Let us accept, for the moment, the assertion that this hack was perpetrated by the Russian government for the express purpose of influencing the U.S. election—an assertion that remains very much unproven. Let’s say that Vladimir Putin had his people steal all the DNC’s emails, passed them to Wikileaks, and then had Wikileaks put them out on the eve of the Democratic convention, hoping to embarrass the party and Hillary Clinton.
From a strictly journalistic perspective: so fucking what?
News is news. The emails that came out in the DNC hack had real news value. They had so much news value, in fact, that they got the (corrupt!) head of the DNC deposed from her job. They had so much news value that the DNC was forced to issue a groveling apology to a major presidential candidate because of the “inexcusable” behavior exposed in the emails. Absolutely no one anywhere of any political persuasion can argue that the DNC hack did not contain serious, meaningful, valuable news that added significantly to the public understanding of the operations of a major political party during the course of a presidential election.
So, if Russia really did get these emails released, I say: Thanks, Russia. News is news. When Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden broke the law in order to release troves of newsworthy emails that meaningfully increased public understanding of secretive, powerful government operations, they did something good. I thank them, too. Whether or not you think that both of them should be in jail is a secondary issue. Even if you believe that they are vile criminals, that does not change the news value of the information they helped release. We, the media, whose job it is to get valuable information like this out to the public, should be pleased that this valuable information was released. It’s news. Its origin is also news, and it is also worth discussing, but it is certainly not more important than the actual substance of what was released.
Despite this fact, people like Paul Waldman in the Washington Post would have you believe that Russia’s attempt to influence our election is the real story here, and that, bolding mine, “the political reporters covering it have gotten distracted by the content of the emails.” This is like arguing that Edward Snowden’s personal motives in releasing the NSA information were more important than all of the information that he released. It is the ass-backwards product of a “politics is everything” mindstate. It leads professional journalists to argue that it would be preferable if the release of important and valuable information about powerful political institutions never happened—in essence, that they would prefer that the public know less.
Also, the pundits who are dropping their monocles in their soup over this “strike against our civic infrastructure” by a foreign government should recall that that U.S.A. has meddled in a few foreign governments in our time. We might not want to hang our outrage on that one.