We've reached the part in the news cycle where one can just make up anything, anywhere about anyone, and cite imaginary people as evidence. Case in point, today's Politico report on how the blockbuster bestselling book by, well, an allegedly former White House official who to this day remains anonymous, and which allegedly provides an "unprecedented behind-the-scenes portrait of the Trump presidency from the anonymous senior official whose first words of warning about the president rocked the nation's capital" is being received by the White House. Or at least by more anonymous people at the White House.
While delightfully humorous in isolation, the following actual line from the Politico book report perfectly summarizes the state of modern reporting:
Most of the officials spoke on condition of anonymity to trash the anonymous author, whose book they acknowledged they have only read about.
The Politico report's argument, apparently sourced to more anonymous White House officials who may or may not go on to write anonymous books of their own, which will then be reviewed by more anonymous officials, is that the "White House is breathing a big sigh of relief after the new book by an anonymous author claiming to be a senior Trump official doesn’t seem to have many new damaging details of the president’s conduct in office, according to interviews with five current White House officials."
All of them, of course, anonymous, because we now live in a world where one can write any narrative at all for an article - or a book - and just quote "anonymous sources" or be an "anonymous author" and still make tons of money.
Or maybe Americans are finally tiring of that news cycle. After all, even that liberal bastion of anti-Trumpism, the New York Times, went so far as to pan the newly released book (maybe the NYT is a Russian asset for mocking the book? Anonymous sources have yet to opine).
These officials’ main complaint: The author is “cowardly” since the person doesn’t cite many specific examples in the book out of fear of making it easier for journalists and colleagues to discover the writer’s identity.
And they say the book is likely to contain errors, based on the unusually secretive process by which it was written.
“Normally, the publishers would do a pretty good fact-check on this but it’s impossible to do a fact-check if you don’t know who the person is and if you’re not citing specific stories so it’s literally the least fact-checked book ever,” said a White House official.
There is another problem with these "shocking" tell all stories that are fabricated cover to cover (because absent fact-checking, a lack of reference to facts and actual sources, one can only assume the entire story is made up): the all too real Trump has made any "shock" value decline to zero: in this case the anonymous White House staffers "are dismissing the author’s description of President Donald Trump as cruel, incompetent, ill-tempered and a threat to the country as nothing new. Those epithets and more, they say, are present on “liberal Twitter every day,” as the official put it."
Indeed: if there is one thing the world has had even more than Trump's non stop twitter barrage, it is shock stories written about Trump citing anonymous sources. .
The Politico article then goes on in some length to speculate on the identity of the author, the same author whose Sept 5, 2018 op-ed - published ironically in the same NYT that is now deriding the book - announcing Anonymous’ “resistance” against Trump "would seem to rule out anyone who left the administration before that date."
Perhaps, but the way the book is written, the author could literally be anyone: after all, most of the stories are broad generalizations one can quite literally come up with while feeding the cats at 9am on a Saturday and drinking their morning coffee. And since nothing can be fact-checked, that is probably a safe assumption.
That probably explains why one of the anonymous officials quoted by Politico, had said the book's content was "ridiculous. I certainly heard nothing about it and I certainly would have."
Then again, the source is anonymous, and could have been merely fabricated by the newspaper, which brings us to the delightful irony of political "reporting" - one writes stories quoting unknown officials, opinion about shocking claims made by another unknown official.
And whereas the public had largely learned to ignore such fake news especially in the aftermath of the Trump Russian collusion fiasco, they have now reemerged in the form of "whistleblowers" hoping to get a second life in the public arena by attempting to take down the president, with even more hearsay, innuendo and unsourced reports.
That... or simply try to make money by taking advantage of people's gullibility:
Hogan Gidley, the deputy White House press secretary, also said the author was trying to profit off his or her time in the administration.
“There are so many people trying to make a buck off of Donald Trump’s name at this point, I’ve lost count,” he said. “I find it comical that so many in the media try to claim that this person is brave and courageous when the author won’t even put their name to it. It’s completely gutless, not to mention false.”
“It’s another PC establishment elitist who thinks they know better than the millions and millions of people who voted for Donald Trump because they were sick and tired of the swamp’s stranglehold on this country,” Gidley added, while Eli Nachmany, a former Trump White House staffer who is now a student at Harvard Law School, said the book’s revelations haven’t surprised anyone in Trump world, calling it “another low-quality book by a disgruntled individual.”
That, incidentally, may be the most relevant take in the entire article, and for once, it is actually sourced to real, named people.
Although our favorite line from the entire piece about a book which will be forgotten in a few weeks was the following:
"You see the headlines and you say, ‘Oh cool, more bullshit, let’s get back to work,’" said one official.
Which just happens to be a perfect encapsulation of what all modern political "reporting" has become.