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People-Powered Publishing to the Rescue

Update: Please use the donation link to the right of this post. JN 

Regard the current conventional wisdom about what has become of media coverage of PlameGate. These would be the pearls of one Rem Reider from the American Journalism Review:

There are many ways to characterize the media’s response to the news that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was responsible for outing CIA operative Valerie Plame. "Feeding frenzy" isn’t one of them.

"Collective yawn" is more like it.

After all the blanket coverage of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation, after all the speculation about Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, after all the allegations of dastardly doings by the Bush White House, you’d think IDing the leaker would be big news.

That’s particularly true when it turns out the villain wasn’t an angry neocon bent on revenge against a critic of the Iraq war – Plame’s husband, Joseph Wilson – but a Colin Powell ally who was at best a lukewarm supporter of the invasion.

Far from being part of an orchestrated plot or a vast White House conspiracy, Plame’s unmasking was simply the handiwork of that Washington, D.C., staple, an insider with a big mouth. The culprit was gossip, not political gunslinging.

It should be noted that the left is not giving up on this one, continuing to point ominously at Bush aides’ behavior vis-à-vis Plame and Wilson. But there’s little doubt that Armitage’s role is a body blow to the conspiracy theorists.

I’m sure Mr. Reider has pored over every last document, twist, turn, recant, can’t-recall, and obstruction this complex story entails, and he is eminently qualified to pronounce The Last Word on the investigation itself, as well as the media’s performance to date in explaining this story to the American people. Perhaps Patrick Fitzgerald should just throw in the towel right now, because certainly a media critic who has no experience reporting on this story–whatsoevercertainly knows better than the special prosecutor who has painstakenly investigated this sordid tale, and indicted Scooter Libby.

People, this is exactly why we need your help to publish Marcy Wheeler’s book, 16 Words. Conventional wisdom and access-oriented journalism too often result in complex stories being dumbed down and sometimes ignored altogether, as we’ve seen on this story since the supposed Armitage bomb was dropped by Isikoff and Corn. Of course, Marcy Wheeler’s readers know she had that so-called revelation three months before those reporters. Marcy is a citizen journalist who has followed this story, and often led the reporting, which has kept the crimes committed against Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson from being swept under the rug of convenience and ease.  

As a reminder for why Marcy’s book will be so important, I asked her to respond to Rem Reider’s piece this morning, and here is what she wrote to me:

Even if you buy Novak’s story (in spite of the fact that it has changed 4 times), we know Armitage didn’t provide Plame’s name, nor did he tell Novak Plame was covert. Those are the important (and legally serious) aspects of the leak to Novak, not Plame’s employ at the CIA.

I also did a full post to explain why the Armitage "revelation" doesn’t change the importance of this. These three bullets provide the essence of the argument:

  • There is ample evidence that Scooter Libby conspired to expose Plame’s identity
  • There is ample evidence that Libby’s lies serve one primary purpose–to hide the fact that Dick Cheney was personally involved in–and may have authorized–the leak of Plame’s identity
  • Armitage was not the source of the most important information Novak published when he outed Plame

Making this kind of complex story accessible, and shining light into the dark corners overlooked by mainstream media is one of the reasons I have turned to publishing books. I believe people-powered publishing can take on the stories that commercial, corporatized, bottomline, access-oriented journalists seem unwilling or unable to fully cover.

I’ll be sharing more of the process of publishing this book here on FDL as we go along, but for today I just want to thank Marcy for all the hard work she’s done to date, and Jane Hamsher for her courage in taking on this monumental task of trying such an important experiment. I won’t say that no good books get done today, or that all journalism sucks. But there are certain stories and ideas that just will not get the attention they deserve unless the people rise up and make certain they do. This is one of those stories. And you are the people that are rising to the occasion, making sure your fellow citizens learn the truth.

The team behind this book will be much the same as that behind Glenn Greenwald’s How Would a Patriot Act? We learned a number of new lessons on that project, as I did on Markos’ and Jerome’s Crashing the Gate and George Lakoff’s Don’t Think of an Elephant. I’ll be acting as publisher, and I’ve brought on the amazing Safir Ahmed as editor to help craft Marcy’s book into the must-read primer on PlameGate, and on the blogosphere’s emerging role in helping journalists to better do their jobs. Jane, of course, will be adding her expertise and chutzpah to this project at every stage as we go forward, and I expect the FDL community will be absolutely essential to all matters, big and small, to ensure that this book is the best it can be. Marcy’s work must break out beyond the blogs and be read by all Americans who care to know why this case is important, and what it says about the Bush administration–and the American media.

So, if you believe, as I do, that understanding what happened to Valerie Plame is vital to our democracy, and you believe that people-powered publishing is a noble and necessary cause, please give what you can to make sure that this book happens. In the coming days, I’ll be reporting back on our progress, keeping the process as transparent as possible. If this works, and the book makes some money, perhaps this publishing venture can become self-sustaining and we’ll have the money to do the next important book.

I see this as an experiment not unlike the netroots supporting candidates. We have to take some risks and pay to fund our own media right now, if we’re going to get necessary ideas and analysis out. I, for one, am very excited to see what we can build.


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Jennifer Nix

Jennifer Nix