columnIsrael at War

Citing ‘anonymous officials’ for political purposes

A report on Monday by "NBC News" correspondent Andrea Mitchell is an example of promoting an agenda by putting it in the mouth of an incognito authority figure.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is asked a question by Andrea Mitchell as he visits a warehouse at Ashdod Port in Israel, built for humanitarian aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, May 1, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is asked a question by Andrea Mitchell as he visits a warehouse at Ashdod Port in Israel, built for humanitarian aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, May 1, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.
Ruthie Blum. Photo by Ariel Jerozolomski.
Ruthie Blum
Ruthie Blum, former adviser at the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is an award-winning columnist and senior contributing editor at JNS, as well as co-host, with Amb. Mark Regev, of "Israel Undiplomatic" on JNS-TV. She writes and lectures on Israeli politics and culture, and on U.S.-Israel relations. Originally from New York City, she moved to Israel in 1977 and is based in Tel Aviv.

The citing of anonymous sources is par for the course in today’s world of click-bait journalism. But since Oct. 7, the practice has completely replaced professional coverage.

There are a few reasons for this. One is to keep up with the pace of social media.

Since individuals are able to post fact, fiction and everything in between on various platforms, formal outlets—already competing against one another—scramble to publish items often posing as “breaking news” without checking their veracity.

A second involves access to people in power. A publication that allows politicians to provide “scoops”—or, more commonly, trial balloons—becomes a go-to address for such maneuvers.

A third is political. A paper interested in promoting a particular agenda might disguise opinion as news by putting it in the mouth of an “official.” And due to the proliferation of such quotes, it’s difficult to discern where they’re lurking.

A report on Monday by NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell is a case in point. According to Mitchell, a “senior [U.S.] administration official” told her that the rescue of four hostages over the weekend “will likely complicate Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s efforts to broker a new cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas that would secure the release of the remaining captives in Gaza.”

Going on to paraphrase the mystery person in question, she explains on his behalf that the “freeing of the hostages has strengthened Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s determination to continue pursuing military operations, rather than agreeing to a cease-fire,” and that “Hamas military leader Yahya Sinwar, who has held out despite intense pressure for a deal from Qatar and Egypt, could take an even harder line because of the high number of civilian Palestinian casualties from the Israeli rescue operation.”

Furthermore, the “official” added, as per Mitchell, “while the release of the four Israeli hostages is welcome news, it is not going to change the status quo because there is still a significant number of hostages remaining, including five Americans believed to be alive.”

This type of ventriloquism is inexcusable. If the puppeteer is an actual authority figure presenting a genuine position, why not identify him? And if he’s not willing to own his claims, why treat them as reliable?

In this instance, the answer is obvious: Mitchell, like her bosses at NBC, is a shill for the current administration in Washington. Ironically, then, it’s not necessary for her connections at the White House and State Department to be incognito. We know they take her calls and she theirs.

We know, as well, that only Blinken and President Joe Biden could be so crude and clueless as to assert that rescuing Noa Argamani, Almog Meir Jan, Andrey Kozlov and Shlomi Ziv “isn’t going to change the status quo.”

That’s why anyone reading the story—ridiculous in its breast-beating about Sinwar supposedly toughening his stance because of Netanyahu’s bold move to save innocent Israelis enslaved in Gaza—can see that if it wasn’t concocted by Mitchell, it came directly from Blinken’s office. And the only justification for presenting it as some kind of revelation is the number of “likes” and “shares” it will generate on X.

Well, there’s also the timing, of course, as Blinken was on his way to Egypt and Israel, before heading to Jordan and Qatar on his latest visit to the region. Since this will be as fruitless as his previous trips to demand an end to the war, he needs a hefty tailwind from his friends in the press.

We can’t wait to see which “senior officials” will be commenting on his efforts and whom they will be blaming for the dishonest broker’s lack of success.

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