Newspapers are currently tearing into BBC Newsnight for its crap report wrongly linking top Tories to child abuse in north Wales.
They're right. Newsnight hadn't properly checked its evidence or witnesses, let alone sought corroboration. It was irresponsible, stupid journalism which tarnished the programme's other fine work.
But the Newsnight affair also showed the difference between the BBC and the press in other ways.
British newspapers quite regularly publish badly sourced lies with terrible consequences. When the BBC gets caught out there are sackings. Newspapers just move on as if nothing happened.
Perhaps the most serious case of crap reporting helped lead to thousands of deaths. But not one newspaper has said sorry or held an inquiry. No-one has been sacked.
In the years up to the 2003 Iraq war the British press published absurd stories about the country's weapons of mass destruction.
They were much stronger than the British government's actual claims. In fact the government's rather limp case for WMD only made sense against the backdrop of much more aggressive reporting in newspapers.
The stories were based on single, untrustworthy sources. Iraqi civil engineer Adnan al-Haideri's tales were widely used. He falsely claimed to have built underground biowarfare labs and worked on an Iraqi nuclear programme.
His claims were echoed in the Sunday Times article Saddam's arsenal revealed which described a "secret underground network of laboratories" brewing WMD and a fleet of mobile biological weapon factories "disguised as milk trucks."
The paper said the information was "high-grade" - but it was rubbish.
Articles in the Times, the Independent, the Express and the Daily Telegraph repeated Hadeiri's stories without scepticism.
By not holding inquiries into how these war-provoking lies got into their papers the press let one of the great Iraq scandals stay hidden.
The stories were promoted by the Iraqi National Congress (INC). This supposedly independent exile group was actually founded with the help of the CIA, receiving around $8 million a year from the US government.
In March 2004 the Knight-Ridder news agency was leaked a letter from the INC to the American Senate Appropriations Committee justifying the millions that it got from the US.
The letter was effectively a bill for its "information collection programme" (ICP), run for the US.
But it described information dissemination, not collection.
Under the heading "Summary of ICP product cited in major English news outlets worldwide (October 2001-May 2002)" the letter listed 108 stories the INC had placed in the British and US press.
It read like an invoice from a PR firm to its client. It showed that the INC was putting lies into British newspapers for the US government.
Hadeiri's stories were on the list. The INC also billed the US for pieces claiming Iraqi links to terrorism, including a Daily Telegraph article saying Saddam Hussein had "armed Bin Laden and funded al-Qaida allies" and that "Iraq sent conventional and perhaps biological or chemical weapons to Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan."
It also claimed money for a Times article which said Iraq had a "terror training camp" which "teaches hijacking," suggesting that Saddam "had a hand" in the September 11 2001 plot.
By refusing to ask how this rubbish got into their papers, Fleet Street covered up the way the US paid for warmongering lies to dominate the British press.
It can be hard to grasp the weird morality of the US elite. The CIA has recently been running international programmes of assassination, kidnapping and torture. Petraeus having an affair seems like no biggie in comparison.
But there is a context. The US policy of killing people and breaking things in foreign countries cycles between direct intervention by its soldiers and secret wars involving proxies and undercover agents.
In the '60s the US sent hundreds of thousands of troops to Vietnam. That war ended in disaster.
After that the US sought international influence through secret wars. It secretly sent money, guns and agents to support bloodthirsty "friends" like Jonas Savimbi's Unita in Angola in the '70s and '80s.
These secret wars - never secret from their victims - took a bizarre twist when Ronald Reagan sold weapons to the ayatollahs in Iran, using the money to fund vicious "Contra" guerillas on the other side of the world in Nicaragua.
The US slowly recovered its confidence in direct intervention operations like the first Gulf war before cycling back to vast, open invasions as in Afghanistan and Iraq - both of which ended badly, if at all.
So now the US is returning to an emphasis on secret wars and assassinations by proxies and special forces.
General Petraeus was central to this. He's a fan of tactics that were developed as the US tried to disentangle its soldiers from Vietnam, substituting locally recruited militias and terrorising or bribing civilians. It was all was covered up by propaganda and was known as Operation Phoenix.
In both Iraq and Afghanistan Petraeus oversaw an increasing use of local warlords and sectarian fighters. At the CIA he's been heavily involved in the shift towards proxy wars and assassinations by drone strike.
Petraeus is also a believer in "perception management." If the US couldn't use force all the time, it would have to use lies.
There was always a certain amount of this propaganda behind his own rise - the press have been willing dupes for Petraeus's bullshit.
I don't need secret sources for the general's enthusiasm for the worst tactics and propaganda deployed in Vietnam - it's all drawn from his own published manual Counterinsurgency.
Petraeus's command in Iraq and Afghanistan was manifestly a bloody failure. But journalists preferred to join his cult.
He was a "warrior monk," a wise man able to defeat the bad guys with subtle strategies.
His affair has punched a whole in this image - he comes out as more shagger than Shaolin.
I'd rather the press realised the problem was with the warrior thing rather than the lack of monkishness, but at least someone's smelling his bullshit.
It's just a shame that Petraeus has lost his job for screwing Broadwell when he should be sacked for screwing the world.
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