ABC news reporter Peter Jennings rarely stepped over the lines Tim Russert stepped over most Sunday mornings on Meet the Press. I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Jennings reporting style and learned volumes from him, but Tim Russert let me see exactly who I might be voting for in the next election.

Always Vote, In Every Election

I always vote and I always carefully research the person I give my vote to. Meet The Press was only one source of information I used to decide how I might vote. I get my news from many sources, domestic and foreign. I write out my thoughts just like I am doing now. I vote for the person that I think will do the best job for the people where I live, not the best job for my pocket, not the best job for my employer, but the best job for everyone in my town, my district, my county, my state, and my country.

White House

Tim Russert helped me and millions of other Americans determine who might be the best person to lead the United States. I am not lost without his tough questions during the current Presidential campaign. I only wish he could have somehow left us a seasoned protegé before his heart failed him so unexpectedly.

I offer my deepest condolences to Tim Russert's family, friends, co-workers, especially Brian Williams, from the point of view of a mere viewer of Meet The Press. Raise a toast to the man and go see a baseball game if you will, but do not count him among any but the best news reporters to have ever practiced the craft.

Now you may speak your peace as you wish because this is after all, The United States of America. 

Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.

No comments: