EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the March 14, 2005, issue of National Review.
One of the problems with the concept of “spin” is that it turns media analysis into a full-fledged James Jesus Angleton Cold War wilderness of mirrors. At Berlin station in the good old days, if the guy’s telling the truth, that could mean he’s a real defector. If what he’s saying isn’t true, that could mean he’s a KGB-planted fake defector. On the other hand, if the guy’s telling the truth, that could mean he’s a fake defector feeding some true stuff so we won’t spot he’s a fake defector. And, if what he’s saying isn’t true, that could mean he’s a real defector, since every transparently honest fellow is bound to get a few things wrong. On the other other hand, if what he’s saying isn’t true, that could mean he’s a fake defector posing as one of those true defectors who appear more plausible by getting a few things wrong. On the other other other hand . . .
An ex-MI6 guy in Britain once told me that in intelligence every fact had a minimum of seven possible meanings. As I recall, at Angleton’s CIA, they figured it had eleven possible meanings. Let’s just say it’s like 7-Eleven: Whatever you’re looking for, it’ll be in there somewhere.
I don’t think the Berlin-station types would have been impressed by our current journalistic elite. For example, the other day, some secret tape recordings of George W. Bush fell into the hands of the New York Times and the excitable lads rushed into print with them, and the great herd of America’s mainstream media stampeded along behind. The chaps at the Times were thrilled by these illicit tapes and splashed them over the front page for days on end, even though the clandestine recordings shockingly reveal that the private off-the-record Bush is . . . exactly the same as the public on-the-record Bush!
But, like some neophyte slip of a thing in his first week at the CIA, the Times assumed that the very fact that they were secret recordings must mean they were highly damaging. In completely private conversations taped without his knowledge, Bush reveals . . .
“I’ve got a great wife”!!
“The Bible is pretty good about keeping your ego in check”!!!…