Yesterday the critic Glenn Greenwald published an excellent column describing the meretricious dynamic — recently thrust to the fore by the sudden resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus — between the American military and the individuals paid to report on it:
The military is by far the most respected and beloved institution among the US population — a dangerous fact in any democracy — and, even assuming they wanted to (which they don’t), our brave denizens of establishment journalism are petrified of running afoul of that kind of popular sentiment.
While Greenwald calls out several TV anchors for emoting, he misses one of “establishment journalism”‘s worst offenders: The Daily Princetonian.
Six weeks ago, in a 3,000-word story, the paper reported rumors that Petraeus was seeking Princeton’s presidency. (He’s an alum of the Graduate School.) A representative passage (bolding ours):
Other classmates of Petraeus described him as serious, intense and hardworking, which some said was necessary because of his desire to acquire a doctoral degree on a compressed schedule. Yet despite this indefatigable commitment to his academics, he still maintained a separate commitment that he would never cheat on: physical exercise. Petraeus ran competitively at the time and would always find time to fit a lengthy run into his schedule, classmates said.
Fast-forward to Friday. Within hours of Petraeus’s resignation, the Prince reported that, during interviews conducted for the article quoted above, Paula Broadwell’s relationship with Petraeus seemed sort of vague:
For a story in The Daily Princetonian in September, Broadwell’s response to interview inquiries hinted at an undefined and unclear relationship between her and Petraeus, who presumably was solely her biography subject.
After asking for and receiving advanced questions for an interview with her, Broadwell first acted a spokesman for Petraeus. [...]
Even once the ‘Prince’ clarified that it sought independent comment from Broadwell herself as an author – rather than asking her to speak for Petraeus as a spokesman, because the ‘Prince’ had already contacted the CIA press office – Broadwell emailed responses that suggested that she had been in touch with him.
It’s a weird combination — for the Prince, at least — of breathless reporting and unsubtle insinuation. Nonetheless it continues the work of the September story. Here is a transparent effort to discredit Broadwell in order to safeguard the reputation of David Petraeus, who until very recently was among the most powerful individuals in the entire world. In the context of the paper’s syrupy profile of the same man, this is pretty ridiculous. Also: despicable.
It’s no surprise, of course, that the Prince — much like other Ivy papers — feeds on power. But the Prince is interested, it seems, in something more: protecting authority, all authority, in order to further flatter it.