[extropy-chat] survey on fringe ideas: politics

Hal Finney hal at finney.org
Fri Oct 28 18:27:29 UTC 2005

There is one thing I find interesting about this story, relating to
these questions from Spike:

> OK now.  Do you think that
> 1.  Rove leaked the CIA agent's identity to get revenge
> 2.  Libby leaked the CIA agent's identity to get revenge
> 3.  Cheney leaked the CIA agent's identity to get revenge

The interesting point to me is that again and again in reports on this
issue, the motivation described is not, as Spike has it, for revenge.
Revenge makes sense.  Punishment would make sense as well - my theory is
that Wilson was threatened before publication that if he went forward,
his wife would be outed.  And so they followed through.  That seems
logical to me.  The administration would have known he was going to
publish and they would have tried to stop him.  When they failed, they
have to follow through with their threats to retain credibility.

The problem though is that much or most of the media analysis I have
read in the past does not describe the hypothetical motivation as being
revenge or punishment.  Rather, we read stories like the following from
the Boston Globe:


"Fitzgerald's investigation began with the 2003 publication of Plame's
status as a covert operative in an article by syndicated columnist
Robert Novak. The column sought to discredit Plame's husband, Joseph
C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador who became a vocal critic of the Bush
administration's case for the Iraq war."

The motivation described here is to "discredit" Wilson.  Apparently the
fact that his wife is a high level CIA operative is supposed to make
him less credible?  Does that make sense?  Not to me.  If anything it
raises his stature, in my mind.  Wilson is already a credible figure,
and the fact that his wife is also someone of importance makes them
sound like a true power couple.

It's frustrating to me because, perhaps due to editorial decisions by the
local paper, "discredit" is the verb that I almost always see.  And it
is used over and over again, in every story on the topic.  It's like no
one is even thinking when they write these stories.  They just parrot
this language about discrediting Wilson without any analysis of how
exactly this is going to discredit him.

My guess is that the real reason they do this, rather than using the
blunt language Spike does of "revenge", is because that is just too
harsh and shocking.  To say that the administration outed Plame for
revenge reminds us that in fact this action was a severe blow to her,
and by extension, to her husband.  Her career is ruined now.  And it's
not impossible that she could face physical harm as a result of being
outed so visibly.  She might become a target for anti-CIA operations,
either foreign or domestic.  It is indeed a very strong act of revenge
and punishment.

To write this, then, is to imply that the administration wanted to kill
this woman's career and possibly put her life in danger.  That's a
terrible thing to accuse someone of.  And since there is no direct
evidence that this is what happened, my guess is that most newspapers
are unwilling to make that accusation even implicitly.

So they fall back on this "discredit" language, something far more mild
and less inflamatory, and they use it even though it makes virtually
no sense.  It at least gives them a word they can use in their stories
without having to go out on the limb of accusing Rove et al of such a
harsh action as revenge.  The absence of logic doesn't matter.

The sad thing is that they have such a low opinion of their readers
that they think they can use such words and no one will notice or care.
Perhaps even sadder is that in fact no one does seem to notice or care.


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