Trust in journalism is sitting at an all-time low; the majority of Americans don’t trust a word of what comes out of mouths, pens, or keyboards of any news organization. And for a good reason. But there’s a specific form of journalism that should never be trusted again, in any shape, form, or fashion: that which claims to reveal what “anonymous intelligence” or “anonymous military” sources know — or think they know.
In the future, any report on this front should come with an on-the-record interview or be disregarded altogether, especially when the report attacks politicians. The latest “anonymously sourced” story to bite the dust came in the form of claims from several media outlets — who alleged they knew for a fact and had confirmed with additional sources — that Russians had put bounties on the heads of U.S. soldiers.
It turns out this wasn’t true.
The Daily Beast’s latest report said: “It was a huge election-time story that prompted cries of treason. But according to a newly disclosed assessment, Donald Trump might have been right to call it a ‘hoax.'”
Fox News followed up by questioning the Biden administration on the issue:
Asked if Biden now regrets attacking Trump over the bounty story, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that she was “not going to speak to the previous administration,” but reiterated there was “enough concern” to merit having intel “truly look into it.”
The Daily Beast and Fox News both characterized the accusations surrounding Russian bounties as “low confidence” intel, with no confirmation and “open to interpretation.” And if the best the Biden administration can say is that it was worth looking at, you can bank on not much confidence being there at all. They don’t have the confidence to back those stories in the slightest.
And so the latest in the saga of anonymously sourced military or intelligence reporting falls apart almost a year after the fact, and once no one cares anymore. This story also drops just as the Biden administration is seeking to leave Afghanistan and levy sanctions against the Russians.
This suggests that even with the truth getting revealed, there are still ulterior motives. The original report, which is closer to hoax than truth, was intended to smear Donald Trump. And this latest retraction of sorts comes at a time when the Biden administration is attempting to sanction Russians and leave Afghanistan — a similar move to what Trump had tried to accomplish.
In other words, these are politically motivated defense and intelligence officials who want to move public policy by sliming the politicians elected to make those decisions. They’re the same people who dropped multiple negative stories on Carter Page, all while violating numerous laws regarding FISA warrants.
In short, there’s no reason to trust the journalists on the story or the sources feeding these news organizations. Unless the sources are willing to come forward and put their names on their accusations, Americans of all political parties should operate under the assumption that these government officials are trying to exercise power in improper ways.
But even with that generalization, there’s even more to consider about these anonymous reports from “government officials.” More likely than not, these sources are Democrats with an ax to grind.
The National Bureau of Economic Research recently released some studies showing two things. First, the early progressive era’s attempt to make civil service more “professional” failed. Public servants are no more professional or good at their job than your typical partisanly motivated public servant.
Second, the idea that those public servants are apolitical is bunk, too. People working in the ranks of the federal government are overwhelmingly Democrats. The researchers said:
[W]e find virtually no political cycles in the civil service. The lower levels of the federal government resemble a “Weberian” bureaucracy that appears to be largely protected from political interference. Democrats make up the plurality of civil servants. Overrepresentation of Democrats increases with seniority, with the difference in career progression being largely explained by positive selection on observables.
In other words, and with data backing this up, Democrats run the federal government. Even when Republicans win office and the right to start purging some of these agencies, they often can’t even replace 50% of the Democratic public employees.
That brings us back to the botched stories and how the press can’t be trusted. The press didn’t run the Russian bounties story without someone claiming these things. They got the idea from some bitter Democratic public official who wanted to damage Donald Trump and knew the press would run with it with little checking. And now, almost a year later, the charade is falling apart.
There’s a deep sickness in our federal government consisting of modern technocrats trying to thwart the public will. They do this through agency decisions, delaying political actors, and leaking false smears to the press.
At this point, we might as well return to a spoils system, because the entire apparatus is politicized.
What would returning to that system do? Make it more politicized? That’s already true. We have a spoils system for one party. Removing the protections Democrats have built for themselves would even the playing field. In the process, that would bring more scrutiny to these news stories that fall apart at the slightest whiff of investigation.