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The Transparency Trap


This is an excellent point about the incentives that the completely botched coverage of the 2016 election has created:

On the one hand, Biden’s Senate records are very unlikely to have information material to the Reade allegations. On the other hand, releasing them will lead to an endless drip of “questions raised shadows cast clouds emailsed” stories about Biden as reporters will be assigned to pore over them and will be unwilling to conclude that they wasted their time. So why would he release them?

The decision to give much more negative attention to hacked emails and the Clinton Foundation than to Donald Trump’s failure to disclose his tax returns will have long-term ramifications. Politicians are trying to win. If the lesson is “transparency will be relentlessly weaponized against you irrespective of whether any actual misconduct is involved,” they will respond accordingly. I don’t think this new equilibrium will be a good thing per se, but the editors and reporters who will complain about it have nobody to blame but themselves. They had a test of whether information about Donald Trump’s opponent could be reported with the proper perspective, they failed massively, and they are still convinced they did nothing wrong, and at some point politicians are going to decide to stop hitting themselves (cf. also Bernie refusing to release medical records after his heart attack.)

…one additional point: the major Dem candidate this cycle who went along with media demands for transparency most strongly was Elizabeth Warren, and we know how that went.

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