The Washington Post is upset. That’s understandable: one of its contributors seems to have been tortured and killed. Many of the senior staff were close to Jamal Khashoggi, and are perhaps grieving.
But the trouble with journalists being upset is that they tend to turn themselves or their grief into the story. This exacerbates an already massive problem in Washington, where journalism is elevated into such a high civic duty it becomes almost religion. Well-known journalists here start to behave like bishops, incanting the accepted pieties and occasionally acting like a mafia to ensure nobody hurts the free speech church by speaking freely.
That’s exactly what is happening with the Khashoggi story. Yesterday the newspaper published a horrendously skewed news report about a right-wing ‘whisper campaign’ against Jamal Khashoggi. It said that a ‘cadre of conservative House Republicans allied with Trump has been privately exchanging articles from right-wing outlets that fuel suspicion of Khashoggi, highlighting his association with the Muslim Brotherhood in his youth and raising conspiratorial questions about his work decades ago as an embedded reporter covering Osama bin Laden.’ This has been done, apparently, to protect President Trump ‘as he works to preserve the US-Saudi relationship and avoid confronting the Saudis on human rights.’