Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Why So Many Leaks to the Press?

The Trump Administration initially asked for government insiders to leak news to the press. The Administration then insisted that the leaks continue unabated and preferably increase in volume.  Those in a position to leak news to the press got the message loud and clear. However the Trump Administration has no recollection of asking for a single leak. They didn’t ask with words. Actions speak much louder than words, especially when the speaker cannot be trusted to speak honestly. The actions of the Trump Administration could not have been more clear. Leaks were called for in a big way to preserve our democracy, the free press and access to factual truths. 

The Trump Administration appears to be assuming that words speak louder than actions. The White House staff continually endeavors to manage their press coverage and change their story as if their words are somehow powerful. President Trump and his advisors are walking a different talk from what they are saying. They are sending mixed messages. The press and public both sort out this confusion through the lens of “actions speak louder than words”. “Follow their feet, not their flapping lips” is a effective guide for remaining oriented amidst this barrage of confusing messages. It’s immediately clear what the Administration is really saying in contrast to their contradictory verbiage. 

It’s very easy to ask for leaks without asking directly. The Trump Administration appears to be following the playbook verbatim. Here are some pointers for getting leaks to happen wily nilly:

  1. Let it become widely known that factual information will not be forthcoming, in part by coverups and in part by spewing erroneous speculations routinely.
  2. Discourage further investigations into questionable evidence by frequent suggestions that “there is nothing there to find” 
  3. Make obvious efforts to dismiss critics, block deeper inquiries and favor propagandists who replicate your pronouncements without question. 
  4. Become defensive and vindictive anytime outsiders reveal truths which target your exaggerated claims of progress, success or intended results. 
  5. Express your admiration for any high profile despot who poisons his critics, imposes state control on broadcasters and invades sovereign countries without compunction.
  6. Shoot all messengers who expose your shortcomings, ignorance or incompetence by banning their attendance at briefings, gagging their interagency communications or silencing them to their faces.
  7. Frame all your opponents, who are attempting to weaken your bargaining position, by labeling them as losers and discrediting their professional credentials. 
  8. Overplay your hand whenever getting the upper hand so you appear to be a bully who is fixated on winning regardless of the cost.  
  9. Use misdirection and confusion techniques so often as to appear really confused, instead of successfully deflecting accusations with a firm grip on reality
  10. Rely on hyperbole, fantasy and paranoia to get the public to feel at ease, to put in a kind word for you and to put their trust back in your leadership. 
  11. Routinely shift the blame away from yourself, indulge in frequent “character assassinations” and avoid taking any responsibility for any mistakes, errors or falsehoods. 
  12. Threaten to prosecute all those leaking information to the press as if they are a bigger threat to national security than anyone following this playbook to the letter. 

Taking these actions speaks much more loudly than mere words. They send very clear signals that anyone following these dozen pointers:

  • Cannot tell the truth, appreciate the truth or seek out the truth
  • Cannot stop themselves from interfering with the truth getting uncovered
  • Cannot believe the truth is true, accurate and verified
  • Cannot trust where the truth is coming from, how its being used or what it’s implying
  • Cannot handle the truth itself at first glance or upon further reflection
  • Cannot cope with the truth being revealed by others unless it attacks others
  • Cannot expect the truth to contribute to their goals, progress or corrective actions

With so much missing from forthright discourse, leaks become essential, even irreplaceable. There are so many gaps in explanations, motivations and plans, the only available way to fill the gaps is leaks. Leaks seem like the right thing to do when the only alternatives are wallowing in ignorance, falling into paranoia or jumping to false conclusions. 

With truth taken off the table at the highest level, truth naturally flows under the table where the leaks can be shared anonymously. The FBI, CIA and NSA move to the forefront of trusted voices. Journalists become like spies who cannot reveal their sources and methods. Journalists and governmental investigators become far more trusted than the White House to reveal the real stories of who was there, what was said, when did it occur, and what then happened as a result. The leaked information seems extremely valuable when truth becomes such a scarce commodity.

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