Like most people, I’ve long known that factual falsehoods are routinely published in major media outlets. But as I’ve pointed out before, nothing makes you internalize just how often it really happens, how completely their editorial standards so often fail, like being personally involved in a story that receives substantial media coverage. I cannot count how many times I’ve read or heard claims from major media outlets about the Snowden story that I knew, from firsthand knowledge, were a total fabrication.
We have a perfect example of how this happens from the New York Times today, in a book review by Nicholas Lemann, the Pulitzer-Moore professor of journalism at Columbia University as well as a longtime staff writer for the New Yorker. Lemann is reviewing a new book by Edward J. Epstein — the longtime neocon, right-wing Cold Warrior, WSJ op-ed page writer, and Breitbart contributor — which basically claims Snowden is a Russian spy.
The book has been widely discredited even before its release as it is filled with demonstrable lies. The usually rhetorically restrained Bart Gellman, whose work on the Snowden story at the Washington Post won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, called the book “bad faith work” that is filled with “distortions” and “baseless and bizarro claims,” several of which he documented. I’ve documented some of the other obvious falsehoods in the book.