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Clarice Starling is not a real FBI agent.

~Did you know~ the FBI is actually good? Sterling, even? Did you also know that Clarice, fictional special agent and cannibal lover, is one of the reasons the FBI is good?

In his latest entry for The Washington Post’s “The Fix,” Chris Cillizza asserts that our democracy faces certain ruin because people report low confidence in institutions like the FBI:

The decline in the FBI’s reputation is in keeping with a massive fade in confidence of what have long been considered venerable institutions... The foundational pieces of society—the things we always knew we could rely on—are no longer foundational. But, with nothing to replace them, we are left rootless—casting about for a new set of institutions on which we can rely.

This argument suffers from a fatal assumption: If an institution is iconic, it must also be good. But institutions don’t always merit our trust. There are very good and specific reasons to distrust the FBI, and many Americans have known this for a long time. It has a well-documented history of surveilling people who are not Chris Cillizza—civil rights activists, feminists, leftist dissidents, and others. The FBI under J. Edgar Hoover sent a letter to Martin Luther King, Jr. strongly suggesting he kill himself. Calling it “venerable,” an entity “we always knew we could rely on,” is ahistorical.

His piece contained other, more entertaining inaccuracies too:

Briefly, anyway. Those inaccuracies have vanished, as if by magic. Cillizza’s piece now sports a jaunty little notice that it’s been “updated.” That’s it.

You would think these many failures would compel Cillizza to interrogate his methods. Instead, he has decided to portray his critics as sad losers bent on attacking his special and amazing blog:


Cillizza’s piece also reports that the American people have lost confidence in the media. If he ever wants to know why, he need look no further than his own blog.