person:jack shafer

  • All the myths that are fit to print: Why your news feels familiar | Jack Shafer

    after reading his book, you can’t help but notice how many front-page stories collapse into the seven master myths he assembles (…): the victim, a casualty of randomness or a villain; the scapegoat, who is punished for straying outside the social order; the hero, who smites evil; the good mother, who “offers maternal comfort and protection”; the trickster, the rogue who disturbs the social order; the other world, typically foreign countries; and the flood, or any other disaster.

    #information #mythe

  • From Tom Paine to Glenn Greenwald, we need partisan journalism | Jack Shafer

    New York Times business journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin called for the arrest of Greenwald (he later apologized) and Meet the Press host David Gregory asked with a straight face if he shouldn’t “be charged with a crime.” NBC’s Chuck Todd and the Washington Post‘s Walter Pincus and Paul Farhi also asked if Greenwald hadn’t shape-shifted himself to some non-journalistic precinct with his work.

    The reactions by Sorkin, Gregory, Todd, Pincus, Farhi, and others betray — dare I say it? — a sad devotion to the corporatist ideal of what journalism can be and — I don’t have any problem saying it — a painful lack of historical understanding of American journalism. You don’t have to be a scholar or a historian to appreciate the hundreds of flavors our journalism has come in over the centuries; just fan the pages of Christopher B. Daly’s book Covering America: A Narrative History of a Nation’s Journalism for yourself. American journalism began in earnest as a rebellion against the state, and just about the only people asking if its practitioners belonged in jail were those beholden to the British overlords. Or consider the pamphleteers, most notably Tom Paine, whose unsigned screed Common Sense “shook the world,” as Daly put it.


    My paean to activist and partisan journalism does not include the output of the columnists and other hacks who arrange their copy to please their Democratic or Republican Party patrons. (You know who you are.) Nor do I favor the partisan journalists who insult reader intelligence by cherry-picking the evidence, debate-club style, to win the day for their comrades. (...) ask yourself: Where would we be without our partisan journalists?

  • Edward Snowden and the selective targeting of leaks | Jack Shafer

    Article de Jack Shafer de Reuters sur les fuites (et contre-fuites) organisées en toute impunité (leurs auteurs peuvent être au contraire récompensées) par les plus hauts membres des administrations étasuniennes successives (présidents en tête), alors même que leur teneur est parfois beaucoup plus dommageable pour la sécurité nationale du pays.

    Without defending Snowden for breaking his vow to safeguard secrets, he’s only done in the macro what the national security establishment does in the micro every day of the week to manage, manipulate and influence ongoing policy debates. (...)

    Secrets are sacrosanct in Washington until officials find political expediency in either declassifying them or leaking them selectively. (...)

    NBC News reporter Michael Isikoff detailed similar secrecy machinations by the Obama administration, which leaked to Bob Woodward “a wealth of eye-popping details from a highly classified briefing” to President-elect Barack Obama two days after the November 2008 election. (...)

    The secrets shared with Woodward were so delicate Obama transition chief John Podesta was barred from attendance at the briefing, which was conducted inside a windowless, secure room known as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or “SCIF.”

    Isikoff asked, quite logically, how the Obama administration could pursue a double standard in which it prosecuted mid-level bureaucrats and military officers for their leaks to the press but allowed administration officials to dispense bigger secrets to Woodward.


    Another variety of the political leak is the counter-leak or convenient declassification, designed to neutralize or stigmatize an unauthorized leaker. (...)

    Sometimes the counter-leak is more revealing than the leak it was intended to bury. In 2012, then-national security adviser John Brennan went a tad too far counter-leaking in his attempt to nullify an Associated Press report about the foiled underwear bomber plot. In a conference call with TV news pundits, Brennan offered that the plot could never succeed because the United States had “inside control” of it, which helped expose a double-agent working for Western intelligence. Instead of being prosecuted for leaking sensitive, classified intelligence, Brennan was promoted to director of the CIA; that’s the privilege of the policy leak.


    The willingness of the government to punish leakers is inversely proportional to the leakers’ rank and status, which is bad news for someone so lacking in those attributes as Edward Snowden. But as the Snowden prosecution commences, we should question his selective prosecution. Let’s ask, as Isikoff did of the Obama administration officials who leaked to Woodward, why Snowden is singled out for punishment when he’s essentially done what the insider dissenters did when they spoke with Risen and Lichtblau in 2005 about an invasive NSA program. He deserves the same justice and the same punishment they received.

    We owe Snowden a debt of gratitude for restarting—or should I say starting?—the public debate over the government’s secret but “legal” intrusions into our privacy. His leaks, filtered through the Guardian and the Washington Post, give us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to place limits on our power-mad government.

  • Vanity Fair portrays WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as a shrewd negotiator and master shape-shifter. - By Jack Shafer - Slate Magazine

    More than anything, journalists expect a combination of trust and servility from their leakers. (...) The #Assange lesson is that if a source has the brains, the guts, and the leaks, he can take the driver’s seat and tell reporters to ride in the trunk.

    #wikileaks #journalism


      COMMENT: This biased portrait reminds us of the CIA’s depiction of Mossadegh as a Communist before the coup that overthrew him. — There is abundant evidence testifying to facts that contradict Ellison’s account: — (1) Assange is not an anarchist; — (2) The organization has had a remarkable record of successes over its four year life that are never mentioned by Ellison; — (3) The notion that it “dumps raw material,” using “no standards,” is a myth; — (4) Simply maintaining the cablegate material online is a remarkable triumph in the face of a cyber-onslaught by a superpower (never mentioned by Ellison) waged in a terroristic climate in which American politicians are calling for Assange’s assassination (also never mentioned by Ellison). — Vanity Fair, it should be noted, is owned by Condé Nast, which is in turn owned by Si Newhouse’s Advance Publications, “the exemplar [of the] concentration of media ownership [that] has perverted the free flow of information in the United States,” according to the American Journalism Review. — And, as if to demonstrate that she is utterly shameless, Ellison tries to turn George Orwell’s Animal Farm against Assange at the end of her article!