Russiagate & the Media

Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his wife Ann in Washington, D.C.
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The Gulf of Tonkin, Iraq WMD, Qaddafi’s Rape Militias, Russiagate. One has to ask how many times can the establishment media demonstrate its lack of professionalism, objectivity and due diligence and still have anyone with a functioning brain take it seriously?

Robert Mueller has finally concluded his 2 and 1/2 year $25 million investigation into whether Donald Trump or anyone associated with his presidential campaign or administration colluded with Russia to win the presidency – or more precisely steal it from the entitled Hillary Clinton.

The conclusion as summarized in a statement by Attorney General William Barr and reported by Reuters, the New York Times and other scions of establishment media, is that Mueller found no evidence for such an allegation. There are no further indictments – either openly or under seal.

Skeptics and those who still conduct real journalism, such as Aaron Mate and Glenn Greenwald, are taking some well-deserved victory laps on social media while the die-hard true believers refuse to admit defeat, moving the goal posts and pinning their hopes on more investigations from Congress, as though there is something that Congress might magically find that Mueller with subpoena power, a whole team of experienced investigators and tens of millions of dollars at his disposal didn’t find. Possible, but highly unlikely.

The NYT comments section is flabbergasted at this outcome after being fed a constant diet of sloppy and biased reporting from the newspaper of record, along with CNN and MSNBC. They are clucking about having the full report made available – which it should be – claiming that the summary must be dishonest, even though neither Mueller nor anyone on his staff has come out and complained that their report has been distorted or misrepresented by Barr.

As investigative journalist Matt Taibbi said in a recent article:

Over the weekend, the Times tried to soften the emotional blow for the millions of Americans trained in these years to place hopes for the overturn of the Trump presidency in Mueller. As with most press coverage, there was little pretense that the Mueller probe was supposed to be a neutral fact-finding mission, as apposed to religious allegory, with Mueller cast as the hero sent to slay the monster.

The Special Prosecutor literally became a religious figure during the last few years, with votive candles sold in his image and Saturday Night Live cast members singing “All I Want for Christmas is You” to him featuring the rhymey line: “Mueller please come through, because the only option is a coup.”

After citing Barr’s kudos to Mueller that he and his team remained professional throughout the investigation, Taibbi asks if the same can be said of the media.

The biggest thing this affair has uncovered so far is Donald Trump paying off a porn star. That’s a hell of a long way from what this business was supposedly about at the beginning, and shame on any reporter who tries to pretend this isn’t so.

The story hyped from the start was espionage: a secret relationship between the Trump campaign and Russian spooks who’d helped him win the election.

The betrayal narrative was not reported as metaphor. It was not “Trump likes the Russians so much, he might as well be a spy for them.” It was literal spying, treason, and election-fixing – crimes so severe, former NSA employee John Schindler told reporters, Trump “will die in jail.”

Taibbi goes on to list and link to numerous claims made by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN and other “respectable” establishment media outlets regarding this story that turned out to be garbage. He then points out that “None of this has been walked back.” He also observes that it likely never will be walked back. There never is the reckoning that’s needed for those media that have fed Americans lie after lie that has had deadly consequences for millions throughout the world. This time, the lies have greatly contributed to ratcheting up tensions to the highest point in decades between the world’s two nuclear superpowers. It doesn’t get much more irresponsible than that.

We now have millions of people whom the media and the Clinton wing of the Democratic party have hooked with the narcotic of a fairy tale story that a greedy, vulgar, inexperienced and inept president is the result of treason with the Kremlin rather than profound problems with the Democratic Party (and the larger system it operates in) and its failure to address seriously mounting problems among the American people.

Now these millions of people must either cling to that fairy tale to avoid cognitive dissonance or they will have to start asking hard questions about the pathetic state of their political system and their media.

An example of that choice is reflected in the debate held Monday on Democracy Now! between Glenn Greenwald and David Cay Johnston in which Johnston is clearly bristling at his credulousness on the Russiagate story as pointed out to him by Greenwald. He walks back a couple of items, such as his opinion stated on a previous episode of Democracy Now! that he believed Trump was a Russian agent. But he also goes on to falsely conflate what the actual objective of the Mueller investigation was with other issues, goes off on tangents, etc. He doesn’t want to let go of the position that he has invested so much in over the past 2-3 years.

As for some of the people and organizations that have facilitated the Russiagate conspiracy theory, namely keeping it alive every day in the media, Real Clear News Investigations has just published an expose about how powerful Democratic Party operatives, private investigators and their wealthy backers were behind pushing sensational stories to reporters on a near-daily basis that were bogus or lacking in substantive evidence:

The operation’s nerve center is a Washington-based nonprofit called The Democracy Integrity Project, or TDIP. Among other activities, it pumps out daily “research” briefings to prominent Washington journalists, as well as congressional staffers, to keep the Russia “collusion” narrative alive.

TDIP is led by Daniel J. Jones, a former FBI investigator, Clinton administration volunteer and top staffer to California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. It employs the key opposition-research figures behind the salacious and unverified dossier: Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson and ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. Its financial backers include the actor/director Rob Reiner and billionaire activist George Soros.

The project’s work has been largely shrouded in mystery. But a months-long examination by RealClearInvestigations, drawn from documents and more than a dozen interviews, found that the organization is running an elaborate media-influence operation that includes driving and shaping daily coverage of the Russia collusion theory, as well as pushing stories about Trump in the national media that attempt to tie the president or his associates to the Kremlin.

The project also used tactics similar to the stove-piping method employed by Neocons in the run-up to the Iraq war by giving information to one institution (e.g. the media) and then using the published reports that it was the source for as “independent” confirmation of its claims.

The group also feeds information to FBI and congressional investigators, and then tells reporters that authorities are investigating those leads. The tactic adds credibility to TDIP’s pitches, luring big media outlets to bite on stories. It mirrors the strategy federal authorities themselves deployed to secure FISA warrants to spy on the Trump campaign: citing published news reports of investigative details their informants had leaked to the media to bolster their wiretap requests.

Five days a week, TDIP  emails a newsletter to influential Democrats and prominent Beltway journalists under the heading “TDIP Research” – which summarizes the latest “collusion” news, and offers “points of interest” to inspire fresh stories regarding President Trump’s alleged ties to Moscow.

Read the full article here.

Increasingly, the “news” products being pushed by the establishment media and passed off as news are comparable to pink slime being passed off as meat.

5 thoughts on “Russiagate & the Media”

  1. Well put, Natylie. I for one am not at all surprised by this outcome. And yes, true progressives must understand that the current political horror is as much the responsibility of the Democratic Party as those despicable R’s.

    1. There’s always a part of me that is surprised when I talk to educated people who still want to believe somehow that the Democratic Party isn’t just as corrupt as the Republican Party within the context of our campaign financing system. I always have to point them to in the hopes that they’ll finally realize that mainstream Democrats are also beholden to the MIC, fossil fuel industry, big Pharma, big Ag, etc. That’s why they won’t support policies that will mean concrete improvements in people’s lives – policies that poll after poll say the people want. The mainstream Democrats’ donors don’t want them to support those policies.

      I’m always also surprised at this point when these same people still don’t get it about the mainstream media. They still think the NYT is the newspaper of record and CNN is reliable. I was talking to one person at a writer’s conference I attended last month who accused me of being a conspiracy theorist for pointing out how 90% of the establishment media is owned by one of six corporate conglomerates – each of which has financial relations with MIC, fossil fuel industry, etc. This was a writer who considered himself a liberal.

  2. “Increasingly, the “news” products being pushed by the establishment media and passed off as news are comparable to pink slime being passed off as meat.”…nice summary, Natylie!

    1. Thanks Bob. At first I thought about sausage-making and then I remembered pink slime and thought that was more original and just as apt to get the point across.

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