This week, the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg dropped what could be his biggest piece since he won a major award for drawing bogus links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. The piece claims that during a 2018 visit to France President Trump canceled a visit to an American war cemetery, dismissing the dead who lie there as ‘suckers’ and ‘losers’ unworthy of passing beneath his presidential shadow.
Outsiders have expressed skepticism of the story for many reasons. For starters, in Goldberg’s account, Trump also questioned America’s pointless and enormously costly involvement in World War One. If Trump really said that, it would be an unprecedented display of historical knowledge and insight on the President’s part.
Then there’s the fact this supposed exchange happened all the way back in 2018. For four years every remotely unflattering conversation involving the President has leaked almost immediately: recall the phone call with then-Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, or the ‘shithole countries’ remark. But somehow this conversation was preserved in Manhattan Project-level secrecy for more than two years, through a hotly contested midterm election, before abruptly being leaked and confirmed by four separate sources at the apex of the 2020 campaign, with a slickly produced ad ready to come out barely 12 hours later. Yet confirmed Trump-hater John Bolton undercut the core claim of Goldberg’s piece in his own recently-published book?
And then finally there’s the ‘unnamed sources’ part. Trump has countless very public enemies, many of whom were once close advisers to his administration. Yet for this supposedly ironclad story, nobody is willing to go on the record, while numerous people are on the record denying it. Supporters have pointed to the Goldberg’s personal reputation as Highly Reliable Reporter™ and the Atlantic’s status as a Highly Respected Magazine™, although this is the same magazine that printed a fake story to justify the defunding of the police. According to Goldberg, his sources just couldn’t take the fateful final step of lending their names to their allegations, because they fear having mean tweets sent at them. Literally! Two former senior administration officials also ‘confirmed’ the story to Fox News, which led to cheers from #Resistance types who believe the network is ‘state media’ that would never report anything negative about the President.
Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg explains why he used unnamed sources in report about Trump insulting dead soldiers:
— Daniel Chaitin (@danielchaitin7) September 4, 2020
It might reasonably be argued that if you do not wish to see mean tweets, you could simply not go on Twitter. This approach seems unthinkable to Goldberg’s sources; so secrecy it is. It is settled: spectacular, impossible-to-disprove, election-swinging allegations can be made by totally anonymous individuals leaking to a historically gullible reporter.
And that’s a good thing, because Cockburn has something important to reveal: unnamed sources from inside the Atlantic have shared disturbing information about editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg. According to these four unnamed sources, Goldberg lives in abject terror of his own staff, who are adamant that the Atlantic should be renamed the South China Sea.
In 2018, when recently hired conservative Kevin D. Williamson was targeted by the Atlantic’s Red Guards, Goldberg at first tried to defend him, but later, according to three eyewitnesses, began crying, soiled himself, then hid in a bathroom on a different floor of the building for seven hours. Sources said Goldberg’s letter announcing Williamson’s firing after a single week was extracted under torture: staffers threatened to burn Goldberg’s entire collection of vintage G.I. Joe dolls. Rather than police the extremists who rule his magazine, Goldberg now begs to be left alone in his office, where he plays with 90s-era Micro Machines to simulate a war with Iran (he even makes ‘Pew pew!’ noises while having his tiny tanks fire).
Readers may reasonably object that all of the above sounds fake, even ‘made up’. Lamentably the totally unnamed sources who supplied the information cannot go on the record to confirm their allegations. After all, somebody might tweet something unpleasant at them.