Day after day, the newspapers involved in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists flog their new product, the so-called “Pandora Papers.” Those papers, illegally obtained by the people who gave them to journalists, deal with the complex off-shore financial arrangements of several hundred people around the world.
In their efforts to sell papers, the newspapers have done a great disservice to their supposed goal of fighting corruption. They have done so by lumping together some very different categories of people who may have off-shore accounts. Some are criminals; some are officials or past officials who were corrupt, and stole public money; some are people who earned their money quite legally, and are seeking equally legally to minimize taxes and publicity; and some are people seeking to avoid public notice because they worry about political attacks based on their being rich, and even worry about kidnappings and assassinations were the exact locations of their properties known. Thus the “Pandora Papers” lump together Tony Blair and the King of Jordan with Vladimir Putin and groups of thieves. It probably does sell papers, but it is bad journalism.
That is the argument I make in “Pandora Papers Value Headlines over Fair Treatment” in National Review magazine. As I wrote there, “The need to fight corruption is clear, but so is the need to define it. Blair got much richer after leaving office, but so did Barack Obama — and he’s likely the richer man of the two.” The full text can be found here.