Most Read
Image 01 Image 02 Image 03

The Spicy Dossier, Fake News, and the Role of the Media

The Spicy Dossier, Fake News, and the Role of the Media

Revisiting the political media/government boundary

It’s one fabulously nasty mess both CNN and Buzzfeed created for themselves.

Buzzfeed decided to publish an unsubstantiated dossier full of all kinds of licentious information about president-elect Trump, particularly that he has “deep ties to Russia”. CNN then ran with the Buzzfeed story.

The backstory on how the dossier came to be is as bizarre as the document itself.

NOTHING, not even the tiniest little accusation in the report was verified before Buzzfeed hit “publish.” They even mentioned that the document had been bouncing around news outlets and reporters for months. Such open secrets are not uncommon. Stories, videos, documents, especially those most sensational in nature are frequently shopped to blogs, news orgs, and reporters. Everyone knows about them. Everyone talks about them. But no one reports them. Why? Because their veracity is unprovable.

Since the Buzzfeed report, Senator McCain admitted to being the leak in the ship.

Worse still, the report was presented by the Intel community as an example of Russian “disinformation.”

In a press conference Tuesday, Trump called Buzzfeed a “failing pile of garbage” and got into a shouting match with a CNN reporter, saying “you are fake news!”

And who can blame him, really?

Buzzfeed defended their decision to publish the report:

We published the dossier, which Ken Bensinger obtained through his characteristically ferocious reporting, so that, as we wrote, “Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.”

Our presumption is to be transparent in our journalism and to share what we have with our readers. We have always erred on the side of publishing. In this case, the document was in wide circulation at the highest levels of American government and media. It seems to lie behind a set of vague allegations from the Senate Majority Leader to the director of the FBI and a report that intelligence agencies have delivered to the president and president-elect.

As we noted in our story, there is serious reason to doubt the allegations. We have been chasing specific claims in this document for weeks, and will continue to.

Publishing this document was not an easy or simple call, and people of good will may disagree with our choice. But publishing this dossier reflects how we see the job of reporters in 2017.

“How we see the job of reporters in 2017.” Running with unsubstantiated claims that assassinate the character of an individual, regardless of where those allegations were birthed is not reporting, it’s libelous.

No wonder CNN frantically backpedaled out of their embarrassing soirée with Buzzfeed’s brand of journalism.

There are plenty of reasons to criticize Trump and ample reason to question his ties to Russia. Buzzfeed’s publishing of garbage detracts from serious questions that need answering.

There’s another component to this story that’s equally as bothersome as the whole fake news aspect (and my god am I sick of the “fake news” schtick) — the wonderment or terror felt by many watching a government official openly hostile to the media.

Trump’s presser wasn’t the best presser ever; I’d argue that award still goes to Andrew Breitbart when he hijacked Anthony Weiner’s press conference, it was just an example of an elected official treating the fourth estate as such.

Media and government are not supposed to be BFFs. The media is supposed to be the ultimate government watchdog. Likewise, government officials ought to be annoyed by incessant questioning about government affairs that affect the lives of their constituencies, not what may or may not have been painted on a rock in west Texas or whether Trump is into golden showers.

Naturally, media responded to Trump’s heavy hand with juvenile and ignorant claims like, “this is how book burning began” and questioning whether freedom of the press was at stake.

I mean, really? Bullshit claims get called bullshit and our press corps, used to a snuggly, nurturing relationship with the outgoing administration thinks we’re facing our next great Constitutional crisis. Grow up, children.

Love or hate Trump, you have to give him credit for unintentionally pushing the political media/government boundary back where it belongs. We’d all be better off with a big, beautiful wall between politics and media than anywhere geographically.

Follow Kemberlee on Twitter @kemberleekaye

DONATE

Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.

Comments

casualobserver | January 11, 2017 at 5:45 pm

I wonder if CNN will survive intact by the end of Trump’s first term. Their slide (again after a few years of reprieve) is pronounced and steady. No trust. Losing viewers. At least MSNBC maintains their audience.

    I would think they will be frozen out of taking part in the next Presidential debates (actually…the entire format needs changing to remove the possibility of candidates and media working together to undermine an opponent as we have seen these past few elections).

It is almost like people expect the news media to, well, report real news. They got their collective asses handed to them and now they have all these Hillary labeled kneepads and they don’t know what to do with them.

Vox Day is writing that as bad a President as Obama was, there’s every chance that McCain would actually have been even worse. Can’t say that I disagree with him.

    casualobserver in reply to Tom Servo. | January 11, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    Is Vox Day a website or a person?

      Tom Servo in reply to casualobserver. | January 11, 2017 at 7:24 pm

      Vox Day (real name: Theodore Beale) is a rather notorious blogger and writer, his website is called Vox Populi. He played a significant part in the great Hugo Award controversy over the last couple of years. He likes to say very provocative things, and he delights in causing his many online enemies to go to great extremes in denouncing him.

      a line from his wiki page will give you an idea: “Vox Day was formerly a lifetime Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) member who ran unsuccessfully for SFWA president in 2013, but was expelled from the SFWA over various inflamatory blog posts and remarks.”

      Yeah, they were inflammatory. That’s his thing.

        Whiskey Bravo in reply to Tom Servo. | January 11, 2017 at 7:30 pm

        Ah, Tom, you beat me to it. And you did a much better job of describing him and answering the question than I did!

      Whiskey Bravo in reply to casualobserver. | January 11, 2017 at 7:29 pm

      Actually a little of both. Vox Day is kind of the ‘nom de plume’ of a conservative activist, video game designer, and scifi writer named Theodore Beale. His website is also called Vox Popoli:

      http://voxday.blogspot.com/

      Hope that answers your question.

        I would be very, VERY hesitant to call Vox Day a “Conservative Activist.”

        “Professional Troll” is a much closer fit.

        The whole “Rabid Puppies” thing regarding the Hugo Awards is an ongoing nightmare in progress. I ~get~ what he’s trying to do. REALLY I do. But it was a bad plan, and he didn’t think it through very clearly, nor act well upon it. Because of that, for several years now, several of the categories have had “No Award” win because he stacked the category, and everybody KNEW he stacked the category. Yes, they HAVE changed the nominating process rules, but not really in a way that will ~consistently~ accomplish what he was trying to accomplish (getting selectors to make recommendations based on the work itself, and not just the included SJW message).

        Vox’s failure to secure the website name for his errant venture mentioned above (DEFINITELY NOT SAFE FOR WORK) led to much hilarity at his expense, and much embarrassment for the Hugo Awards as a whole.

          Whiskey Bravo in reply to Chuck Skinner. | January 11, 2017 at 11:12 pm

          Yeah, I kind of choked on the ‘conservative’ label, too. But that’s how he’s more often than not described. Well, I guess it’s not like he’s a flaming liberal either. But, that being said; however, your point is well made and well taken. You are correct.

          Tom Servo in reply to Chuck Skinner. | January 11, 2017 at 11:22 pm

          I became acquainted with Vox Day because I, too, followed the fiasco that the Hugo Awards turned into. (btw, I’m an old Vernor Vinge fan, a well deserved repeat winner of that award long before politics infected everything)

          Personally I think Larry Correia and Brad Torgerson handled the affair most responsibly, and that those parties both to their left and their right behaved quite badly throughout. Vox Day was supposedly on Larry and Brad’s side, but he probably hurt them more than he helped. I’m not sure if the Hugo’s will ever again mean what they once did.

          Vox was not even supposedly on Larry and Brad’s side, except in the supposition of the SJW contingent, who were delighted to tar them with his brush. He ****ed all over what they were doing.

          He pretty much behaved like the SJW’s but was far more honest in his intent to burn down the Hugo awards. The left doesn’t like being called out, they don’t like having their own tactics used against them and they absolutely hate being bullied by anyone since that’s their assigned role in life.

    C. Lashown in reply to Tom Servo. | January 11, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    Yes, we’ve all seen McCain roll over as soon as the media pats him on the head, much like welcoming a puppy into the house. I think this little trick with the faux Intel dossier from his buddies might be the straw that’s broken the camels back.

    McCain has two major stances; lapdog and attack Russia when it starts to rain.

you have to give him credit for unintentionally pushing the political media/government boundary back where it belongs.

You seriously think it’s unintentional?

A guy who consistently hits targets his predecessors never gave any sign of even seeing must just be one lucky bastard, eh?

Unlike computer manufacturers, the makers of penicillin, or growers of wheat, all these clowns have sell is trust. Nothing else. And that’s gone now, and it’s coming back anytime soon.

CNN and the nets should sell or convert their news divisions into fake snuff film distributors or 24/7 loops of sword swallowers, fire eaters, and guys being shot out of cannons.

Make Howard Beale Great Again.

    Semper Why in reply to (((Boogs))). | January 12, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    I would disagree. What the media sells is attention. Yours. Mine. They sell it to their advertisers.

    Without an audience, they have nothing to sell. I suspect they’ve been watching their audience shrink for a decade and haven’t figured out how to get them back. They seem unwilling to try neutral reporting on meaningful issues. Or possibly they tried it and found out that it doesn’t hold our attention.

In a press conference Tuesday, Trump called Buzzfeed a “failing pile of garbage” and got into a shouting match with a CNN reporter, saying “you are fake news!”

CNN reported that U.S. Intelligence chiefs presented to the President Elect allegations that Russians operatives claimed to have compromising personal and financial information about him. That report was true, and newsworthy.

CNN did not report the details of the supposed compromises, as they were unverified.

    casualobserver in reply to Zachriel. | January 11, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    What is your point? That the intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia has sensitive or damaging research on politicians in the US?

    The sky is blue.

    Petrushka in reply to Zachriel. | January 11, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    Actually, the intel community has no credible evidence linking Trump with the Russians, or at least that’s what they said today. None.

      Petrushka: Actually, the intel community has no credible evidence linking Trump with the Russians

      Nor did CNN make that allegation. They reported accurately that the President Elect was provided with reports of such allegations.

    Petrushka in reply to Zachriel. | January 11, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    “”Intel and law enforcement officials agree that none of the investigations have found any conclusive or direct link between Trump and the Russian government period,” the senior official said.”

    NBC

      That doesn’t mean there isn’t indirect or circumstantial evidence. Of course, no one should take some of the reports as much more than rumours at this point. As for connections between Trump and Russian oligarchs, that may very well be true, and Trump refuses to provide his tax returns in order to put that issue to rest.

      In his own press conference, Trump admitted to someone offering him $2 billion in business just the past weekend.

        Sanddog in reply to Zachriel. | January 12, 2017 at 2:47 pm

        Well, at least he’s honest about attempts to bribe him. Unlike Hillary, who just took the checks and provided access while lying about what she was doing.

          Sanddog: Well, at least he’s honest about attempts to bribe him.

          Actually, that’s the problem. There’s no way to know because no one knows the extent of Trump’s business relationships, including possible ties to Russian oligarchs.

          Sanddog: Hillary, who just took the checks and provided access while lying about what she was doing.

          Clinton has provided both her tax returns, and the audited filings of her foundation.

    Valerie in reply to Zachriel. | January 11, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    The news is that Buzzfeed and CNN published a story they knew they could not verify, and the New York Times did the same after they knew the story had been outed as a hoax.

      Valerie: The news is that Buzzfeed and CNN published a story they knew they could not verify

      CNN did not publish a story that could not be verified. In fact, the Intelligence Chiefs did provide Trump information on allegations being made against him. CNN did not publish the specifics.

    casualobserver in reply to Zachriel. | January 11, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    Although I don’t visit CNN’s site much at all and don’t tune in any program outside of Tapper’s, and that is rare, it still seems that organization tried to walk a fine line. Buzzfeed essentially aped Media Matters rather than try to act with any integrity. Both were nearly orgasmic in their excitement and rush to get off to the public.

    Milhouse in reply to Zachriel. | January 12, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    NBC now says the CNN report was not true, or newsworthy. Of course they may be wrong.

      Milhouse: NBC now says the CNN report was not true, or newsworthy. Of course they may be wrong.

      It has been confirmed that Trump was briefed on the material by the FBI Director, James Comey.

      Fake news is deliberately published hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation. Being inaccurate does not in itself constitute “fake news”.

Running with unsubstantiated claims that assassinate the character of an individual, regardless of where those allegations were birthed is not reporting, it’s libelous.

That is exactly the correct term, and it fits the legal definition of “actual malice”, which is the bar set by Sullivan v NYT for defamation actions by public figures.

Role of the media? They have none.

The media is supposed to be the ultimate government watchdog.

No, they aren’t. You’re buying into their shtick about having some special constitutional role, about being “the fourth estate”, as if any of them could name the first three, about their being granted a special freedom in the first amendment.

It’s all nonsense. The first amendment protects “the freedom of speech and of the press”, which is one freedom, not two, and it’s a freedom that belongs eually to each human being. It’s the freedom to say or print anything we like, and CNN has no more of it than you or I do.

The fact that they happen to operate a press and I don’t doesn’t make them special, any more than the fact that some people have guns and I don’t makes them special. The second amendment protects my right to arm myself, even if I choose not to, and the first protects my right to operate a press, even if I choose not to. Gun owners don’t have a special constitutional role, and nor do press owners.

    To me its somewhat like “A union should not collectively have any particular rights I don’t have individually as a worker.”

    userpen in reply to Milhouse. | January 12, 2017 at 9:58 am

    No. no,no! They’re watch dogs. Just standing around looking for someone to bite. But sometimes they get too vicious and have to be euthanized.

I believe you mischaracterized the exchange between Trump and Acosta. Calling it a “shouting match” means that Trump was shouting back at Acosta, and I didn’t hear that.

How many times will the state controlled media get butt f**ked before they come to realize that they are the problem, not the person that they are smearing? Probably never as long as they come from institutions that are controlled by the commies. It is time to make wholesale changes in our educational system, now not later.

I’d like to point out to the author that the ‘media/government boundary’ will only last as long as a Republican administration. When a Democrat is back in the White House, the bulk of the media will quickly once again forget their 4th estate adversarial responsibilities.

Excellent writeup, Kemberlee. Thank you. My wife, who hates politics and won’t watch it on TV, called me into the living room during the press conference. “You’ve gotta’ see this! This is great!” She actually loved how Trump took it to the lamestream media.

“We’d all be better of with a big, beautiful wall between politics and media than anywhere geographically.”

Uh, no. We need a wall at the border with Mexico, especially now that Mexico is on the verge of one giant, catastrophic social meltdown.

But I would happily accept both that wall, and a metaphorical wall properly dividing politics and media.

Font Resize
Contrast Mode
Send this to a friend