“This is our function. Our Founding Fathers understood that government by its nature tends to oppress those it has power over. Our Founding Fathers decided that there must be, there had to be, there should be and there is, an institution that keeps an eye on government. That is what we do. There is nothing in the Constitution about the freedom to practice law. There is nothing in the Constitution about the freedom to practice medicine. There is nothing in the Constitution about the freedom to engage in commerce. There is nothing in the Constitution about teaching or learning. But there is something in the Constitution about the freedom of the press. Our Founding Fathers understood that it would be necessary to have a watchdog on government, and that is our role: to keep a watch out.”
–Jack Anderson (1922-2005) in a speech at Utah State University six years ago.
Even the legendary Anderson was under the illusion!
And as the documents of one of the greatest investigative journalists, are now being accessed by FBI for editing, his thundering words of trust in the freedom of press falls short of vindication.
Anderson’s family wants to donate his papers to George Washington University. And NPR reports that the FBI wants to review the archive and remove items it deems confidential.
Question is not about the onus of ownership. It’s certainly neither about the authenticity of what should be considered ‘confidential’. It’s not even about respecting the right of Anderson’s family to put forth the request.
What’s at stake is what’s being excavated. What’s at stake is the nature of materials that Anderson had access to, both as the friend of McCarthy, and subsequently as his nemesis. As being member of the then American President’s notorious list. As arch-enemy of the then FBI’s director, possibly the most illustrious director of all time. As someone constantly distancing himself from the powerful and always aligning himself with the working class sources. As an example, today completely lacking among mediocre media showbiz.
Anderson attested how the so-called ‘cold war’ has been fraught with several hot-blooded wars that have caused millions of deaths. And Anderson’s contribution to exposing at least parts of that cannot be undermined. Recently official documents released by White House showed America’s active role in destabilizing Indian subcontinent. It confirmed the Nobel Prize for Peace winner Henry Kissinger’s actual Warmongering motives. It showed how misunderstandings were being deliberately created between Vietnam, China and USSR, for gains that would cause genocides in Bangladesh.
And coming into light of these knowledge is no mean achievement. For one, it clearly demonstrate that so-called democratic regimes are not governed either by its peoples (most Americans are peace-loving working class people), or for its peoples (most Americans suffer the burdens of international terrorism). And most importantly, Anderson’s documents clearly deconstruct the larger narrative of North-South, First World-Third World dichotomies, where traditionally, even according to primary textbooks, people from the “underdeveloped” economies are mean-minded savages. Anderson’s documents prove quite an upset to that.
Anderson also exposed CIA conspiracy to assassinate Fidel Castro. He too exposed threadbare the FBI Hoover’s various dubious, and often monstrous links. He traced to core the position of Mafia in American political circles. As the longest running and widest read political commentator of the country, his readers believed he and his team investigated daily, what Woodward and Bernstein did just once in Watergate.
And many of the papers, apart from their gory portrayals of sinister cold war period, could actually educate the entire country on more authentic history of the peoples, from the lens someone who stood in the circle of the people, than basked in the glories of the official press lobby. And for these acts of conviction, during his lifetime, his murder was attempted by top political agents. And today, after his death, its way ironic, that he would even to this day haunted by the people in power for his documents.
For in his lifetime, he would not have let anyone take possession of the papers, in order to hide them. For an investigative journalist, the entity lies in “exposing” the findings to the public and “concealing” the source. Not, exposing the sources, and concealing the findings. No matter, the intentions of the founding fathers, as Anderson quotes, the foundation understanding of press functions lack authenticity today.