A Modest Proposal for 'Anonymous'
As a means of spreading mistrust, confusion and distraction within the Trump administration, last week's New York Times op-ed by "Anonymous" was a master stroke. Vladimir Putin himself could hardly have done better. Suspicion is rife and the administration has been left to rummage through its own ranks for this incognito writer who claims and lauds subversion of the president by his own high-level staff. Relays of senior officials have been left to deny authorship, without being able to prove the truth of their denials unless the real author is discovered.
As Ambassador Nikki Haley accurately summed it up in a Sept. 7 op-ed in the Washington Post, this anonymous writer, described by the Times as "a senior official," has sowed mistrust among thousands of government workers, who had nothing to do with this article. Anonymous has encouraged America's adversaries to, as Haley puts it, "promote their hostile claims about the stability of our government," and unfairly cast doubt on the president himself "in a way that cannot be directly refuted because the anonymous acccuser's credibility and knowledge cannot be judged."
The Times tells us this op-ed escapade required anonymity because the author, if identified, would be in jeopardy of losing a federal job. That alone suggests the Times is willing to vouch for an author with an odd set of priorities. But surely there's more to it. The titillating use of "Anonymous" has brought a gush of extraordinary attention to the Times, and one might wonder if there will be special credit inhouse for anyone on its editorial staff who had a hand in ferrying the op-ed from the anonymous writer -- this erstwhile conservative champion of "free minds, free markets and free people" -- to the public page. While the contents of the op-ed brought nothing new to the rumor mills or furor of America's political debate, the tease of anonymity, combined with the label of "senior official," has become clickbait galore. In effect, the platform of a government job has been leveraged here to serve the personal agenda of an individual within the administration. When the medium for this sort of behavior is money, it's called corruption.
So, we now have the most titillating guessing game of the political season. News outlets have been producing lists of likely suspects, reporting on the denials and discoursing on the pros and cons of anonymous authorship. The Times itself has been expanding on its own op-ed from every conceivable angle (news, podcast, letters) -- except, it would appear, actually uncovering in its news pages the identity of the anonymous "senior official" whose notion of a "steady state" is to assure American voters that there are powerful staffers working in the shadows to thwart, as they personally see fit, the agenda of the democratically elected president.