Friday, October 01, 2010

An I. F. Stone "shirttail"

Izzy Stone became well-known for paying attention to the "shirttail" of a news article. He explained the term in this 1988 interview:
You know what a "shirttail" is? When a paper picks up some information from the wires, related to a larger story, the desk editors will run it as little paragraphs following the paper’s own story. They hang down at the end like a shirttail.
He often found that the shirttail was more interesting or revealing than - and sometimes directly contradicted - the story's lead.

Well, on Tuesday, AP provided a damn fine example of that. Here's the lead:
Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales said Tuesday that whistle-blower website WikiLeaks' decision to publish entire contents of classified U.S. military documents was irresponsible and could put innocent lives at risk.

WikiLeaks drew worldwide publicity in late July when it posted a huge trove of secret U.S. military documents about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. Defense Department has warned it could have blood on its hands for publishing documents that name Afghan sources.
Besides calling WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange "irresponsible," Wales accused him of "dumping all kinds of crazy information online and get[ting] people killed." (And irrelevantly groused about WikiLeaks using the term "wiki.")

Now, I'm sure all the folks in the White House and the DOD are delighted that the media has swallowed their line and has made the leaking itself, rather than what the leak revealed, the story. But compare all that with this, the last line in the story, the shirttail:
The WikiLeaks leak is unrivaled in its scope, but so far there is no evidence that any Afghans named in the leaked documents as defectors or informants from the Taliban insurgency have been harmed in retaliation.
Which surely does re-raise the question of just who it is that is endangering the lives of civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the media's almost-eager capitulation to the militarists' framing of the issue.

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