Quartz Uses Foreign Intelligence Officer to Opine on Capitol Siege, Doesn’t Disclose It

  • Quartz misrepresents quotes, backgrounds, expertise throughout this article
  • The reporters mention Nazi connections and provide none, and zero evidence
  • They use a former foreign intelligence officer to speak about the impact of the Confederate Flag without disclosing the source’s background

OUR RATING: Trash Journalism, aka the Daily Beast.

Indicted Outlet: Anne Quito, Amanda Shendruk | Quartz | Link | Archive

This interesting Quartz article by Anne Quito and Amanda Shendruk attempts to explain the various flags that were seen in photographs around the Capitol protest on January 6, 2021. They don’t hesitate to make their biases known by referring to them as a ‘rabid mob’ who had flags representing a ‘twisted ideological quilt’ as some sort of American baby suffocating in the bed implied analogy. 

Many in the rabid mob who stormed the US Capitol yesterday came armed with a portable and potent weapon: a flag. There were large election banners, battle colors from the American Civil War, neo-Nazi flare, Christian symbols, and a smattering of national and state flags. Seen as a whole, they serve as a twisted ideological quilt for those who believe that the US election was stolen from incumbent president Donald Trump.

Here’s what’s missing however: any pictures of neo-Nazi ‘flare’. 

The only thing that news searches seem to come up with is the arrest of Timothy Hale-Cusanelli who was an alleged “Nazi sympathizer” which is pretty much what they’re calling all Trump voters these days. [1] Hale-Cusanelli did have some “Nazi flare” however, and it was staring everyone in the face: he had a ‘Hitler mustache.’

Which is odd considering he was also a Department of Defense security contractor. He’s alleged to have said many impolitic things and to have saved some memes from the internet. He sounds like a hardened neo-Nazi just waiting for his moment to coup the government from the inside! He’s so stealth he can’t even have the self-discipline to shave his mustache to hide his political beliefs.

But Quito and Shendruk don’t even mention Hale-Cusanelli and his Charlie Chaplin facial hair. Instead, they just take for granted that we will all accept that, of course, there was neo-Nazi ‘flare’ at a Trump rally, even though there is no evidence to support their conclusion.

Major Violations:

  • Misrepresentation
  • Misrepresenting a Source
  • No Evidence

The rest of the article has suspicious sources, such as when the writers quote a law student at the University of Richmond.

Of the various flags paraded around the seat of the US legislative branch, the most incendiary was a battle pennant from the Confederate army. Widely appropriated by white supremacists as a hate symbol, the “Southern Cross” never has been paraded publicly inside the Capitol before, historians point out. “It’s an outright affront to the government in its entirety,” says Antaeus Edelsohn, a University of Richmond law student and vexillology enthusiast.

It’s odd that the reporters quote ‘historians point out’ and then they don’t quote an actual historian. 

If you click the link, you are brought to a Yahoo News/People story about people carrying the Confederate Battle Flag inside the U.S. Capitol. [2]

And let’s revisit the specific quote from the writers and published by Quartz:

the “Southern Cross” never has been paraded publicly inside the Capitol before, historians point out.

In the linked article, there is this Tweet from someone named Sam Wineburg. [3]

Sam Wineburg @samwineburg

Take this in: Never once, in the years 1860-1865, was this flag ever paraded in the halls of the American capitol.

In his Twitter biography, Wineburg says this about himself:

Margaret Jacks Professor of Education, and (by courtesy) History, Stanford University. Founder @SHEG_Stanford

His faculty page at Stanford seems to make clear that his interest in history is the teaching of it, and how it is taught, not the actual content itself. [4] This might be seen as an oversight or as a matter of splitting hairs, but the way the quote is used in the story, they are clearly meaning to quote someone who is an eminent historian of that era, of either the American Civil War or perhaps of the Reconstruction period in U.S. history, or at least a Southern specialist in American history.

Wineburg is none of those things. He appears very qualified in the fields he is in, but he is not a subject matter historian related to this issue. This is a misrepresentation by the writers and misrepresenting a source.

And this isn’t to even notice that the statement by Wineburg is a qualifier of five years, when the writers of the article applied it to all-time. Wineburg said that during 1860-1865 the Confederate Battle Flag was never paraded in the halls of the American Capitol, but the writers made another major misrepresentation by omitting that from their quotation of whom they also falsely claimed was a historian. 

This starts to look like a pattern in their reporting rather than just sloppiness. 

The average reader is not going to take the time to dive into the depths necessary to see all the ways in which the writers have misrepresented their sources and quotations. 

When the writers say that this is the first time a Confederate flag has been flown in the nation’s Capitol, it’s no small issue to ask whether they mean the building or the city. As a matter of law, only the nation’s flag can be properly flown in the Capitol. [5] Having someone walk around with one is probably insufficient to be considered ‘flying’ at the Capitol. 

During the actual Civil War, Confederate sympathizers in Washington DC would fly the Confederate flag around town. Elmer Ellsworth was shot for trying to remove a Confederate flag on May 24th, 1861 in Alexandria, Virginia. [6] So the sanctity of the Capitol building, home to many Confederate monuments and symbols, was not somehow besmirched by this lone individual carrying around a flag during a protest.

The writers’ quote of a law student also seems suspicious at first.

“It’s an outright affront to the government in its entirety,” says Antaeus Edelsohn, a University of Richmond law student and vexillology enthusiast.

Richmond was, at one point, the Capitol of the Confederacy and so the writers could have made an interesting parallel there to quote Edelsohn, but they don’t and you’re left wondering why someone would be quoting one of the roughly 114,000 law students in the country. [7] Richmond Law, in case you were wondering, is in the mid-50s in terms of its academic rankings by US News and World Report, so it’s not clear why they would be choosing it over another option for a quote. [8] They also mention that Edelsohn is a “vexillology enthusiast” which means that he enjoys the study of flags. There is an actual North American Vexillology Association, which would have perhaps been a natural place to get a usable quote for the story. [9] But it’s the LinkedIn for Mr. G. Antaeus Edelsohn that proves perhaps the most interesting when he lists the Israeli Defense Forces as a former employer, specifically as an intelligence officer. [10]

There is nothing untoward about being an intelligence officer, and in many ways they make good news analysts because they are used to processing large amounts of information. [11] However, intelligence officers are also deployed to influence the media, skew the media, and otherwise feed disinformation and misinformation in order to achieve their nation’s ultimate political and military objectives. Every nation does this to accomplish its goals.

Here, the source is certainly suspect because:

  • They misquote his name slightly, omitting his first name
  • They quote a law student
  • From a mid-ranked college
  • Whose only related qualification is being a hobbyist
  • For a controversial and divisive political story
  • Where the source is a former military intelligence officer for a foreign country
  • And the quote is about how a political act in the country is perceived

Maybe it’s something approaching an excuse for Quito, that she holds herself out as a ‘design reporter’ and ‘art director’ [12] whatever those are, and as a reporter for the Atlantic, [13] so maybe we’re not meant to take her seriously?

Not disclosing the source’s background in intelligence work, which is a major strike against any source’s credibility, especially when the substance of the quote is so divisive and damning to one political group in this country, is pretty hard to defend though. It’s inappropriate given that the topic is the most divisive one for American politics, though if the background had been disclosed it could have been a very poignant outside view of what is happening in American politics. Again, here is Edelsohn’s primary quote:

“It’s an outright affront to the government in its entirety”

Would a reader, if they had the benefit of having his biography, be wrong in wondering which government to which Mr. Edelsohn was referring? A former member of any nation’s intelligence services should not be the person you quote to speak for the zeitgeist of the country during a politically sensitive controversy. This is something that should have been disclosed to readers, and the failure to do so is a major misrepresentation of sources.

OUR RATING: Trash Journalism, aka the Daily Beast.


1 ] https://apnews.com/article/capitol-siege-race-and-ethnicity-ap-top-news-riots-4644edb6f3fa819628760251c846a408

2 ] https://ca.movies.yahoo.com/trump-supporting-rioter-pictured-carrying-233345950.html?guccounter=1 

3 ] https://twitter.com/samwineburg/status/1346934956203810816 

4 ] https://ed.stanford.edu/faculty/wineburg 

5 ] https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL30243.pdf 

6 ] https://www.nps.gov/people/elmer-ellsworth.htm 

7 ] https://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_education/resources/statistics/ 

8 ] https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/university-of-richmond-03161 

9 ] https://nava.org/ 

10 ] https://archive.is/U4Pep

11 ] https://www.jobhero.com/resume/examples/law-enforcement/intelligence-officer

12 ] https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/author/anne_quito/

13 ] https://www.theatlantic.com/author/anne-quito/

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