Journalism: critical Disinformation: obvious

March 26, 2019

PARMA, Mar. 26 — What’s the proper role of journalism in a democracy in 2019? How critical is accuracy in an era when speed is valued over truth, where we all receive “news” from a feed into our cell phones, and hundreds of millions of news “stories” get retweeted or reposted on social media sites every day?

That’s the question every scholar, every advocate for civic discourse, every professional organization dedicated to journalism, and every leading public official should be asking today. To say that journalism is failing our democracy would be the year’s greatest understatement.

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Brit Hume, Fox News, formerly ABC News

Brit Hume has been a journalist for more than 50 years. He began with UPI and newspapers (including the Baltimore Sun) in the 1960s, researched and wrote for Jack Anderson, was subjected to illegal CIA surveillance under Richard Nixon, reported for 23 years for ABC News — including several as chief White House correspondent — and became Fox News’ first “Special Report” evening anchor in 1998. Last night (March 25) Hume described media coverage of the Robert Mueller’s special prosecutor investigation into President Donald Trump as the “worst journalistic debacle my lifetime.”

Here’s a link to that broadcast segment:

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2019/03/25/brit_hume_no_soul_searching_for_media_they_have_moved_on_to_following_democratic_party_script.html

Hume is adding on to what many, both on the “right” and “left” sides of the political spectrum, are saying. It’s a message journalists should heed, if they’re willing to look, listen, and honestly evaluate their own practices and standards. Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept calls out the media for its “recklessly reckless behavior over the past three years.” Greenwald cites Rolling Stone contributing editor Matt Taibbi, who in a blog post wrote this:

Either Trump is a compromised foreign agent, or he isn’t. If he isn’t, news outlets once again swallowed a massive disinformation campaign, only this error is many orders of magnitude more stupid than any in the recent past, WMD included. Honest reporters like ABC’s Terry Moran understand: Mueller coming back empty-handed on collusion means a “reckoning for the media.”

Links to both stories are just below:
https://theintercept.com/2019/03/25/watch-a-contentious-constructive-debate-on-the-media-and-political-humiliation-from-the-mueller-report/

https://taibbi.substack.com/p/russiagate-is-wmd-times-a-million

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Matt Tiabbi, Rolling Stone

The journalism profession has brought about incalculable harm to itself as a result of its tilt against all things Trump from 2015 until today. Perhaps the only strategy which might save the profession would be a reconstitution of a national commission to re-examine the role of journalism in a democracy, something akin to the Hutchins Commission of the mid-1940s.

There are steps which journalism organizations and newsrooms across the U.S. could take – today – which could help restore some public faith and confidence in their news gathering operations. But let’s save that for the future.

There is a secondary, yet obvious, issue which our nation and its journalists must address. Some people –or a combination of people and organizations– let loose upon the American public and its government a deliberate and intentional campaign to DISINFORM us about Donald Trump and the “C” word, collusion, with respect to the 2016 Presidential election.

Taibbi and John Solomon, an investigative reporter and executive vice president for video for thehill.com, have both reported extensively on pieces and parts of the disinformation process. 

Taibbi called out President Obama’s Justice Dept. for “stove-piping,” an all-too-common Washington DC practice of a government official “feeding” a story to a reporter, then using the resulting story as “confirmation” that something is true. Taibbi pointed out how writer Michael Isikoff’s September 23, 2016 Yahoo News story became a reference in a Justice Dept. application for a FISA surveillance warrant. (Two years after the fact, Isikoff admitted that his own story was largely untrue, according to Taibbi.)

Solomon’s columns in www.thehill.com have documented a pattern of misleading and misinformation going back to the summer of 2016. He points out how the now-infamous Steele Dossier, which FBI officials up to and including former FBI Director James Comey, used as gospel, came about. BOTH the FBI and the Democratic National Committee were paying former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, but the resulting “work product,” Steele’s Dossier, contained a large amount of fictitious material. (Later in the process, the FBI removed Steele from its payroll.)

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John Solomon, thehill.com

As both Taibbi and Solomon reported, it was the Steele Dossier and the stove-piping practices which combined to concoct a popular belief in the Washington establishment in January 2017 that, somehow, Donald Trump has been “compromised” by Russia.

From there we all understand the story.

Solomon, however, stayed true to journalism at it roots. He has kept digging for the truth. Last September he reported that in May 2017, the FBI knew it could NOT provide evidence of any collusion between Russia or Russian agents and the Trump campaign or the Trump organization. See the link below for specific details.

https://thehill.com/hilltv/rising/406881-lisa-page-bombshell-fbi-couldnt-prove-trump-russia-collusion-before-mueller

What it all means: Persons and/or groups developed a “narrative” or a story about Russia collusion with/for Trump and fostered that story upon the American people. Solomon wrote:

Text messages show contacts between key FBI and DOJ players and The Washington Post, The Associated Press and The New York Times during the ramp-up to Mueller’s probe.

And that means the news media — perhaps longing to find a new Watergate, to revive sagging fortunes — were far too willing to be manipulated by players in a case that began as a political opposition research project funded by Clinton’s campaign and led by a former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, who despised Trump.

Finally, Page’s statement signals that the nation’s premier intelligence court may not have been given a complete picture of the evidence — or lack thereof — as it approved an extraordinary surveillance intrusion into an American presidential nominee’s campaign just weeks before Election Day.

Disinformation – a deliberate attempt to present one story instead of the truth to the American public – was well underway long BEFORE Robert Mueller became appointed as a special prosecutor in May 2017. How did that happen? Who was behind it? Were laws broken in the process?

If journalists were seeking to redeem themselves, they would be hot on the trail to seek answers to those questions.    Don’t hold your breath.

Nazi Germany Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels supposedly said, “A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.”

We now live in an age where Disinformation Campaigns are commonplace. The Mueller special prosecutor investigation proves this is the real truth.