On April 14, the US Department of Justice charged Airman First Class Jack Teixeira with copying and sharing information “connected with” or “relating to” the “national defense.” The government alleges that Teixeira is the man behind “leaks” of classified information which worked their way from the Massachusetts Air National Guard to a Discord chat server for gamers and thence to social media and, finally and unfortunately only very partially, to the US “mainstream” media.
At this point, due to mainstream media’s refusal to do its job, the public doesn’t know very much about the content of the leaked information, but from what we do know, that information had little or nothing to do with any plausible conception of “national defense,” at least where the United States is concerned.
Last time I checked, Ukraine was neither a US state, nor a US territory, nor for that matter located anywhere near the US. US involvement there has nothing to do with “national defense” and everything to do with declining empires raging against the dying of their respective lights at the expense of their subjects. The information not only shouldn’t have been “classified,” it shouldn’t have been compiled or generated. If there’s a crime involved, it was committed at that end, not Teixeira’s.
But that, really, is business as usual. While Julian Assange and Edward Snowden may have been more mindful and purposeful in their disclosures of US government crimes and pecadilloes, Teixeira (if he’s even “guilty”) did America similar service incidental to what sounds like a youthful ego trip.
If the whole incident exposes any new or novel issue, that issue involves the question Nikita Mazurov asks at The Intercept: “Why Did Journalists Help the Justice Department Identify a Leaker?”
In theory, journalism’s job is to inform the public. In practice, “mainstream” journalism has, for at least the last few decades, largely become the government’s stenography pool, reliably reporting every official assertion as fact and seldom asking pointed questions about any subject more important than which politician has been having sex with which porn star.
When there’s an exception, journalists at least bother to “protect their sources.” Someone who “leaks” to the New York Times or Washington Post can reasonably expect those publications to resist outing them even under court order.
But since Teixeira (allegedly) failed to consult the Very Special Important People at the Times or Post (and give them the “scoops” they so love), instead (allegedly) sharing his information with some gamer friends to make himself look cool, mainstream media switched sides.
Instead of investigating the content of the leak, they investigated the leaker, saving the FBI the trouble. Instead of informing the public, they enthusiastically went after someone who did their job for them.
This is not the first time, of course. They threw Assange and Snowden under the bus, too … but only once they’d squeezed all the juice from their “scoops.”
We no longer have to ask whose side “mainstream media” are really on. It’s certainly not the public’s.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:@thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.