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October 17, 2005

Judith Miller, Scooter Libby, And Their Tiny Monkey Brains

Lots of people have been struck by this section of Judith Miller's opus:

My recollection....was that Mr. Libby wanted to modify our prior understanding that I would attribute information from him to a "senior administration official." When the subject turned to Mr. Wilson, Mr. Libby requested that he be identified only as a "former Hill staffer." I agreed to the new ground rules because I knew that Mr. Libby had once worked on Capitol Hill.

Did Mr. Libby explain this request? Mr. Fitzgerald asked. No, I don't recall, I replied. But I said I assumed Mr. Libby did not want the White House to be seen as attacking Mr. Wilson.

I was struck by this too, but not for the reason other people gave, which is that Miller's behavior Broke The Sacred Bond Of Trust Between Journalists And Their Readers.

Instead, I thought it was interesting Libby and Miller stopped at "former Hill staffer." After all, Libby's intent was to deceive anyone reading Miller's (never-written) article. And Miller didn't care about deceiving her readers. So why not go all the way and attribute Libby's information to Tom Daschle? Or SpongeBob SquarePants?

The answer, I believe, is that Libby and Miller's tiny monkey brains wouldn't allow this. The "Hill Staffer" designation was the product of two competing instincts within their monkey brains:

1. Scooter & Miller Tiny Monkey Brains: We want to deceive people!

2. S&M TMBs: But deceiving people is wrong!

3. S&M TMBs: What if Scooter were referred to as a "former Hill staffer"? Then we'd still be deceiving people while still kind of sort of telling the truth!


What I think is worth noticing is that step #2 does seem to take place even within the brains of people as depraved as Libby and Miller. It's genuinely hard for the ol' monkey brains to lie—so lots and lots of monkey brain resources are devoted to figuring out ways to deceive that will pass muster with the rest of the monkey brain.

Man, it's exhausting. No wonder Miller doesn't have any space left in her head for reality.

Posted at October 17, 2005 10:02 AM | TrackBack

Ah, the old good cognitive dissonance. Good point. I thought you'd have to shut it down for good somehow just to be able to get to where these people are. Apparently not.

Posted by: abb1 at October 17, 2005 12:23 PM