As a mainstream media pawn, I’m often keeping government secrets, including the latest movements of the Taliban and how Ben Mulroney keeps his hair that way.
I’m kidding — or am I? — but when you work in journalism long enough, you learn many people are convinced you’re part of some grand conspiracy theory. You also learn that many people apparently do jumping jacks in rooms with low ceilings.
For example, I once worked at a newspaper that was accused of reporting on a murder because it happened in a park where a natural gas line was being proposed. So, you see, we were trying to devalue the land in a bid to help our corporate buddies get their gas line.
I wish we were that smart, truly. I also wish we had that level of supervillainy. It would be a lot of fun, tenting our fingers and such. But I’m afraid the only thing that makes that even remotely like real journalism management is how inefficient it is.
Some people like to imagine the media as a shadowy collective that works in lockstep to undermine whatever beliefs they hold. It’s not been unusual to show up at an event with a notepad and have someone growl, “Are you the media?!”
“Yes. I am the media. Well, me and Peter Mansbridge. We just lunched. I’d love to talk, but there’s a ribbon-cutting in Regina, then I have an Ottawa meeting with the prime minister about what to make up this week.”
I’ve been thinking about conspiracy theories because of the never ending WikiLeaks story, which has taken secret U.S. documents, put them on the Internet, and resulted in a worldwide surge of Facebook status updates about “taking a WikiLeak.” And that’s been the most interesting thing about it.
WikiLeaks underlines the big flaw of most conspiracy theories: A conspiracy requires people to keep their mouth shut. And people don’t. WikiLeaks hasn’t revealed anything we didn’t already know. It’s been a bit like reading your daughter’s diary and finding out she likes boys and “hates hates hates” you. Well, duh.
The lesson? There are no secrets. Everything’s already out there, and the things that aren’t get found out soon enough.
Frankly, if a journalist faces pressure from corporations or government about a story that could change lives, he’ll push past the oppression for one simple reason: He could win an award.
We are evil. Just not for the reasons you think.