It is not a journalist’s job to protect us from the ugly facts. Neither is it his job to protect the sensitive from the painful truth or anyone, really, from anything.
In fact, speaking more broadly, it is not a journalist’s job to make the world a better place, to ensure our right thinking, or to defend the virtuous politicians that sophisticates like himself voted for while excoriating the evildoers elected by those country rubes on the other side. It is not his job to do good or be kind or be wise. The idea that any of this is a journalist’s job is a fallacy that seems to have infected the trade in the 1970s, when idealistic highbrows began to replace the Janes and Joes who knew a good story when they heard one.
Because that’s the journalist’s job: the story. His only job: to tell the whole story straight.
In the greater scheme of things, Williams’ suicide is a small story, but it is part of a bigger story: the story of our country and our world. That story unfolds only slowly, and no one knows what wisdom it will ultimately reveal. The best we can do is tell each chapter whole and true, without piety or fear or favor.
I would just like to take this moment to say that that is the biggest bunch of self-serving, self-aggrandizing, falsely noble bullshit I have read in a long time. “The story of our country and our world” my eye.
The details of Robin Williams’s suicide are no more relevant to “our country and our world” than the details of anyone else’s suicide. If journalists have some moral obligation to “tell each chapter whole and true,” they’re leaving a great many chapters wholly untold, and indeed unacknowledged.
But that’s the nature of the beast, isn’t it? All the stories can’t be told, so all of us who are in the business of writing have to choose. And when journalists like Klavan choose to write about exactly how Robin Williams took his own life, are we really supposed to believe that he does so out of some high-minded devotion to “the story of our country and our world”? People have a perverse and often malicious interest in the sufferings of celebrities and will pay to read about them. They won’t pay to read about a worn-out junkie who deliberately overdoses in a cheap apartment in the San Fernando Valley. Let’s at least be honest about that.
If Klavan wants to write “without piety,” then he should start by ceasing to be so piously sanctimonious about his own motives.