Boom or Bust: How The Media Fulfilled Trump Narrative On “Fake News”

ASC_Leiden_-_Coutinho_Collection_-_C_37_-_Candjambary,_Guinea-Bissau_-_Unexploded_bomb_-_1974.tif200px-Cnn.svgI recently criticized Gloria Allred for giving Roy Moore a badly needed boost in her belated admission that her client wrote some of the words that she attributed to Moore in the now infamous yearbook press controversy.  Now CNN and other media outlets have given critics the most compelling evidence that they are seeking to allege that our media is rife with “fake news.”  Trump himself pounced on the false report. CNN went all in on a report from Congressional reporter Manu Raju that Wikileaks gave the Trumps early access to undisclosed hacked emails before they were made public.  The story was wrong on the key date and failed to note that the source was just some unknown character encouraging the campaign to look at the publicly available material.  Brookings Institution’s Ben Wittes and others joined in the spasm of “bombshell” reporting, as detailed by Glenn Greenwald.  This follows the Washington Post reporter David Weigel tweeting a false image of empty seats at a recent rally to contradict Trump’s latest crowd assertions — a picture that was found before Trump spoke.  Trump called for Weigel’s firing, which I have said would be excessive (even though Weigel has made past controversial statements against conservatives before the Post hired him). Weigel withdrew the tweet and apologized.  I think that that is sufficient and the Trump Administration should be the most sympathetic with wayward tweets.  The more serious issue is the CNN coverage of the Wikileaks story and the eagerness to pounce on any story damaging to the Trump Administration.  That is a legitimate basis for criticism and review.  If this were not Trump, would CNN have run with the “bombshell” without more scrutiny?  The alleged lack of circumspection and caution on the story has been raised as characteristic of much of the Trump coverage. (Notably, Fox was also criticized for a headline on the yearbook disclosure, though the objection was to the use of “forgery” in the headline not the content of the reporting).

 

CNN ran with the story on Friday morning at 11:00 am EST and then flogged the story endlessly and breathlessly for hours.  The strong suggestion was that it was an exclusive to CNN — discussing the email from an unknown character named “Michael J. Erickson” who offered  a decryption key and access to DNC emails.  The date it was suggested as  September 4. That would be ten days before WikiLeaks made the emails publicly known.

The date was actually September 14th, which is after the Wikileaks disclosure.  Hours later, Manu Raju, finally posted a tweet with a correction. Raju went on CNNat he had “two sources.”

The question is who were those sources. In torts, we often explore reckless disregard allegations under the New York Times v. Sullivan standard for defamation.  The question is whether these sources were biased, such as Democratic members on one of the committee. We have seen virtually immediate leaks from sealed hearings on the Hill.  Clearly some stories can go awry like some tweets, particularly in today’s Web driven accelerated news cycle.  The concern is not that CNN and others got this wrong but the tendency to go “all in” on a story before confirming keys facts.  There is a tendency to be too judgmental since all of us have found ourselves dangerously ahead of confirmed news reports. However, the concern is that there is a greater tendency to jump the gun on anti-Trump stories.

Greenwald goes after Brookings’ Benjamin Wittes “whose star has risen as he has promoted himself as a friend of former FBI Director Jim Comey.”  He notes that Wittes literally tweeted a cannon to signify a bombshell moment and never corrected his own postings:

 

124 thoughts on “Boom or Bust: How The Media Fulfilled Trump Narrative On “Fake News”

  1. I agree that there is too often a rush to issue these stories by the advocates behind the stories themselves. And this seems to cause a lack of verification of the details within the story. The problem is that people are being given credit for “who reported the news first,” instead of “who accurately reported the news.”

    We need to get away from focusing upon the idea of being first with the story. The facts of the story will be available in due time, and whether we find out the details on the 6 PM newscast or at 6:30 PM on the in-depth report shouldn’t really matter in the 24-hour news cycle. The premium is being earned by being first, rather than by being accurate in the details. And the fact that people want the headline fast is driving the news reporting. If anyone disagrees with that point, I have one piece of evidence I believe they should consider: If a story breaks on these issues, why do the news presentations on any given source all pile into the story? There won’t be just one in-depth presentation; there will be several, even on the same channel, each with their own version of the details. There won’t be one television personality assigned to cover the story; each show in their prime-time line-up will present their own reporting.

  2. We’ve had zealous, exaggerated, polemical publishing going all the way back to the start of our country, with crafted rumor-milling and printed handbills. What’s changed is the cost of entry. Avenues to propagandize have been driven down to near zero by social media. The pro- and semi-pro “opinion shapers” understand the limited vetting that the news media can mount these days, and operate just below that threshold of deceit detection. These are very troubling times. I am doubtful that our nation can make good decisions in a milieu of unrestricted, ubiquitous infowarfare. There is no magic bullet. Rather, all children must be brought up to apply critical thinking and media savvy, and self-disiplined enough to participate in audience abandonment of news sources that won’t hold themselves to high standards of truth seeking. In past decades, editors and news producers did a credible job of filtering out the flotsam, but now this responsibility falls the individual citizen. I’m pessimistic because this pits great masses of amateurs against a small cadre of professionals, the latter equipped with advanced techniques of opinion shaping and applied psychology.

  3. So essentially CNN can attempt to cause as much damage as it can to its political opponents through sensationalism, truth being less important, and then publish any retractions by posting them in the elevator room at the bottom of the county courthouse building. It is more of a drive-by shooting than news reporting. (Launch a savage attack against someone you don’t like, then flee the area to avoid responsibility)

    But I suppose from a business perspective if there exists a sizeable demographic that spends hours a day at the edge of their seat, angry, afraid, and resolved to focus their lives on attacking President Trump or Mr. Moore, then it can make for some good ad revenue through the bedazzling of a captive audience.

  4. A salient revelation by Professor Truley is that statement that “Weigel withdrew the tweet and apologized. I think that that is sufficient…”

    That is the very same leniency that has effected the complete nullification of the Preamble, Constitution and Bill of Rights, 1789.

    Weigel should be removed, excommunicated and effectively sentenced to a night shift mail handler position at the Post Office.

    The impeachment process, primarily for judges and justices that “legislate from the bench,” usurp the power of the legislative and executive branches, and nullify the Constitution, should be strengthened and accelerated.

  5. “There is a serious logical fallacy infecting many comments here. The fact that the media makes mistakes, or has a bias in a particular direction, does not provide a valid excuse for improper conduct by either Moore (or Trump).”

    ******************************

    There’s also a truism born of experience that if you fail to discourage bad behavior you get more of it. Denying these leftists miscreants their goal in thrashing Moore is satisfying on so many levels if not logical perfection.

  6. There is a serious logical fallacy infecting many comments here. The fact that the media makes mistakes, or has a bias in a particular direction, does not provide a valid excuse for improper conduct by either Moore (or Trump). It is possible for some people at CNN to be wrong and for Moore to be wrong, all at the same time! Both the media and Moore (or Trump) can act dishonourably. It is not one or the other.

    Any doubt about whether Moore is fit to hold a seat in the U.S. Senate should be erased as the result of an objective reading of this document: https://www.scribd.com/document/345653431/Alabama-Supreme-Court-order-on-Roy-Moore#from_embed

    Widespread reliance on rabid partisanship to ignore objective facts will be the end of the United States. Pointing your finger at the other side, without first looking in the mirror, is not a solution. It is the problem.

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