When a “source” uses a journalist to perpetrate a fraud

Several people (some via email rather than comments) have pointed out this observation of Glenn Greenwald’s in a letter at Salon:

I think it’d be worth it to sue [Andrew Breitbart] just to uncover his “source” who did the editing. “Journalists” are supposed to expose their “sources” if they use the journalist to perpetrate a fraud.

Ignore the part about suing, that’s not the issue here. The issue is the implicit claim that a fraudulent “source” does not deserve or have a right to remain anonymous and the explicit claim that journalists are supposed to expose such sources when they (the sources) use the journalist to propagate the fraud. The above-mentioned people note that this means Chris Mooney, being a journalist, is supposed to expose his fraudulent “source” who used him to perpetrate a fraud.

That is an interesting point. It prompted me to take another look at those two (everlasting, wretched) “Tom Johnson” posts. Well yes – Mooney does help the fraud to perpetrate smears of Dawkins, PZ and Jerry Coyne.

In Counterproductive Attacks on Religion – Exhibit A “Tom Johnson” says

Many of my colleagues are fans of Dawkins, PZ, and their ilk and make a point AT CONSERVATION EVENTS to mock the religious to their face, shout forced laughter at them, and call them “stupid,” “ignorant” and the like…

In comment 10 on that post “Tom Johnson” corroborates his own story by saying it’s true:

Sorbet, I don’t doubt that you have NA friends who are not combative, but please don’t doubt that I have NA colleagues that are. For what it’s worth, I’m not exaggerating my case or making things up.

Well, it is, of course, worth nothing, and exaggerating and making things up are exactly what he was doing. He goes on, in his pleasant way:

…when I ask them about why they feel that they need to chastise the faithful when they’ve asked us to come help (trust me, we have heated discussions), they directly quote PZ Meyers, Jerry Coyne (especially), and Dawkins as why it should be a “good” scientist’s job these days to attack the faithful – no matter how moderate the faithful may be. I then get called a faithiest (thanks, Jerry Coyne) for NOT calling the religious ignorant and stupid.

So there you have it – a known fraud telling lies about people on the blog of a journalist, who is still protecting his identity. “Journalists” are supposed to expose their “sources” if they use the journalist to perpetrate a fraud.

On the second post, My Thanks to Tom Johnson, Mooney smeared a number of people:

Last week, the New Atheist comment machine targeted the following post, in which I republished a preexisting blog comment from a scientist named “Tom Johnson” (a psuedonym).

I’m part of that offensively-named “machine” because I did a post, not “targeting” the Tom Johnson post, but pointing out that it looked like bullshit and was the product of an anonymous source and that Mooney, as a journalist, should be more skeptical than that. I was right, and I did nothing wrong in expressing skepticism about “Tom Johnson,” but I was part of the smear based on the lies told by the fraudulent “source.” “Journalists” are supposed to expose their “sources” if they use the journalist to perpetrate a fraud.

Food for thought.

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