Saturday, December 16, 2017


Here is another word that has changed in meaning, and so deceives us now.  When  one hears that something is a "leak," the image is one from physical reality, as a leak in a bucket or a balloon.  It is something unintentional, an indication that something has gone wrong and is a problem.  By analogy, when a news source reports that something is "leaked," it carries the image that the clever reporter got some incautious should to reveal something he should not have, or that an individual or small group within an organisation were acting against orders and secretly let out information for their own purposes, or nobly, for the good of the public.

This is no longer remotely true, if indeed it ever was. A leak is a carefully-managed bit of information.  There is nothing accidental or unintentional about it.  News organisations perpetuate the myth because it makes them look clever, providing a service to the public. They are actually providing a service to the leakers.

I am told that the Washington Post is the house organ of the federal agencies, including our intelligence services. All of the news agencies work from sources they have cultivated and give off the impression that they have dug deep and are shining the light of truth on events, but in terms of the federal government, WaPo is king. In their minds, they are performing the service of telling us what is "really" going on.  I suspect they mostly believe that. It is even somewhat true - nothing could long sustain if it had no truth whatsoever.  But it is a highly managed truth, in the service of anonymous sources.  The word "leak" is misleading.


james said...

"A leak is a carefully-managed bit of information."

The colloquial sense of "leak" may be even more appropriate.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

You have won the thread with the first comment. I hope the rest of us are worthy of following on.

james said...

Sorry, not trying to win threads--just angry. It isn't as though there was ever a better era, of course, but...

"What do you despise? By this you are truly known."