This article will not be cross-posted. Other than with respect to references to the principals and public figures associated with the matter, no names will be used. Other than links to articles published here at The Dark Wraith Forums, no links will be provided. This is not an exercise in personal criticism; it is, instead, a pointed and critical commentary on certain aspects of and fallout from the articles by Jason Leopold, published by truthout.org, concerning the claim that Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove had been indicted by a federal grand jury. I invite Mr. Leopold, should he so choose, to respond in the comment thread for this post. However, should he attempt to publish his defense under multiple names, as has been alleged he did elsewhere, I shall ban him; and if he becomes abusive, as he is alleged to have been elsewhere, I shall eat him alive and spit him out.
The resolute damage Mr. Leopold did to himself is his business, but what he did to bloggers who not only believed him, but also believed in
him, is reprehensible. That truthout.org chose first to publish his claims and then elected to prosecute those claims with further statements is appalling. That the editor of truthout.org now gives, in his words, a 'partial apology' and adds the excuse that they 'got too far out in front of the news cycle' puts truthout.org in the league of The New York Times
, the publication that disingenuously pretended to explain away its complicity with a propagandist on its staff who used the newspaper to bolster the case, and in no small part to cause others to commence, a war of opportunity. As is my policy not to link to articles published by The New York Times
, it is now my policy not to link to articles from truthout.org. Both have plenty of people, millions maybe, who forgive and forget. I don'tnot when the stakes are as high as they are in these times and matters.
People are harmed by lies. People can also be harmed by their soft-hearted cousin, the uncritical thought brought to voice. No one, not even the most seasoned of thinkers, is immune to the poorly formed thought, statement, essay, or article. Some folly becomes so entrenched that it evolves into an intergenerational statement of truth, and rarely but sometimes even into an epical pronouncement reverberating through the ages.
Those who care for what is beyond the sensation of the moment have a duty to thwart this spiral of the wretchéd into the abyss of historically vaulted veracity.
And yes, the word "duty" was used above. It is not a dirty word. It is not some oppressive burden. It is not the chain of the dull and obsessed. Sometimes, it's good to want life to be something more than a worthless exercise in self-indulgencethe life lived, then discarded, as it were.
The Blogosphere is a vast drum, echoing back and forth across its coded surface of Websites large quantities of information. Once in a whilequite rarely, of coursesomething new arises within this cyberspace bunker, something meaningful that becomes known even to the tens of millions of common people who are generally unaware of this enormous place of information. In its typical mode, the Blogosphere is just the echo chamber; in its greatest strength, it is a megaphone.
When that megaphone projects the clarion call of truth to the outside world, it is magnificent. When it projects a falsehood, it is disgraceful. And simply walking away from a bad story like it never happened is the assurance that, even in its greatest moments, the Blogosphere will continue to be marginalized by the mainstream media.
Jason Leopold had burned people before. Paul Krugman was one of them. When something like that happens, it disabuses those who could make us known from doing so. One Jason Leopold is worth a thousand good stories. Is it really any wonder that the mainstream media shies away from what we report like we're infested of the Plague?
Well, we are; or at least it surely looks that way to reporters, news anchors, and commentators who see this kind of fiasco.
Bloggers had articles with titles like this: "Rove Indicted"; "Karl Rove Indicted"; "Rove Indictment"; and a clutch of variations on these, all declaring as statement of fact what was being said by a previously disgraced reporter and published by an e-mail service that sends people links to news articles.
Good God Almighty. Think
Does it really sound credible that insiders are going to say, "Boy, I need to get this story out. Let me call a barely known journalist who already got fired once for being unable to verify his sources. By God, he'll
know how to break this story to the whole, wide world, and he'll
have the connections to protect my butt when this big, huge story hits the fan."
Yes. That makes sense, doesn't it?
At best, Mr. Leopold was gamed. He is an amateur in a league of consummate pros, many of whom have done this their whole professional lives. They are where they are because they're not just good at the game, they're excellent at it.
No matter how careful you are, when you interview lions you are at extraordinarily high risk of getting eaten. Quite likely also, the big cats are going to convince you to bring your friends in to see just how impressive your interviewing skills are. Consequently, your friends will get eaten, too.
I am one to talk. I was burned once on a story I ran here at The Dark Wraith Forums. I looked like a damned fool, and I was. I was embarrassed, and I wanted to hide from what I'd done. The good that came of it was that it stopped me from what I thought I should become to be successful at this craft: a cut-and-paste, repeat-after-thee, post every day kind of journalist, flogging away no matter how useless or repetitious or otherwise banal my articles end up appearing to others. And yes, my articles are still banal, but at least they often come with nice graphics, and they come in mercifully infrequent doses.
It is not always the lies that hang you; sometimes it's the facts. The truth is not the exclusive province of the righteous: it is, at its greatest and most venal power, the weapon of choice of the malevolent. Welcome to the sea with no harbor.
The Republicans use truth. To claim that theirs is the art of lies is incorrect. Truthselective, partial, crafted, synthesized as it is in its various formsis one of their frequently used wedges. They lie only when a truth is unavailable to a purpose. Understand this, and you understand why you must critically, skeptically, pessimistically, cynically look at anything and everything that comes your way.
Credibility is a media phenomenon. Washington is an ocean of disinformation just waiting for a conduit. When mainstream journalists are too gun-shy to play, that's when it's time to pull out the has-beens; that's when it's time to leak into the Blogosphere; that's when it's time to game the unseasoned.
It matters not a bit what people in Washington say. What matters is why they're saying it. The same goes for the mainstream media. What they're saying isn't nearly as important as why they're bothering. News is a business. So is politics. The importance of intonations from Capitol Hill, from the White House, and even from the august newspapers is not in content but rather in context.
The medium is
the message. Information is multi-dimensional, and its secrets, right there on display, are in where it's presented, to whom it's presented, and how it came to be "news." Understand this, and you are at the very heart and soul of being a solid, critical analyst. Decline the opportunity to look at the frame instead of that within it, and you become, at best, a victim of false reports and, at worst, a conspirator in the on-going game of disinformation.
Now, I shall finish with a brief, personal note on the Jason Leopold fiasco. In February of last year, I published the first two in a three-part series entitled "The Valerie Plame Scandal
." In July, I published the final installment. I pulled no punches in those articles: I made no effort not to offend those who saw Valerie Plame and her husband as heroes. Neither did I leave any room for doubt about my disdain for everyone elsefrom Karl Rove to Patrick Fitzgeraldinvolved in the scandal and its aftermath. In October of last year, I published an op-ed piece, "The Color of Whitewash
," in which I lambasted the investigation by U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald, who had just announced the indictment of I. Lewis Libby on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. While pretty much the entirety of Blogosphere Left was celebrating, I was not, and I made my case as clearly and as sharply as I possibly could. To my knowledge, not one link other than a few of my own in comment threads on other blogs came of that post.
On May 5, 2006, one week after Jason Leopold's startling article that Rove was about to be indicted, I published "The Gaming Game
" in which I did everything I could to point to the risk of believing Jason Leopold's claims. I did my best to wave off the building feeding frenzy.
About twelve hundred people read or at least saw that article, according to the hit logs at my server. Two individuals, both of whom were writing in comment threads on other blogs, noted my dissent from the prevailing, virtually uniform declaration that Mr. Leopold was stating facts.
In the days following, one bloggera fellow I consider something of a friendgood naturedly announced how wrong I was: Mr. Leopold's second article announcing that Rove had 24 business hours to get his affairs in order proved it, and the proof was that the Washington Post
had gotten suckered into the game.
Note here: truth and the reporting of truth are not the same. It's like your death and your obituary: the latter can be published without the former occurring, and if that happens, it's most annoying; but when you actually do die, it's rather more than a mere annoyance.
But it didn't end there. As late as Monday, May 15, some bloggers were still defending Mr. Leopold. One blogger openly declared as if fact that George W. Bush had forced the mainstream media to suppress the news that Rove had been indicted. And there in the comments, every bit supportive of this take, was a link to one of the very high traffic blogs, where the Leopold defenders were on the conga line bragging that his professionalism was so high that he was going to out his source if the source turned out to be wrong. (No, outing the source that gamed you is being a squealer who got caught repeating a fib.)
"Reality-based community," my back
If you hear the flapping of wings in your death throes, do not for a minute think it's your guardian angel coming to take you to a better place. It's not. It's the vultures coming to eat your carcass.
The Age of the Neo-cons is still ascendant. Its venal foot soldiers are still on the loose, laying havoc everywhere they choose to turn. Hoping reality is somehow different from this doesn't make it so. Reporting that it is doesn't make it so, either.
The truth of the matter is that the night of our discontent is still gathering, and it will be for a long time to come. Measure your connection to reality by how many heroes you have. When you can honestly say, "Zero," you've made it to the place from which you can get down to business.
Who knows? You might find out you are, all by yourself, the hero you were looking for all along.
The Dark Wraith has spoken.