Monday, May 14, 2007

The anonymice on the campaign trail

How professional political operatives secretly control the news you read about the 2008 campaign. Hint: It involves the Drudge Report.

As news events go, the "Bomb Iran" episode was surprisingly typical for the 2008 campaign. It resulted from an anonymous leak, most likely from a rival campaign, rather than the shoe-leather reporting of independent journalists. It was, in the lingo of the campaign trail, an "oppo dump," apparently compiled with the help of one of the vast, secretive propaganda machines housed in each of the major campaigns. In recent months, such invisible releases of information have often dominated the news cycle and have become ubiquitous for reporters covering the candidates. Official e-mails from campaigns regularly arrive in reporter in boxes with subject lines like "n/a," or "not for attribution." Unsigned white papers are delivered with damning facts about opponents' fundraising reports. Information is passed along by senior campaign officials in hushed tones on the telephone, only after the reporter has sworn never to reveal the source.

When are we going to put a halt to this pernicious practice? These aren't whistle blowers coming forward with information concerning serious misconduct. These are trash-talking professional hacks.

First of all, just because you put n/a in the subject in no way obligates a journalist to honor your nasty little game. Don't be part of this. Speak openly or don't speak at all.

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