The new year is less than two weeks old, and we can already say one thing with confidence. 2017 is not going to be boring.
By now, all of you have heard about the fake news “dossier” created by an ex-Britisth spy working on opposition research funded, first by Trump’s GOP primary rivals, and then Democrats after he clinched the nomination. As has been widely reported, the contents of this document have been floating around media outlets since at least last fall, yet not a single one of them was willing to report on it in any detail or publish it in full as Buzzfeed did last evening. This is pretty remarkable considering how heated the election was, and the extent to which so many in the media desperately wanted Hillary Clinton to win. The reason nobody touched it is because, as Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith himself admitted, the claims are unverifiable and “there is serious reason to doubt the allegations” (his words not mine). So why did CNN and Buzzfeed decided to publish this now?
To understand what I think happened, we have to go back to last week’s post titled, Did Chuck Schumer Just Threaten Donald Trump? Here’s what we learned:
The new leader of Democrats in the Senate says Donald Trump is being “really dumb” for picking a fight with intelligence officials, suggesting they have ways to strike back, after the president-elect speculated Tuesday that his “so-called” briefing about Russian cyberattacks had been delayed in order to build a case.
“Let me tell you: You take on the intelligence community — they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer Tuesday evening on MSNBC after host Rachel Maddow informed him that intelligence sources told NBC news that the briefing had not been delayed.
Rachel Maddow proceeded to ask Senator Schumer what he thought the intelligence community might do, to which he responded cryptically “I don’t know, but from what I am told, they are very upset.” Upset enough to take a fake document that no journalist would publish for months on end, and then give it a stamp of approval so that CNN and Buzzfeed would feel comfortable running with it? Yes, it appears so.
The news organizations that ran with this story are being ridiculed and for good reason. While much of the focus is on the meaningful concern of them dropping basic journalistic standards to cover it, there’s an even more disturbing issue at play. These media organizations, which are supposed to speak truth to power, were eagerly played as cheap pawns by the U.S. intelligence community as a conduit to disseminate ludicrous, anti-Trump propaganda. Moreover, by doing so in such a public and embarrassing manner, these news organizations actually empowered Trump by acting like a bunch of mindless fools. If you doubt my analysis, go ahead and watch his press conference from earlier today.
The negative implications of these media sources falling for this intelligence community scheme cannot be overstated. As usual, Glenn Greenwald did an excellent job of laying it out in his piece, The Deep State Goes to War with President-Elect, Using Unverified Claims, as Democrats Cheer. Here are some choice excerpts:
There is no bigger favor that Trump opponents can do for him than attacking him with such lowly, shabby, obvious shams, recruiting large media outlets to lead the way. When it comes time to expose actual Trump corruption and criminality, who is going to believe the people and institutions who have demonstrated they are willing to endorse any assertions no matter how factually baseless, who deploy any journalistic tactic no matter how unreliable and removed from basic means of ensuring accuracy?
Whatever one’s views are on those debates, it is the democratic framework — the presidential election, the confirmation process, congressional leaders, judicial proceedings, citizen activism and protest, civil disobedience — that should determine how they are resolved. All of those policy disputes were debated out in the open; the public heard them; and Trump won. Nobody should crave the rule of Deep State overlords.
At some point last week, the chiefs of the intelligence agencies decided to declare that this ex-British intelligence operative was “credible” enough that his allegations warranted briefing both Trump and Obama about them, thus stamping some sort of vague, indirect, and deniable official approval on these accusations. Someone — by all appearances, numerous officials — then went to CNN to tell them they had done this, causing CNN to go on-air and, in the gravest of tones, announce the “Breaking News” that “the nation’s top intelligence officials” briefed Obama and Trump that Russia had compiled information that “compromised President-elect Trump.”
Sorry, but that is not journalism.
THERE IS A REAL DANGER here that this maneuver can harshly backfire, to the great benefit of Trump and to the great detriment of those who want to oppose him. If any of the significant claims in this “dossier” turn out to be provably false — such as Cohen’s trip to Prague — many people will conclude, with Trump’s encouragement, that large media outlets (CNN and BuzzFeed) and anti-Trump factions inside the government (CIA) are deploying “Fake News” to destroy him. In the eyes of many people, that will forever discredit — render impotent — future journalistic exposés that are based on actual, corroborated wrongdoing.
There are solutions to Trump. They involve reasoned strategizing and patient focus on issues people actually care about. Whatever those solutions are, venerating the intelligence community, begging for its intervention, and equating their dark and dirty assertions as Truth are most certainly not among them. Doing that cannot possibly achieve any good, and is already doing much harm.
To summarize, elements of the intelligence community are now in open war with Trump, while the media continues to play its typical role as either useful idiots or willing government propagandists. As such, the question must be asked…
Poll Time: Who wins in a war between the CIA and Donald Trump?
— Michael Krieger (@LibertyBlitz) January 11, 2017
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Contributed by Michael Krieger of A Lightning War for Liberty.