We’ve recently had two episodes of entrapment journalism. I’m a bit old school, so the idea of concocting a story featuring a journalist who then reports on the self-created event seems, well, wrong. But putting that aside, the two episodes were revealing of the character of the targets and the divide between our private and public faces.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker came out of the phony David Koch episode unscathed. (The same is probably not true of the staffer who put the call through.) He restated the position he took in public and, most important, he did not agree with the caller’s outlandish comments for the sake of ingratiating himself with a man he thought was the billionaire philanthropist. Walker’s staff soon realized the sting was a potential positive event because it revealed that Walker says “the same thing in private as he does in public,” as his press secretary put it. (Walker’s staff gets an “F” for call screening but an “A” for rapid response by sound bite.)
By contrast, Ron Schiller of NPR revealed in a sting video an enormous capacity for duplicity. He plays the public role of fair journalist; in private he is a cartoon version of the bile-spitting, biased liberal that conservatives have long suspected run public radio. Is he really a closet anti-Semite who believes that Jews dominate the media? Or was he trying to show some “street cred” with the fake Muslim Brotherhood member?
We can bemoan the existence of 24/7 news coverage and journalism-by-deception, but you can say this: Those who are not the same in public as they are in private had better beware. It’s no longer just the tell-all book or the disgruntled employee who can rat out a public figure; now they do it themselves.