Why is it that a national newspaper is able to simply make shit up and other news outlets – including the BBC – willingly regurgitate it as Breaking News? How on earth is this allowed?!
I’m talking about the story in The Times (£) that claims that Russian and Chinese agencies have “Cracked The Code” and obtained the “Top Secret Files” supposedly held by whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Their story is based on a brief statement from a single anonymous source, a “high-ranking UK government official”, who claims that MI6 has been moved to “withdraw some of its spies from hostile environments” for fear of them being identified and traced using info in the Snowden files.
The trouble is this: There is absolutely no evidence offered to support the claim that either Russia or China have obtained access to anything at all. There is absolutely no evidence offered to support the claim that MI6 has been forced to withdraw its intelligence agents. No evidence at all. Except the parroted word of a single anonymous source. Which, frankly, isn’t enough.
This glaring journalistic hole hasn’t stopped the claims from being spread across the globe, hasn’t stopped it being reported as absolute fact and it hasn’t stopped a whirlwind of right-wing, authoritarian chest-beating commentary either. Funny that it should come so soon after high-profile acceptance that NSA surveillance reforms essentially vindicate Edward Snowden and his motives for acquiring and publishing solid proof of illegal activities by governments and government agencies.
Just as public opinion – and, dare I say it, general opinion overall – was veering toward an acceptance that what Snowden did was in the public interest and of great moral conscience, along comes what is obviously a smear, with all the hallmarks of classic journalistic fabrication, to twist the public’s minds once more. Now, again, “spies are in danger” and Snowden has “blood on his hands!” despite officials being on record to state that there is no evidence that anyone has been so much as harmed in any way, let alone compromised or killed, as a result of the Snowden leak.
That The Times think it acceptable to spin such a flimsy, obviously-propagandising narrative is dangerous enough. That otherwise respectable news media the world over are willing to repeat these baseless claims by an unnamed, unchallenged source is frankly disgusting. Government propaganda passed off as Breaking News – I’m sure we’ve seen this kind of thing before…
Glenn Greenwald – hardly an unbiased voice in the drama, being as he is a recipient and publisher of Snowden documents, though one that deserves to be listened to! – has written a superb breakdown of the shameful actions of The Times (Murdoch. Figures.) and what it means in terms of public opinion on the Snowden saga. He isn’t the only journalist criticising the paper – it seems that any publication, blog, news outlet or ticker stream with a shred of respectability is also calling The Times out for being – basically – a shed of lying fucks.
It’s unlikely this story will go away anytime soon. I fully expect the narrative to swing from “Russia and China have cracked the Snowden files” to “British Establishment Newspaper fabricate Pro-government fiction in ideological attempt to smear whistle-blower”.
Watch this space.