I forget who talks about the bizarre phenomenon of reading a newspaper article covering something about which you're knowledgeable. You notice that the reporter has absolutely no idea what they're writing about and that they've made egregious errors of fact and have missed any nuance on the topic.
Then you turn the page and read the next article and say, "Oh, wow, that's interesting." You know enough to be skeptical about certain articles but then you swallow whole the next one.
I might have the opposite problem of having too highly developed cynicism about everything I read.
In any case, I was thinking of all this while reading this small news story about the exoneration of General John Allen. He was caught up in the whole Petraeus/Broadwell affair. Now, I could tell when reading every update of that story that each article was sourced from interested parties who were skewing the news. So, for instance, the whistleblower government employee who figured out that the CIA Director shouldn't be having an affair probably became a weirdo who had sent erotic pictures to someone he was pursuing. Which was true -- except for the part about him being a weirdo, the pictures being erotic, and the recipient being someone he was pursuing.
And when General John Allen was brought into the scandal, a government bureaucrat alleged that he'd sent tens of thousands of pages worth of absolutely scandalous emails to a lover. Which was true -- except for the amount of emails, the nature of his relationship with the person to which they were sent and their scandalous nature.
The Washington Post reports today:
Gen. John Allen cleared in misconduct inquiry
See, after letting anonymous sources claim, without any substantiation, that the emails in question were racy and flirtatious and questionable and inappropriate, the newspaper now tells us that they were nothing of the sort. He's been completely exonerated.
Let this be a lesson. Treat all anonymous, unsubstantiated claims with a high degree of skepticism. Consider the motivations of a prosecutor, bureaucrat, or other antagonist. And try to remember to follow up on stories to determine whether the initial allegations are true.
In other words, don't trust the man!