06/14/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011


As we watch the slow, sad decline to irrelevance of newspapers someone would actually want to read, we find "The Guantanamo Labyrinth" in Sunday's thinner-than-a-menu-at-IHOP Chicago Tribune Magazine. The reporter, Tom Hundley, lately returned from decades of "reporting around the world," delivers more fuel to the view that newspapers have become propagandists for a particular point of view, substituting ideology for reporting.

Once, we had a muscular free press that took on the mighty, skewered the pompous, tweaked the udders of sacred cows, asked tough questions and kept generations of Americans reading both morning and evening editions to find out what the "news" was.

Sunday's Trib Magazine is Ground Zero for all that has gone wrong with reporters and editors. Or maybe it's the final wooden stake hammered into the heart of actual reporting of the kind of news newspapers used to report.

We are offered a hagiography of one Candace Gorman, a performance artist disguised as a lawyer, emotionally framed in terms of "risking her career" and "taking on the Goliath" for volunteering to represent two detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. Tom has, thankfully, made all of the tough choices for us in writing his piece by stipulating, a priori, that we are dealing with "torture," that basic provisions of the Constitution that protect individual rights were "overridden" and that the Geneva Conventions were disregarded.

He uses au courant straw-man arguments to ensure that there are no other possible interpretations based on logic, history, law or reality that could detract from his embrace of a cause through deifying a lawyer. A hard enough task given the general reputations of lawyers, especially for one that the article itself discloses has a head if not feet of particularly cynical clay. She establishes her feminist bona fides, and gormanlessness, by agreeing to wear a scarf over her hair and avoid eye contact with her harmless sheepherder clients when meeting them.

Which, I suppose, is more acceptable than Tom's unquestioning transcription of detainees' accounts of how, innocents all, they were tortured in excruciating ways on their way to Guantanamo. Some accounts are stomach-churning; most are hard to accept without some degree of skepticism lacking in the article.

Candace Gorman: born to a radical family, enriched through a form of plaintiff attorneying, capturing her percentage from the poor in a class-action suit, seeking more dragons to slay, attracted to the dragon of the moment, Guantanamo.

I can almost hear her whisper it in her mind's, I mean...Guantanamo.

She abandons her current practice to catch a terrorist client or two and to strike a blow against the Great Satan. No, not the Great Satan of those who whip women for being out in public or behead journalists or murder middle aged couples who have the temerity to hold hands, the greatest of Satans: the Bush Administration. Finding herself in the belly of the Guantanamo beast (marooned it would seem on the leeward side of the bay...who knew!) she is disgusted by the food that our own troops eat and doesn't like the cramped airless interview rooms.

She and Tom swallow unquestioningly the story line of trained apparatchiks, goat herders all, caught up in the flotsam and jetsam of war, sold to the Americans who are imprisoning them indefinitely because...well because...because because...oh, well, for some obviously dastardly un-Constitutional, un habeas corpal tortured reason.

The question of why is never asked nor answered by Tom. Why does Guantanamo exist? Why has even the Obama administration embraced Guantanamo and military commissions? Why have innocent detainees released from GB been found back on the battlefield, killing unbelievers?

Might there be another point of view? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?

Not in this article.

This is a political hatchet job. Badly done: "tulips dapple Rotterdam" in the beginning of "Guantanamo Labyrinth," tulips haven't appeared yet, by the end.

Do tulips actually dapple at all?

St. Candace, abandoning all and winding up with a cushy foreign job, uprooting her high school age daughter for her mom's ambition, cutting her professional teeth by representing plaintiffs in a discrimination suit, ultimately defined for all of us by a quote at the end: she only takes good cases, i.e. cases she can win against deep-pocketed defendants. In her circle it's always best to follow the money not the rhetoric.

But, there is more.

Tom, doing the sort of in depth reporting we can expect from a reporter home from the hills of foreign lands where he has been "reporting" for years, goes far to provide a context and personal background for Ms. Gorman. How far does a crack Trib reporter go to uncover the real Candace Gorman? As far as interviewing Candace's office mate. Yep, that's it for background. Guess what? The office mate provides this cutting insight and critical thinking about his best pal: she's smart and tenacious, an exemplar, tough as nails except, of course, when faced with Guantanamo cuisine. Feeling the need to get more background, Tom summons all of his years of reportorial experience and skill to interview, yes, you guessed it, a law school classmate.

Maybe I am completely mistaken and the entire piece is a satire, Swiftian, not Michael Moore-ian. Perhaps, the inclusion of a picture of the legal paragon in her office, dressed in media savvy prison orange, is Tom and his editor's subtle hint to us all to read and smile, rather than read and wince. But, I doubt it.

By the way, Candace, Tom writes that the prisoners wore tan uniforms in tulip-dappled Cuba, not orange.