Democracy Soup

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WaPo swallows government story on anthrax to win this week’s Media Putz

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Originally published on on August 21, 2008

The Washington Post

It was tough picking through the hubris surrounding the media’s presentation of the Bruce Ivins anthrax case to find the most worthy Media Putz. This latest chapter of the ongoing saga, during which the FBI gives the media its so-called evidence of Ivins’ guilt, is where the American people really need an advocate.

The Washington Post has been the target for the FBI’s leaks about this case. But it’s clear from recent events that the only advocating The Post is interested in is on behalf of the FBI and other government agencies. The saddest part is that uncovering the holes in the government’s story would’ve taken no more than a basic knowledge of math and the U.S. postal system. But then, maybe truth is not the concern of The Washington Post.

The Washington Post is taking its self-anointed position of government parrot outfit way too seriously. Glenn Greenwald, who has been doing a bang-up job covering this issue via, exposes their continued complicity this week.

Greenwald notes that The Post first published what the FBI presented as further proof of Ivins’ guilt by way of a supposed timeline (we say “supposed” because the FBI still won’t release actual evidence, just its own interpretation of the evidence it claims to have). The problem was, the timeline made no physical sense. There was no way Ivins could have been where the FBI said he was to do what the FBI insisted he did at the time they said he was there.

Greenwald, as well as several others writing online, quickly pointed out this out.

So the next logical step was for the FBI to come up with a version of events that coincided with well-established notions of our space/time continuum, and leak that to The Post. Which, (surprise, surprise) they did.

Rather than admit that, at best, they don’t have a clear grasp of reality, or at worst, that they’re in cahoots with the FBI, The Post artfully covered for the Feds. Instead of explaining that the FBI leaked to them an entirely new timeline to cover for their mistake, they wrote that “government sources offered more detail about Ivins’s movements on a critical day in the case.” So now “more detail” = “totally different story.”

While we want to be sure to honor reporters Carrie Johnson and Joby Warrick, who have been covering the anthrax story for The Post, we want to reserve credit for where it’s truly due. We imagine that when one works for a state-run newspaper long enough, talking point adherence must be nearly second nature.

Since Greenwald has been so instrumental in fleshing this story out, we wanted to allow him to vent his frustration with this latest development in his own words:

“…The Post’s role here has been and continues to be what the establishment media’s role generally is — to serve government sources and amplify their claims, not to investigate their veracity. That’s how it was Saddam Hussein who was the original anthrax culprit, followed by Steven Hatfill, and now Bruce Ivins. It’s how Jessica Lynch heroically fought off Iraqi goons in a firefight, how Pat Tillman stood down Al Qaeda monsters until they murdered him, how Iraq possessed mountains of WMDs, and now, how Russia has assaulted the consensus values of the Western World by invading a sovereign country and occupying parts of it for a whole week, etc. etc. All of those narratives came from the Government directly into the pages of The Washington Post, which then uncritically conveyed them, often (as in the case of the Jessica Lynch lies and WMD claims) playing a leading role in doing so…The FBI is relying, understandably so, on their mindless allies in the media to depict its case against Ivins as so airtight that no real investigation is necessary.”

Well put, Mr. Greenwald. For those reasons and more, we wish to give this week’s Media Putz award to The Washington Post.

In the interest of full coverage of the putziness of this entire anthrax story, we offer three runners-up for this award:

* ABC and Brian Ross, for giving voice and protection to anonymous government sources who lied about the anthrax coming from Saddam Hussein.
* CNN for parroting the parrots at The Post, gushingly bolstering the weak FBI case with false information.
* The Associated Press and Matt Apuzzo for characterizing those who question the official version of events as wacky conspiracy theorists.


Written by democracysoup

August 21, 2008 at 6:00 am

Posted in media criticism, MSM

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