"In very limited circumstances, anonymity is valuable and justified (e.g., when someone is risking something substantial to expose concealed wrongdoing of serious public interest). But promiscuous, unjustified anonymity -- which pervades the establishment press -- is the linchpin of most bad, credibility-destroying reporting. It enables government officials and others to lie to the public with impunity or manipulate them with propaganda, using eager reporters as both their megaphone and shield. It is the weapon of choice for reporters eager to serve as loyal message-carriers and royal court gossip columnists. It preserves and bolsters the culture of secrecy that dominates Washington -- exactly the opposite of what a real journalist, by definition, would seek to accomplish (though most modern journalists seem to prefer anonymity, as it makes them appear and feel special and part of the secret halls of power, and allows them to curry favor with powerful officials as their favored loyal message-carrier). In sum, petty or otherwise unjustified uses of anonymity are the hallmark of the power-worshiping, dishonest, unreliable reporter (which is why its most indiscriminate practitioner is Politico). As Izzy Stone put it about the Vietnam War: "The process of brain-washing the public starts with off-the-record briefings for newspapermen. . . .I prefaced this post with those remarks because today the Financial Times turned in a total hack job, quoting an anonymous source within the government to claim that Tsai Ing-wen, in her recent visit, hadn't been successful in convincing Washington that she wasn't going to be trouble.
....In other words, the "official" is dutifully delivering an authorized government message (i.e., propaganda) but has been instructed to demand anonymity when announcing it (he's "authorized to speak," but not publicly), and reporters virtually always comply."
I've decided that I am not linking to the piece because it is a slimy bit of anti-DPP propaganda masquerading as a news report; if you really want to find it, you're on your own. The KMT, always quick to pounce on such propaganda, reproduced the key elements of the story in its news report US Concerned Tsai Would Raise Tensions with Mainland if Elected:
The DPP Presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen concluded her visit to Washington, D.C. on September 15. London's "Financial Times" on the same day quoted an unnamed senior U.S. official as saying that the Obama administration was worried that if Tsai Ing-wen was elected, she would raise tensions with Mainland China.Note how the propaganda works. The unnamed official takes a clear and obvious position with respect to the upcoming election campaign. We don't know anything about him or her, whether he is speaking on his own behalf or the Administration's, or represents some other interest, such as the big financial houses FT serves, which love Ma Ying-jeou, or even whether he knows anything about East Asia or is responsible for such policies (the last paragraph leaves grave doubt on that score). Perhaps like so many officials he comes out of some private consulting firm that does business with China. Through abuse of anonymity, FT simply eliminates all possibility of understanding; instead it just catapults the propaganda, promoting its journalists to stenographers.
A senior US official told a Financial Times reporter that Tsai's visit to Washington "had sparked concerns about the stability in the Taiwan Strait, which is critically important to the US." Moreover, "She left us with distinct doubts about whether she is both willing and able to continue the stability in cross-Strait relations the region has enjoyed in recent years"
The U.S. Department of State earlier stated that that the U.S. government would not take a stand on Taiwan's upcoming Presidential election. When asked about the reports in the "Financial Times," the Department of State reiterated this position.
According to the Financial Times, Tsai Ing-wen wanted Taiwan to strengthen its strategic partnership with the US, and she had previously promised to “refrain from extreme or radical approaches" to differentiate herself from Chen Shui-bian, the former DPP President. However, Tsai's visit to Washington, D.C. obviously did not persuade the White House that she could maintain the improved cross-Strait relations.
A US official said that while Tsai Ing-wen understood the need "to avoid gratuitous provocations" of China, it was "far from clear… that she and her advisers fully appreciate the depth of [Chinese] mistrust of her motives and DPP aspirations."
Thus, the article invites us to treat the anonymous official's words as the Administration's real thoughts, while State issues the usual and expected denials which we duly dismiss. What a fun game!
Of course, keep in mind that until we have a name, we don't even know that the anonymous US official who said these things actually exists and actually said them. Which is why AP's report on the KMT's inevitable use of the comments refers to an American official "allegedly" making the comments.
It's just sick. I'd write more on the topic, but Greenwald said it better than I ever could, and besides, I'd have to stop and take a shower.
Meanwhile, more fun in the presidential race as James Soong campaign asked for papers to file for the presidential race. The nationwide signature drive kicks off this monday, the 19th.
UPDATE: The Nelson Report, the Washington insider report, wrote of the FT propaganda hack:
Discussion of the FT story and its implications, including the policy community informal discussions generated, come below. But we can report that the nature of the quote volunteered to the FT, and the pointed denunciation of the source by State Department officials, have been "read" by the policy community as leaving little doubt that the call to the FT was authorized by senior White House officials, whether working through NSC staff, or whether made directly, being immaterial.____________________
Further, informed observers long aware of the highly personal, often bitter animosity existing between senior White House officials and senior Asia players at State feel that situation can be seen in both the statement to the FT, and State's rebuttal.
And it may be that State's denial also reflects that by the end of last year the problems, which began in 2009, had deteriorated to the point that White House-enforced "gag orders" had not only been put into effect, but that fact was "leaked" to concerned observers.
Some readers not aware of all this may seek to contact sources in the White House and/or State, and it may be that if they are honest with you, they will confirm the situation. If they don't, they are not telling you the truth, and you might want to indicate your displeasure, if that matters to you.
Whether admitted or not, it is legitimate to ask if the situation has had and/or will have a deleterious effect on foreign policy formulation and execution writ large, and not only for Asia. We will simply note that the "senior Administration official's" decision to call the FT raises these questions to that level, sources today agree.
- DPP Candidate Tsai Ing-wen's visit to the US: Congressional Reception video
- Julian Baum's opinion piece in the Christian Science Monitor on how Taiwan's democracy continues to prevail.
- Meanwhile, the bad news rolls in as the Washington Times reports, for the zillionth time, that the Obama Administration is only giving Taiwan upgrades for its F-16s. I think it's time for me to find a new lost cause.
- China consolidates grip on rare earths market
- An amusingly garbled account of Taiwan's miracle economy from an African perspective.
[Taiwan] Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.