Government Bullies


One of the many Media Bistro blogs, FishbowlNY, published and article by Chris O’Shea on Friday titled, “USA Today Journalists Targets of Online Intimidation”.  The two journalists in the article, Tom Vanden Brook and Ray Locker claim that fake websites and twitter accounts had been created as a smear campaign to deter them from the investigative journalism work they were doing about the Pentagon and its propaganda contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

O’Shea quotes sections from a Washington Post opinion blog, which stated:

“In an interview Thursday night, Locker said that the campaign was ‘something I’ve never experienced in 30 years’  in this business. The sites launched in the names of the USA Today colleagues, suggests Locker, were insidious samples of infocrafting. They contained links to work that the journalists had done, plus a space for comments on the stories. In that space, says Locker, there were ‘nasty, untrue’ remarks from commenters who didn’t appear to be real people.”

Erik Wemple, the author of the blog post for The Washington Post also stated:

“Looking back, the 52-year-old Locker doesn’t come off traumatized by the Internet tinkering. “It’s been a little bit of a distraction,” he says. But he’s happy that the paper published a story exposing the scheme. “I think it’s good that we called attention to it. . . . I’m glad that the people I work for have my back,” he says.

There is some symmetry to the whole story: Locker and Vanden Brook document in their investigative story that info ops practices in war zones are “dubious.” Just like the ones arrayed against them.”

Apparently the Pentagon denies any involvement in this attack on the journalists.  Interesting, considering the very nature of the Pentagon and it’s practices lend to a school of thought that includes secrecy, subterfuge and manipulation of Peoples and who knows what else you can imagine.  I’m not knocking these things as value-less tools in times of war, but since when is it okay to practice this behavior on citizens of the United States charged with the role of the watchdog?

I’m relieved to read that this attempt of intimidation did not work, and the two journalists continued with their investigative project, but the thought that our government, especially in light of bills like CISPA trying to be passed, should be examined very seriously and we journalists should be on our guard, and realize that the time to protect our freedoms of speech and press as well as privacy need to be at the forefront of our minds.  Now more than ever, I believe journalists must continue to scrutinize the government and fully embrace that watchdog role.  Kudos to USA Today for standing by their journalists.  I hope to see more of this type of support in the future.

You can read the investigative reporting by Locker and Vanden Brook here and here.

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About kendra75

Freelance journalist, researcher, history buff and full time student.

Posted on April 21, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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