Cone of silence descends on a town built on leaks

There is something astonishing when this tweet draws virtual gasps on Twitter for the courage it took to write it.

“Hero,” one of the hundreds of responses to the tweet said.

[Update: The tweets have been deleted.]

The National Park Service was earlier banned from tweeting after its account retweeted a tweet showing a comparison of the attendance at the inaugurations of Donald Trump and Barack Obama.

After the NPS said that it regretted the tweet, it was allowed to speak again, but the chill has been unmistakable.

Quartz reports today that the president has ordered the Agricultural Research Service not to publicly discuss any of its work.

“The beachheads have landed, practically nothing is allowed for now,” a department source told Quartz, which obtained a copy of a memo to staff that they will need explicit permission from the Secretary of Agriculture’s office for even the routine business, “including speaking with members of Congress and their staff.”

There presently is no secretary of agriculture.

The administration has also ordered a media blackout at the Environmental Protection Agency.

News releases, blog updates or posts to the agency’s social media accounts have been banned, the Associated Press reports.

“Governments always have and will always impede the press from doing their job, and they will use any means necessary,” Jack Shafer, Politico’s senior media writer, writes. The previous administration was little different, he says.

“All governments lie,” as journalist I.F. Stone once wrote, “but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.” From my vantage, the Obama administration got Choom Gang stoned on their media pirouetting and the Trump administration seems to have come close to matching them in just a couple of days.

It is unseemly and counterproductive for journalists to sulk every time the Trump administration yanks their chain. Satisfying, yes, but unseemly and counterproductive. Because I believe in a multiverse of journalistic approaches, I would be the last person to ban moping among the press corps. Sometimes there’s nothing better than a long stay in the weeping room to embolden the beaten.

Washington is a city built on leaks and it’s unlikely efforts to stifle government transparency will work. As Shafer appears to suggest, it only makes leaks more likely.

From the archive: Obama chides reporters for not doing what he’s preventing them from doing (NewsCut)