The Pentagon Papers: The Next Generation

We’re not sure what, if anything, to make of the WikiLeaks dump of umpteen-thousand classified documents — complete with coordinated publication by the Times, the Guardian, and Der Spiegel — detailing Pakistan ISI ties to Afghan insurgents (don’t act surprised), but it started burning up Twitter Sunday afternoon, and it was burning up Memeorandum by Sunday night. We’ll let Spencer Ackerman be your guide. [Wired]


@FlyingChainSaw: And Harry Shearer (sorry, Benedick) has been banging on it ever since.

But you gotta admire the choreography of the release — you’d think Apple just announced a new gadget.

Right. But they sort of fell into The Big Event drama because they have no clue that real journalists sift through trunk loads of this crap and craft a story out of it. Dumping documents allows the spin doctors to throw together their own counter-narrative and point to the same material. Ellsberg copied and distributed the Pentagon Papers and advised trusted journalists on the larger narrative direction. It was an incredible document dump that he did in part to protect himself from prosecution and to give both journalists and historians a chance to examine parts of the documentary record for their own research. I don’t think it is choreography at all. They don’t know how to craft an coherent narrative from documentary resources, proof its veracity and source interpretative commentary. So they just throw all the shit on the Web and strike a derring pose. Fucking hippies.

@FlyingChainSaw: Yes, choreography — the Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel had the haul a few weeks ago, embargoed so they could present their packages at the same moment. (Apple always leaks embargoed review iPhones a week in advance to Mossberg et al.)

As to the presentations themselves, I’ll let somebody else sift through them.

The counternarrative won’t be based on the documents at all, but on WikiLeaks as the organization releasing them. As you note, there’s no real “news”, just more detail than previously publicly known. But the media being what it is, this is going to drive coverage for a day or two.

@nojo: I can’t believe they put up with this kind of crap by a third party. Shows you how pathetic the press has become with cultivation of raw sources. Ellsberg was no different than any other outraged minister – just privy to a greater hoard of secrets and angrier than most, with good reason. That these top-tier papers didn’t have this stuff in 2001 is just pathetic.

@FlyingChainSaw: Well, they didn’t want to see it. Concerns about Pakistan (never mind the ISI) have been well-known over the years, but suddenly they were our “allies”, and the narrative had to be revised to suit. Plus national journalists were (and are) afraid to question the government, for fear of losing their sources.

Why the Times ran with this one is curious, however. Maybe since the dump was happening anyway, they wanted a piece of it.

@FlyingChainSaw: Also recall that the Pentagon Papers were a narrative — a classified history of the war. The WikiLeaks dump is just that: source materials, the stuff historians trawl through decades later.

The Times (and the Post? It’s been a few decades) did have Ellsberg to point out the Naughty Bits, but they were effectively crafting a meta-narrative from the original narrative. Here everyone has to construct stories from scratch.

i saw this yesterday and knew panties were bunching.
you mean there are baad things going on in afpackistan that we don’t know about? i’m shocked…SHOCKED!
and who reads the guardian? it’s become the national enquirer.
WAR…why escapism tv, books and movies were invented.

@nojo: Right. There was direction from Ellsberg but the story was betrayal, obfuscation and deceit and that had to be confirmed and weighted in a full reading of the secret history. Yes, Times, Post and the Boston paper, the Globe, ended up in court, although like COINTELPRO, a number of journalists got copies, only the big guns decided to make a story of it.

@FlyingChainSaw: Indeed. The only difference, I guess, is that although good and proper journos work with this kind of shit on a daily basis, 50,000 pages of classified shit is an impressive, and illegal dump. But a couple of other thoughts:

1. Ellsberg was on Larry Kong last night, and he was actually crowing about these being the “new” Pentagon Papers. He referred to them as such.

2. Apparently Rolling Stone is now a “respected news source”, since it seems that every time I turn on cable nooz, there’s some contributing editor or another commenting on the economy, the awl spill, Bumfuckistan, etc. When are they going to bring on the photogs who get to shoot all the pictures of airbrushed cooters, now that is journalism.

@Nabisco: Ellsberg is not wrong and I am sure the fellow gave considerable thought to his characterization. Still, the orchestration of the release to make Wikileaks the story instead of the narratives of deceit apparent in the recovered documentation allows the administration to obscure the crimes of our intelligence community by turning this into a story about WikiLeak’s purported breach of law and perhaps complicates the defense in that the newspapers are actually mentioned in the constitution. A glorified FTP site? I dunno if it’s so difficult to imagine Scalia and Company deciding the First Amendment does not cover an electronic file cabinet left open for enemies foreign and domestic to pick through.

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