Ever since the Edward Snowden story slipped out of Barton Gellman’s grasp and The Guardian started running with it for every dollar its worth, the Washington Post has struggled to contain its rage.
Last week under the churlish headline, “The Guardian: Small British paper makes big impact with NSA stories,” Paul Farhi set the tone by referring to the Post’s competitor as “a newspaper that’s small and underweight even by British standards”.
Now, veteran reporter Walter Pincus joins the fray in a column that presents a string of supposedly challenging questions directed at The Guardian and more specifically at Glenn Greenwald.
The only question Pincus fails to ask is: “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party of the United States?”
What both Pincus’ and Farhi’s pieces seem to reveal is ferment inside the newsroom — as though in each case reporters and editors fooled each other into believing that their unrestrained contempt for The Guardian would shine light on the dubious nature of their British counterpart. Instead, all they reveal is the American newspaper’s desperate and unseemly effort to reclaim lost status.
For a paper that views itself as a pillar of the Washington political establishment, its reporters need to compose themselves a bit better and perhaps do a few breathing exercises before they write.
Glenn Greenwald, on the other hand, can be relied on to continue with his breathing exercises as he writes:
On Monday night – roughly 36 hours ago from this moment – the Washington Post published an article by its long-time reporter Walter Pincus. The article concocted a frenzied and inane conspiracy theory: that it was WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, working in secret with myself and Laura Poitras, who masterminded the Snowden leaks ahead of time and directed Snowden’s behavior, and then Assange, rather than have WikiLeaks publish the documents itself, generously directed them to the Guardian.
To peddle this tale, Pincus, in lieu of any evidence, spouted all sorts of accusatory innuendo masquerading as questions (“Did Edward Snowden decide on his own to seek out journalists and then a job at Booz Allen Hamilton’s Hawaii facility?” – “Did Assange and WikiLeaks personnel help or direct Snowden to those journalists?” – “Was he encouraged or directed by WikiLeaks personnel or others to take the job as part of a broader plan to expose NSA operations to selected journalists?”) and invoked classic guilt-by association techniques (“Poitras and Greenwald are well-known free-speech activists, with many prior connections, including as founding members in December of the nonprofit Freedom of the Press Foundation” – “Poitras and Greenwald have had close connections with Assange and WikiLeaks”).
Apparently, the Washington Post has decided to weigh in on the ongoing debate over “what is journalism?” with this answer: you fill up articles on topics you don’t know the first thing about with nothing but idle speculation, rank innuendo, and evidence-free accusations, all under the guise of “just asking questions”. You then strongly imply that other journalists who have actually broken a big story are involved in a rampant criminal conspiracy without bothering even to ask them about it first, all while hiding from your readers the fact that they have repeatedly and in great detail addressed the very “questions” you’re posing.
But shoddy journalism from the Washington Post is far too common to be worth noting. What was far worse was that Pincus’ wild conspiracy theorizing was accomplished only by asserting blatant, easily demonstrated falsehoods. [Continue reading…]