By Brad Friedman on 7/28/2010, 11:00am PT  

NYU media prof Jay Rosen offers a number of observations well worth reading in regard to the classified Afghan War documents posted to Wikileaks this week, and how this new form of "journalism" changes the game in many different respects (and in very good ones, overall, I would argue).

One of his points in particular caught my eye, as it seems quite pertinent to the extraordinary allegations of former FBI translator turned whistleblower Sibel Edmonds which we've been attempting to dig into and report on --- with far too much exclusivity --- for years here at The BRAD BLOG. Rosen's observation, posted below, echoes the general notion I've come to, of late, in regard to her story, and the lack of media coverage of it. In short, it's likely that the Sibel Edmonds story is simply too large for the media to handle --- even those organizations which aren't, themselves, directly implicated in her explosive allegations.

I'm on the road this week (and for the next many), so don't have time at the moment to provide full background on the Edmonds story for those who don't know of it yet, but we've got plenty here at The BRAD BLOG from our years of coverage if you'd like to poke around. Here's a link to one of my recent Hustler articles on her, which offers the basics and includes some discussion of the "too big to bust" theory that Rosen seems to be articulating below.

His point here seems as germane in regard to the Edmonds story as it does to the massive leak of the classified Afghan War documents which he was writing about...

8. I’ve been trying to write about this observation for a while, but haven’t found the means to express it. So I am just going to state it, in what I admit is speculative form. Here’s what I said on Twitter Sunday: “We tend to think: big revelations mean big reactions. But if the story is too big and crashes too many illusions, the exact opposite occurs.” My fear is that this will happen with the Afghanistan logs. Reaction will be unbearably lighter than we have a right to expect— not because the story isn’t sensational or troubling enough, but because it’s too troubling, a mess we cannot fix and therefore prefer to forget.

Last week, it was the Washington Post’s big series, Top Secret America, two years in the making. It reported on the massive security shadowland that has arisen since 09/11. The Post basically showed that there is no accountability, no knowledge at the center of what the system as a whole is doing, and too much “product” to make intelligent use of. We’re wasting billions upon billions of dollars on an intelligence system that does not work. It’s an explosive finding but the explosive reactions haven’t followed, not because the series didn’t do its job, but rather: the job of fixing what is broken would break the system responsible for such fixes.

The mental model on which most investigative journalism is based states that explosive revelations lead to public outcry; elites get the message and reform the system. But what if elites believe that reform is impossible because the problems are too big, the sacrifices too great, the public too distractible? What if cognitive dissonance has been insufficiently accounted for in our theories of how great journalism works… and often fails to work?

I don’t have the answer; I don’t even know if I have framed the right problem. But the comment bar is open, so help me out.

If my own first-hand, sometimes behind-the-scenes experience over the years in witnessing how the media have covered Edmonds' allegations --- or, more often, have entirely failed to cover them, even after legendary "Pentagon Papers" whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg declared on these very pages that her allegations were "far more explosive than the Pentagon Papers" --- I'd suggest Rosen is on to something in his observations above. (Ellsberg later elucidated on some of those thoughts with his own guest blog on the topic here at The BRAD BLOG, by the way.)

Some stories, it seems, are simply too big, too challenging for the media to handle. Too enormous for them to be able to wrap their brains and/or strained newsroom budgets around. Couple that with scandalous, criminal allegations that involve stolen nuclear secrets sold on the foreign black market, and top officials from both the D and R parties said involved in allowing it all via blackmail, bribery or for-profit --- so neither party has an interest in investigating, so as to protect themselves --- and you've got the perfect crime: Too big too bust, too many bad guys involved, and likely just too much for our mainstream corporate media to be able to unpack, even if they actually wanted to. Or, as Rosen writes, "a mess we cannot fix and therefore prefer to forget."

Sounds like the Edmonds story in a nutshell to me.

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