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Glenn Greenwald’s Unclaimed Definition of Journalism

In an inexpensive necklace of non sequiturs, Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald tries to take issue with Joe Klein's report of security improvements in Anbar Province for the fact that Klein relies on anonymous sources: As always, the very idea of … Read More

By / May 25, 2007

In an inexpensive necklace of non sequiturs, Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald tries to take issue with Joe Klein's report of security improvements in Anbar Province for the fact that Klein relies on anonymous sources:

As always, the very idea of granting anonymity to government sources to do nothing other than repeat pro-government claims is both manipulative and moronic on its face. What possible journalistic value could there ever be in cloaking someone with anonymity in order to say something that Tony Snow would happily say, and does say, every day from the White House Press Briefing Room?

Greenwald of course doesn't refute anything in Klein's piece, which was actually more modest about the successes in routing Al Qaeda, as I already mentioned here. But notice our hero's main plaint, which he even goes to the trouble of highlighting in bold for us: Information is suspect not because it comes from nameless government officials but because it bolsters the government's position.

I knew I'd get lucky if I typed in "Glenn Greenwald" and "Sy Hersh" into Google. Sure enough, Greenwald places a lot of credence in the New Yorker reporter's work, particularly this much-bruited article from April 2006 which suggested that the Bush administration was plotting an attack on Iran. Greenwald even added an epilogue to his bestselling book How Would a Patriot Act? to incorporate Hersh's findings. What kind of sources did Hersh rely on?

A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon;

One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration;

One military planner;

one high-ranking diplomat;

A senior Pentagon adviser on the war on terror

That's just from page one of the online version.

Source anonymity is fine in Greenwald's book — it violates no precept of journalistic ethics — as long as the sources train an unflattering light on the shadow-bathed intrigues of a warmongering president.

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