The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Thursday, April 22, 2004

Another voice in the wilderness on anonymous sources

The competition for the absurdest anonymous sourcing is fierce; my entry is none other than the current President Bush - who impersonated Deep Throat for the benefit of selected representatives of the media a few weeks ago (my piece of March 3).

It's a case cited in a piece in LA Weekly by David Ehrenstein rounding up some of the more noxious examples of the practice (a crowed field indeed!).

He quotes the defeatist Okrent:
I hate unattributed sources and think they’re absolutely necessary to journalism.

Perhaps, to the abortion which is journalism as practiced by the likes of his New York Times today.

Okrent goes on with as sleazy a formulation as you will find this side of Alastair Campbell [1]:
Let’s say there are 100 unattributed sources and 99 of them are spinners or people who are using the press, and the 100th is offering the Pentagon Papers.

Ehrenstein points out that the source of the Papers, Daniel Ellsberg, wasn't anonymous; and that revelations from anonymice of equivalent quality to the Papers have been thin on the ground.

When a crack whore opens her legs, she is at least fairly likely to end up with something to feed her addiction. Today's media is permanently on its back servicing the various branches of government, and all it gets for its trouble is fucked.

  1. He's not asserting the truth of either element in his comparison: in form, it's a mere supposition. He's certainly providing no evidence. Yet the use of exact numbers seems to have a subconscious validating effect in the mind. Like the use in TV commercials of the 1960s of men in white coats: these chaps posed as scientists or doctors to give the viewer a spurious sense of objective third party endorsement of the maker's claims about the product.

    The mesmeric quality of the statistics relating to the probative value of DNA evidence (so many billion to one against fingering the wrong man) has been recognised by the courts both in the UK and the US, I believe.

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