Shielding Banality


In Slate, Jack Shafer takes apart Sunday's Washington Post report on Iraq's flat tax—not for being inaccurate, though he does spot a couple of errors, but for its bizarre yet distressingly common approach to anonymous sourcing.

Consider the man identified only as "one economist familiar with the area," who informed the Post that "At the previous 40 percent to 50 percent, Russian people were evading. Now at a lower rate, they are paying because the penalties are so heavy." Comments Shafer: "Who is the Post protecting here with the blessing of anonymity? Is the source going to lose his job because he said Russians evaded their onerous taxes more in the past than in the flat tax present? When did the Post start protecting the right of economists to speak in hushed, off-stage tones about the patently obvious?"