“Journalist” Tom Harper from the Sunday Times appeared on CNN to defend one of his articles, what he admitted to while on air is shocking.
One knows a journalist’s ethics are questionable when a corporate, mainstream outlet like CNN calls them out for subservience to the establishment’s agenda. This is exactly what happened to a Sunday Times reporter over a recently published story claiming whistleblower Edward Snowden’s leaks compromised the safety of government agents.
The original story was quickly lambasted by news outlets for its lack of sourcing and its incorrect claims. In spite of this— or possibly because it— one of the article’s authors, Tom Harper, appeared on CNN to clarify the report. What followed was an embarrassing display of modern journalism where Harper clumsily admitted that he is a mouthpiece for the British government.
As Tech Dirt summarized, CNN anchor George Howell first asked Harper how the British government could possibly know their agents were compromised. He responded,
“Um… well… I don’t know the answer to that, George. Um…. All we know is that… um… this is effectively the official position of the British government. Um…. we picked up on it… um… a while ago. And we’ve been working on it and trying to stand it up through multiple sources. And when we approached the British government late last week with our evidence, they confirmed, effectively, what you read today in the Sunday Times.”
In short, Harper and his colleagues received a claim from the government, proceeded to confirm that claim with the government, then published the claim as fact. It should be noted that the original article kept its government “sources” anonymous, compounding the absurdity that is Harper’s admission the article is nothing but “official position.” Before Howell pushed further, Harper continued,
“It’s obviously allegation at the moment, from our point of view. And it’s really for the British government to defend it.”
As if Harper’s assertion that the government had to “defend” the story wasn’t enough to demonstrate it was written from the state’s perspective, when pressed further about how the government identified the compromised files, he offered a vague explanation before saying,
“Again, that’s not something we’re clear on. So, we don’t go into that level of detail in the story. We just publish what we believe to be the position of the British government at the moment. “
Again, Harper reveals that a story he wrote was published as fact without any evidence or any effort to thoroughly investigate the claims. After pointing out inconsistencies in the Sunday Times article, Howell goes on to point out Harper’s parroting of government talking points. He says,
“So, essentially, you’re reporting what the government is saying, but as far as the evidence to substantiate it, you’re not able to comment or to explain that at this point.”
Harper responds by stating the story was based purely on government allegations:
“No. We… we picked up on the story a while back, from an extremely well placed source in the Home Office, um… and then… um… carried on trying to substantiate what was going on through various sources in various agencies throughout Britain. And then finally presented the um… um… story, to the government, and they effectively confirmed what you read in today’s Sunday Times.”
Earlier in the interview, he also states that no intelligence agents were harmed, according to a “senior” Downing Street official—challenging the entire premise of his original article. Though Harper argued that stories about intelligence are, by nature, murky and often inaccessible, this was not enough reason to justify his repetition of government claims.
Worse, though Harper’s statements are glaring in their willingness to parrot propaganda, the media commits these manipulations on a daily basis, if in a more subtle manner. Harper’s own article refers to Snowden as a “fugitive,” gently demeaning his character. Further, articles published through mainstream outlets regularly contain phrases such as, “according to officials,” and “officials reported,” just as Harper’s did. These appeals to authority are used as an excuse to claim certainty where often, there is none. With little pushback from journalists, these partisan statements are circulated as fact and used to placate (or terrify) the population.
“That’s just how western journalism works, and it’s the opposite of surprising. But what is surprising, and grotesque, is how many people (including other journalists) continue to be so plagued by some combination of stupidity and gullibility, so that no matter how many times this trick is revealed, they keep falling for it. If some anonymous government officials said it, and journalists repeat it while hiding who they are, I guess it must be true.”
Unsurprisingly, the Sunday Times is owned by News Corp, which promptly attempted to have Greenwald’s article censored for “copyright infringement.”
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