Jack Shafer

You can’t build a better Internet out of red tape

By Jack Shafer
November 14, 2014

A NBN Co worker arranges fibre-optic cables used in the National Broadband Network in west Sydney

If the latest installment in the long-running net neutrality debate has rendered you mentally exhausted, allow me to approach the future-of-the-Internet argument from a less draining direction. You needn’t worry about mastering such tech and regulatory topics as Title II regulations, peering, and fast lanes.

Stop or I’ll write! Why cops shouldn’t fake being reporters.

By Jack Shafer
November 11, 2014

FBI Director Comey testifies before a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James B. Comey waved his truncheon at the New York Times last week in a concise letter of protest addressed to the paper’s editor. The FBI, denounced in a Nov. 1 Times editorial for impersonating an Associated Press reporter in a 2007 Seattle-area case, had nothing to apologize for, insisted Comey. While the impersonation was “unusual,” he wrote, it was still proper, appropriate, and lawful.

One journalist’s vote for divided government

By Jack Shafer
November 5, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama departs after delivering remarks on student loans at the White House in Washington

Count the Washington press corps as unintended beneficiaries of last night’s slaughter of the Democrats by the Republicans. Now, with the Republicans taking of the Senate in addition to the House, leaving them in control of all congressional committees, we can expect up to twice as many Capitol Hill investigations into alleged fraud, abuse, waste, and perfidy by the Obama administration. Witnesses called! Testimony given! Evidence subpoenaed! Executive privilege claimed! 

In covering politics, a little speculation ain’t a bad thing

By Jack Shafer
October 31, 2014

With the great burden of the 2014 campaign season largely behind us, and commercial haulers queuing to feed the countless tons of now-obsolete political coverage to the nation’s landfills, it’s a good time to visit Tom Wicker’s timeless confession about the nature of political journalism.

Our appetite for fake Ebola stories and other bunk

By Jack Shafer
October 29, 2014

As if the genuine horrors of Ebola weren’t enough, a website called the National Report has taken to ginning up hoax “reports” about the disease. Over the past month, the site has published at least seven fake stories about Ebola, including one reporting that authorities quarantined the entire town of Purdon, Texas. It would be generous to describe the National Report’s treatment of current events as “satirical.” In addition to this bogus (and stupid) story, the site has published others about Texas kindergarteners getting Ebola from a Liberian foreign exchange student; the government’s plan to implant RFID chips in citizens during a pilot Ebola vaccination program; the president’s promise that Obamacare will cover the coming epidemic; and more.

Ben Bradlee, the last giant standing

By Jack Shafer
October 22, 2014

Ben Bradlee, a former Washington Post executive editor discusses about the Watergate Hotel burglary and stories for the Post at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda

One of the great payoffs of having lived a long life arrives on the day the newspapers publish your obituary. By out-lasting your competitors and foes, the storyline naturally bends your way. Time blurs precise recollection in favor of generous feelings, which we tend to bestow upon most famous survivors, no matter what sort of lives they lived.

GamerGate: We now know what evil lurks in the heart of man – or trolls

By Jack Shafer
October 17, 2014

A girl dressed in costume plays a video game at the PAX East gaming conference in Boston

For the purposes of this column, all you need to know about “GamerGate” is that it has earned writer Anita Sarkeesian, game entrepreneur Brianna Wu, and developer Zoe Quinn violent threats from anonymous Internet sources (here’s coverage in the New York TimesReason, the Washington PostVoxHuffington Post, the Guardian, and Gawker, if you want to know more).

How the White House intruder story came out and what we can expect next

By Jack Shafer
October 1, 2014

Members of the Uniformed Division of the Secret Service patrol Pennsylvania Avenue outside the North Lawn of the White House in Washington

No bungling bureaucracy will last very long once insiders start anonymously dishing dirt to the press, a lesson currently being taught to Secret Service Director Julia Pierson. Anonymous sources from the Secret Service, its alumni, and insiders who have been read-in on current investigations are taking the agency apart brick-by-brick this month with their leaks to the Washington Post about the White House fence-jumper and the White House shooter.

All in all, Eric Holder was just another brick in the wall

By Jack Shafer
September 26, 2014

U.S.  Attorney General Holder stands with President Obama after the president announced Holder's resignation at the White House in Washington

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. first signaled his exit from office so long ago that every reporter and pundit who covers the Department of Justice has stockpiled enough copy assessing his tenure to fill a mattress. Like Derek Jeter, Holder announced his farewell tour this past February, telling the New Yorker‘s Jeffrey Toobin that he would depart in 2014. The admission prompted journalists to update and fine tune their critiques of the attorney general with emerging details, the way obituary writers tweak their pre-written obituaries of famous, old people to keep them fresh and newsy.

War without end: The U.S. may still be fighting in Syria in 2024, 2034, 2044 . . .

By Jack Shafer
September 24, 2014

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This must be what perpetual war looks like.

In a Pentagon briefing yesterday, Army Lieutenant General Bill Mayville called the cruise missiles and bombs flung at targets in Syria “the beginning of a credible and sustainable persistent campaign.” How long will the campaign last? “I would think of it in terms of years,” Mayville responded.