Friday was one of the most embarrassing days for the U.S. media in quite a long time. The humiliation orgy was kicked off by CNN, with MSNBC and CBS close behind, with countless pundits, commentators and operatives joining the party throughout the day. By the end of the day, it was clear that several of the nation’s largest and most influential news outlets had spread an explosive but completely false news story to millions of people, while refusing to provide any explanation of how it happened. …
This entire revelation was based on an email which … in CNN’s extremely excited mind, because it was dated September 4 — 10 days before WikiLeaks began promoting access to those emails online — and thus proved that the Trump family was being offered special, unique access to the DNC archive: likely by WikiLeaks and the Kremlin.
It’s impossible to convey with words what a spectacularly devastating scoop CNN believed it had, so it’s necessary to watch it for yourself to see the tone of excitement, breathlessness and gravity the network conveyed as they clearly believed they were delivering a near-fatal blow on the Trump/Russia collusion story:
There was just one small problem with this story: it was fundamentally false, in the most embarrassing way possible. Hours after CNN broadcast its story — and then hyped it over and over and over — the Washington Post reported that CNN got the key fact of the story wrong.
The email was not dated September 4, as CNN claimed, but rather September 14 — which means it was sent after WikiLeaks had already published access to the DNC emails online. Thus, rather than offering some sort of special access to Trump, “Michael J. Erickson” was simply some random person from the public encouraging the Trump family to look at the publicly available DNC emails that WikiLeaks — as everyone by then already knew — had publicly promoted. In other words, the email was the exact opposite of what CNN presented it as being.
How did CNN end up aggressively hyping such a spectacularly false story? They refuse to say. …
All of this prompts the glaring, obvious, and critical question — one which CNN refuses to address: how did “multiple sources” all misread the date on this document, in exactly the same way, and toward the same end, and then feed this false information to CNN?
It’s hard to overstate how fast, far and wide this false story traveled. Democratic Party pundits, operatives and journalists with huge social media platforms predictably jumped on the story immediately, announcing that it proved collusion between Trump and Russia (through WikiLeaks). …
The above sounds just like the climate squabbles, where the narrative is so important that mere facts and due process are repeatedly swept aside with nary an apology afterward. The lies are presented to the public, who mostly nod because it confirms the narrative, and the correction follows later with little publicity. This is how modern propaganda works. And just like the climate debate, this is a modus operandi rather than an isolated scandal:
So numerous are the false stories about Russia and Trump over the last year that I literally cannot list them all. Just consider the ones from the last week alone, as enumerated by the New York Times yesterday in its news report on CNN’s embarrassment:
It was also yet another prominent reporting error at a time when news organizations are confronting a skeptical public, and a president who delights in attacking the media as “fake news.”
Last Saturday, ABC News suspended a star reporter, Brian Ross, after an inaccurate report that Donald Trump had instructed Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser, to contact Russian officials during the presidential race.
The report fueled theories about coordination between the Trump campaign and a foreign power, and stocks dropped after the news. In fact, Mr. Trump’s instruction to Mr. Flynn came after he was president-elect.
Several news outlets, including Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal, also inaccurately reported this week that Deutsche Bank had received a subpoena from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, for President Trump’s financial records. …
That’s just the last week alone. Let’s just remind ourselves of how many times major media outlets have made humiliating, breathtaking errors on the Trump/Russia story, always in the same direction, toward the same political goals.
Here is just a sample of incredibly inflammatory claims that traveled all over the internet before having to be corrected, walk-backed, or retracted — often long after the initial false claims spread, and where the corrections receive only a tiny fraction of the attention with which the initial false stories are lavished:
- Russia hacked into the U.S. electric grid to deprive Americans of heat during winter (Wash Post)
- An anonymous group (PropOrNot) documented how major U.S. political sites are Kremlin agents (Wash Post)
- WikiLeaks has a long, documented relationship with Putin (Guardian)
- A secret server between Trump and a Russian bank has been discovered (Slate)
- RT hacked C-SPAN and caused disruption in its broadcast (Fortune)
- Crowdstrike finds Russians hacked into a Ukrainian artillery app (Crowdstrike)
- Russians attempted to hack elections systems in 21 states (multiple news outlets, echoing Homeland Security)
- Links have been found between Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci and a Russian investment fund under investigation (CNN)
That really is just a small sample.
It’s good to see some political journalists getting excited about this propaganda technique because it’s now happening in their field, but it happened right under their noses on climate for a decade and they said nothing.