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August 16, 2010

Jeffrey Goldberg Still America's Preeminent Propagandist (Part III)

Part I is here & Part II is here

(I'll be on Houston's Pacifica station KPFT tonight from 7:40-8:00 pm to talk about Goldberg's article.)

In terms of embarrassment for a fellow human being, this is the most notable part of Jeffrey Goldberg's long article about Israel bombing Iran:

Of course, it is in the Israeli interest to let it be known that the country is considering military action, if for no other reason than to concentrate the attention of the Obama administration. But I tested the consensus by speaking to multiple sources both in and out of government, and of different political parties. Citing the extraordinary sensitivity of the subject, most spoke only reluctantly, and on condition of anonymity. They were not part of some public-relations campaign.

Too bad Goldberg didn't listen to his fellow Atlantic contributor P.J. O'Rourke:

"As a journalist, I've never found it very useful to interview people at the top of the political food chain. Those people did not get into control by being dumb enough to spill their guts to a reporter. It takes a certain kind of egotism that goes into a reporter saying to himself, 'I'll go over here and meet Boris Yeltsin and he's going to tell me stuff he's never told anybody else.' Even if you are Bob Woodward, Yeltsin is not going to say, 'Look, just between you and me, Monday we are going to invade Finland.'"

Tony Karon makes the same point here:

The first question to ask when considering how seriously to take Jeffrey Goldberg’s latest alarmist screed about Israel gearing up to attack Iran, is “Why do people talk to Jeffrey Goldberg?”

Goldberg, of course, operates with the conceit common to many access journalists, who assume that what they’re hearing from their sources is the unvarnished truth, told to the journalist because they presumably trust him as a confidante and recognize the value of his opinions and insights. Let’s just say that such is the conceit that makes it so easy for those in power in Washington to seduce marquee name journalists to carry water for them by anointing them as “special”, cultivating in the illusion that they’re insiders privy to the inner thoughts of the key power players.

A couple of years ago Judy Miller defended her Iraq reporting by saying her job was to go out and get information out of government officials that they didn't want her to know. That's Jeffrey Goldberg's challenging job too.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at August 16, 2010 06:06 PM

In Australia (and Britain) we call this "duchessing". Flatter the journalist with enough attention, make 'em feel special, and they'll print whatever crap you like.

Considering Miller stoutly defending the anonymity of her administration sources, I always wonder what passed through her head when she watched Dick Cheney on Russert's show use the "revelations" in one of her articles - which we now know came from his staff - to back up his claims in support of war. I wonder if it occurred to her, even briefly, that she had a moral obligation to publicly point out that he had to have known her reporting was sourced to his people and was therefore dishonestly claiming independent verification of what he had said when no such verification existed.

It struck me recently that journalists allow administrative officials to pass on their tripe anonymously not merely because it protects their relationship with that source but also because it protects the news value of the story. "Anonymous official confirms Dick Cheney's claims" is news; "Dick Cheney's office confirms Dick Cheney's claims" isn't.

Posted by: weaver at August 16, 2010 09:27 PM

Actually, having checked - it appears the slang verb "duchess" is Australian only, just in case any Brits present were wondering why they'd never heard of it.

Posted by: weaver at August 16, 2010 09:33 PM

Listened to your interview on Pacifica. Past couple of days, have been wondering if the "Jeffery Goldberg"s and "John Bolton"s of this world at all realise that, except for a few, most people laugh at them and they seem like such fools every time they write something or open their mouths?

Posted by: Rupa Shah at August 16, 2010 09:39 PM

Here's the mp3 of the interview . Schwartz comes in at the 42 minute mark

Posted by: Robert Nagle at August 16, 2010 10:44 PM

"The Democratic Party is controlled by the sane billionaires; the Republican Party is controlled by the billionaires who are truly nuts." Touche.

Posted by: Robert Nagle at August 16, 2010 11:00 PM

Ya know, I think Jeffrey is just sayin' the Administration wants (somebody, anybody) to BOMB, BOMB, BOMB, BOMB, BOMB IRAN. I'm 90% sure Israel don't mind bombing folks, in the slightest AND I'm sure they can use the gratuities in these troubled times. OUR BANKERS have ripped off the world of its ready cash so I'm also sure a few extra bucks in Israel's pay envelope would be mighty handy these dayz. I think WE could cut that deal in a heartbeat and that seems to me as that's what Jeffery is sayin'. Sounds to me like he's telling the TRUTH.

Robert Nagle: They're billionaires---sanity and insanity got's NOTHING to do with GREED&STUPIDITY. There are cures for insanity BUT there ain't any way to fix stupid.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 17, 2010 03:06 AM


A fine interview!

Same/Insane Billionaires

Anyone who wants a slightly less pithy review of the mess we're in and the obvious dominance of both parties by Wall Street should read Simon Johnson's 13 Bankers. That's one heck of a book, and it lays out how the US has come under the thumb of our financial sector over the last 30 years. I haven't read Johnson's conclusion yet, so I can't reveal how we can fix everything.


Cheney and Judy Miller were/are on the same team, figuratively if not literally, so I doubt she did much moral wondering or needed to be flattered. Printing propaganda to build a war fever helped Miller, helped the Times at that time, and helped her faction (the Cheney hardliners) within the government. There was a symbiosis. And they all hated Saddam and wanted to make sure there would be no more trouble from Iraq for a few decades, so there was a shared goal.

What's most noteworthy to me is the dishonesty of Miller and most journalists about what their job actually involves most of the time. There is a large amount of self-deception mixed into that dishonesty. Her job is finding out what government officials don't want her to know? Oh please.

If we were to dig enough into Miller's and Cheney's shared beliefs, I think we would soon hit cynicism about most of the public's ability to participate in statecraft (or probably anything else). They don't really think all that highly of democracy, so undermining democracy doesn't lead them to much moral doubt. They go to parties together and share stories about the weak, craven, corrupt opposition that doesn't have the resolve or guts to lead.

Rupa Shah

They don't care if the riffraff laugh at them.

Mike Meyer and any other geopolitical strategists of either the upper or lower case variety

In an obvious way, it doesn't really matter whether we or our proxy bombs Iran. Bombs are bombs. We could do it either way and so what. Ultimately it will only happen if we want it to.

Goldberg is throwing the Madeleine Albright 'indispensable nation' off-speed pitch as a change-up to the Cheneyesque unilateralist "we need to destroy the evil terrorists" fastball. Basically, the idea planted by Goldberg is that even if we don't like the idea of attacking another country again and killing thousand upon thousands of people again, we need to do it to prevent a vital region from devolving into another holocaust where the whole region and millions of its inhabitants (and all that oil) are destroyed because of unrestrained and unmanaged conflict (war) between rival nations in the region (Israel and Iran). Of course, to sell this, it's necessary to get people to ignore that one of the nations, Israel, is our dependent client and has to take direction from us, but that's an easy sell. Goldberg makes our aggression defensive to neutralize liberal and humanistic moral hesitancy and guilt. Then the hawks can go in for the kill with less domestic uproar--that's what I think Goldberg's big role is as a propagandist.

Posted by: N E at August 17, 2010 08:17 AM

I do believe that the odds of an attack on Iran in the next week are pretty high. I suspect that is what is behind Obama's bullying of Turkey. The US would love for Israel to strike Iran after flying through Turkish air space, as it would blunt some of the anger in the Islamic world (at least at the US). The main alternative involves flying over Iraq. That could be a big problem for the US. Hence the bullying of Turkey.

Posted by: shargash at August 17, 2010 09:45 AM

I AM a fool to mention Bolton.......
There he goes with his 'pearls of wisdom'.....

"Israel has 8 days to strike Iran"
08/17/2010 15:
Ex-US envoy to UN Bolton: Attack before Bushehr facility ready.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at August 17, 2010 10:21 AM

Goldberg's sources are so impeccable that he is always wrong.

Posted by: SideShow Bob at August 18, 2010 12:27 PM