Circulating information from (and in essence for) the political right without an accompanying notation as to source, appropriate principled criticism, and analysis of intent can have many negative outcomes. It:
· Launders the original source of the information which often makes independent verification more difficult;
· Builds the left group's reputation as an independent and resourceful information gatherer when in essence the information has been plagiarized;
· Gives the information an unwarranted imprimaturs since the information is assumed to be coming from a left rather than the right source;
· Advances often unstated and implicit rightist agendas;
· Protects the rightist group from punitive attack by the right or the government since the information is perceived as coming from left;
· Results in a conscious or unconscious reluctance by the left group to criticize the right group for fear of having information flow cut off.
It is important both journalistically and politically to know the source of information in order to consider the ulterior motives and possible implications of the information being circulated.
We certainly shouldn't let the right set our research agenda through leaks but contact with the right seems inevitable and often proper and useful. Since persons on the left have contacts with the right for varied and complex reasons, one blanket criticism is neither sufficient, nor helpful. We do need to think through policies. What then are the principled conditions for contact with the right? Keep in mind that we all need to work in coalitions while maintaining independent political analysis and ability to criticize freely.
Some suggested points of principle might include:
· Do not trade potentially harmful information on left groups with the right. Only trade information on government abuses and on other right groups;
· Double check and double source all stories;
· Name the group or political sector supplying the information and provide an honest thumbnail political sketch;
· Consider why information is being passed by the group and make that part of the analysis or story;
· Condemn flaws in all groups concerned, left or right;
· Do not refer people to rightist networks without warning them of the nature of the source, and allowing them to make a principled moral decision whether or not to seek the information through that group.
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