“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity.”
— Hunter S. Thompson
By Glynn Wilson –
Allow me to give fools credit. The mainstream media in America has pulled off an incredible coup in the Internet era and the Age of Facebook.
The story of Russia’s spying and hacking that ostensibly allowed Donald J. Trump to “steal” the 2016 presidential election away from Hillary Clinton is so sensational that it has driven every fake news site off the Facebook “trending” feed. Who needs sensational tabloids and fake news conspiracy theories when the New York and Washington newspapers and magazines will do the trick? Print may be dying, but the news bureaucracies built up over a century with profits from print will not go quietly into that good night.
After being resoundingly beaten to the story by the Washington Post, no longer owned by the Graham family and being driven to dominate on the web by the new owner Jeff Bezos of Amazon dot com, the New York Times is now on the story.
It is a spy story right out of the annals of Cold War thriller novels, flying under the banner: The Perfect Weapon: How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the U.S..
Let’s look at some of the excerpts.
By last summer, Democrats watched in helpless fury as their private emails and confidential documents appeared online day after day — procured by Russian intelligence agents, posted on WikiLeaks and other websites, then eagerly reported on by the American media, including The Times. Mr. Trump gleefully cited many of the purloined emails on the campaign trail.
Yes, the mainstream media spread the story in their own drive to make money from the web ads boosted by the traffic from the “clickbait.” So I guess this now negates the original attempt to grab the Facebook trending tab away from “fake news” sites and get people reading the Washington Post instead?
It was not fake news sites spreading this news. It was the Washington Post and the New York Times, using their own Twitter accounts and Facebook pages to boost it.
There is some information here worthy of taking into account, namely the reporting that shows the FBI knew about the hacking and that the agency tried to warn the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton Campaign about it, to no avail.
Once the information got out, of course, there were consequences.
The fallout included the resignations of Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chairwoman of the D.N.C., and most of her top party aides. Leading Democrats were sidelined at the height of the campaign, silenced by revelations of embarrassing emails or consumed by the scramble to deal with the hacking.
Now, of course, with only a few days to go before the Electoral College votes on Monday, there is a concerted effort on the part of the establishment media and the Clinton campaign to influence the votes of electors by saying Trump’s election was illegitimate and his win was tainted by the involvement of Russian spying and hacking.
Here’s how the Times reporting puts it.
In recent days, a skeptical president-elect, the nation’s intelligence agencies and the two major parties have become embroiled in an extraordinary public dispute over what evidence exists that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia moved beyond mere espionage to deliberately try to subvert American democracy and pick the winner of the presidential election.
Many of Mrs. Clinton’s closest aides believe that the Russian assault had a profound impact on the election, while conceding that other factors — Mrs. Clinton’s weaknesses as a candidate; her private email server; the public statements of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, about her handling of classified information — were also important.
While there’s no way to be certain of the ultimate impact of the hack, this much is clear: A low-cost, high-impact weapon that Russia had test-fired in elections from Ukraine to Europe was trained on the United States, with devastating effectiveness. For Russia, with an enfeebled economy and a nuclear arsenal it cannot use short of all-out war, cyberpower proved the perfect weapon: cheap, hard to see coming, hard to trace.
But wait, there’s more.
The United States, too, has carried out cyberattacks, and in decades past the C.I.A. tried to subvert foreign elections. But the Russian attack is increasingly understood across the political spectrum as an ominous historic landmark — with one notable exception: Mr. Trump has rejected the findings of the intelligence agencies he will soon oversee as “ridiculous,” insisting that the hacker may be American, or Chinese, but that “they have no idea.”
I hate to agree with Mr. Trump on anything, but he may have a point here. Having been the subject of hacking myself and spending hours and days trying to figure out who is behind it and where it’s coming from, I find it hard to believe anyone really knows. It is true that the Obama administration has directed a lot of resources into the cyber spying and hacking game, so perhaps they know something I don’t. Trump also said these are the same people who told us there were WMDs in Iraq. Good point.
Obama didn’t replace enough people in the federal bureaucracy and the United States should have remained on the defensive end of things, rather than engaging in “offensive” hacking of its own. Like the drone campaign that has killed thousands of innocent mothers and children in schools and churches across the Middle East, these things have consequences and a backlash. If we are going to claim some moral high ground in a murky, dangerous world, we should stop killing innocent people — and we should stop hacking other nations. Otherwise of course they will keep hacking us, and they will have every right to do this, making the Internet a more dangerous place for all of us.
Before this framing of the Russian spying story came out, Clinton’s supporters were blaming Wikileaks. But at least the Times admits this:
Though Mr. Assange did not say so, WikiLeaks’ best defense may be the conduct of the mainstream American media. Every major publication, including The Times, published multiple stories citing the D.N.C. and Podesta emails posted by WikiLeaks, becoming a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence.
Yes they did. We did not. So don’t try to call us fake news. Maybe the mainstream media deserves that title now?
Now let’s look at another piece from Esquire, another sensational spy story with a few nuggets worth considering.
The Esquire story begins with praise for FBI Director James Comey and his “reputation for integrity and independence.”
But three years after he was appointed to lead the FBI by President Barack Obama, they say, “…the man known as the straightest of straight shooters shot himself in the foot. The ricocheting bullet scarred his reputation, wounded the American body politic, and lodged in the heart of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.”
Look at these relevant excerpts.
On July 5, 2016, Comey sent an email from the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington to every FBI agent in the world. “I am about to walk downstairs to deliver a statement to the media about our investigation of Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email server during her time as Secretary of State,” he said. He was going to “provide more detail about our process” than was usual, and he was doing so to satisfy the public’s interest. “The confidence of the American people in the FBI is a precious thing,” Comey said. “Folks outside the FBI may disagree about the result, but I don’t want there to be any doubt that this was done in an apolitical and professional way and that our conclusion is honestly held, carefully considered, and ours alone.”
Comey told the press that Clinton’s handling of classified information was no crime. She had been “extremely careless,” he said, but “no reasonable prosecutor” could bring a case against her.
The decision to close the case did not sit well with Republicans in Congress, who summoned Comey to Capitol Hill for several hearings. On September 7, he wrote his agents again and said that “the case itself was not a cliff-hanger.” The hard part had been deciding that “the best way to protect the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the American people’s sense of justice was to announce it the way we did—with extraordinary transparency.” He decried the idea that the Bureau was being “political.”
But wait. The story also says Comey served two years as a point man in George W. Bush’s counterterrorism campaign and then deputy attorney general. He joined the Senate Whitewater Committee as a deputy special counsel to investigate Bill and Hillary Clinton in the 1990s. In 1996 he was part of the committee that claimed Hillary Clinton mishandled sensitive documents and concluded that while her behavior constituted misconduct, no charges against her could be proved. Then, in college, Comey wrote a senior thesis about Jerry Falwell and Reinhold Niebuhr’s shared belief that Christians have a moral duty to participate in public life.
This is the guy Mr. Obama put in charge of the FBI? And this is the guy we are now all supposedly relying on to decide whether the election was stolen by the Russians?
Come on people. We must do better. President Obama should fire Comey immediately before Trump has a chance to keep him on.
But the Esquire piece goes on.
… on October 28, eleven days before the election, Comey lifted the lid off a box of dynamite. He sent a letter to the Hillary hunters in Congress explaining that a separate probe had uncovered a new batch of emails that might be relevant to the closed Clinton case. “We don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations,” Comey told his agents in an email later that day. Nevertheless, he said, “I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record.”
So Comey felt the need to protect the reputation of the FBI, but not the electoral integrity of the country. He did something the FBI has never done. Make a public announcement about an ongoing case just days before an election. He must have known it would have an impact. How could he not, unless he is a complete dolt? So according to Esquire:
The consequences were immediate and, for Clinton, devastating. Her poll numbers fell. Donald Trump, who had been pushing the “Crooked Hillary” trope for months, proclaimed that his opponent was on the verge of indictment. The warning was mindlessly repeated by an army of Twitter bots, a prominent Fox News personality, and even Rudy Giuliani, who had, like Comey, once been the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
The letter had nothing to back it up: There was no new evidence against Clinton. At the time Comey sent it, the FBI didn’t even have a warrant to open the new cache of emails. He recognized immediately that the letter was open to misinterpretation, but it didn’t matter. Nor did it matter when, about thirty-six hours before the election, he sent a letter reconfirming what he’d said in July: There was no crime, no reason to continue the investigation. In the post-fact world, everyone looked up for a second and then went back to their tweeting.
Donald Trump won the presidency by about a hundred thousand votes spread across three states. According to Trump’s own pollster, just five counties in Florida and Michigan could have flipped the Electoral College. Hillary Clinton is not the only person who thinks Comey tipped the balance. In the black lagoon of Washington politicos, there is something close to a consensus that she might be right. Even Corey Lewandowski, who shilled for Trump on CNN after being fired as his campaign manager, said that the FBI director’s “amazing” intervention was a pivotal event.
Even Nate Silver, the pollster who was guaranteeing the inevitability of Clinton’s election in the Electoral College and the national popular vote for at least a year before the election, is now saying it was the Comey letter and press conference that cost Clinton the election, not the Russian spying itself.
I’m sorry. I’m having a hard time believing this guy and all these news outfits that got everything so wrong for so long.
My own analysis of the polls was more spot on than his. I was talking about the inevitability of Trump’s election back during the Republican National Convention in July. Not just because the polls were so close and trending to Trump. But because I am out here in the country listening to Trump’s voters in person and on Facebook. The New York and Washington pundits have been wrong all along. Why would anyone think all of a sudden they are right?
Even though he did not give me credit along with Michael Moore for predicting Trump’s win, I still like Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone as one of the heirs to Hunter Thompson in American journalism.
It feels like a bomb went off in Washington. In less than a year, the leaders of both major parties have been crushed, fundamentally reshaping a political culture that for generations had seemed unalterable. The new order has belligerent outsider Donald Trump heading to the White House, ostensibly backed in Congress by a tamed and repentant majority of establishment Republicans. Hillary Clinton’s devastating loss, meanwhile, has left the minority Democrats in disarray. A pitched battle for the soul of the opposition party has already been enjoined behind the scenes.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who won overwhelming youth support and 13 million votes during primary season, now sits on one side of that battle, in a position of enormous influence. The party has named him “outreach chair,” and Minnesota congressman and Sanders political ally Keith Ellison is the favorite to be named head of the Democratic National Committee. This is a huge change from earlier this year, when the Sanders campaign was completely on the outs with the DNC, but many see Sanders’ brand of politics as the Democrats’ best shot at returning to prominence.
I totally agree with this analysis. And for good measure, I am going to let you in on a few other things that cost the Democrats this election and handed the country to a mad man.
If it is accurate to say that Trump won the presidency by about a hundred thousand votes spread across three states, and that just five counties in Florida and Michigan could have flipped the Electoral College, then any number of other things could have changed the outcome of the election toward Clinton’s side.
For starters, as even the Times points out without being more blunt probably because they editorially supported her as the establishment paper for the establishment candidate, Clinton ran a mainstream, establishment campaign while her opponents on the left and right were running insurgent campaigns for change. Every speech she made sounded to most Americans like every politician that has come down the pike for the past 50 years. She missed many opportunities to appeal to younger voters and the disenfranchised.
A list of everything she could have done would be exhausting and painful. But let’s look at one key event.
What if Hillary Clinton had shown up at Standing Rock and stood with the Sioux Red Warriors against the company Trump held stock in to build the Dakota Access Pipeline?
Instead of issuing a wishy-washy statement trying to ameliorate both sides, a simple appearance in the Oceti encampment in Cannon Ball, North Dakota and a statement against the violence of the local police and private security forces against Native Americans engaged in a non-violent, peaceful protest well within their First Amendment rights of speech and assembly might have earned her a hundred thousand votes in five counties in some close states that voted with Trump.
Bernie Sanders showed up at Standing Rock to side with the water protectors.
If she had done that, this entire story blaming the Russian hackers and Wikileaks and the FBI would be a moot point. She would be the next president of the United States come January and we would all be listening to fake news stories about “Killery Clinton” for the next four years.
But you know what Hunter Thompson said: “Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism.”
Here’s a holiday toast to four years ahead of fighting the likes of Trump from destroying this country and the world. Won’t you join us?
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© 2016 – 2017, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.