Thoughts on the BuzzFeed disclosure
Can’t resist weighing in with a few thoughts on the presidential news controversy du jour.
Is Buzzfeed’s release of a dossier filled with unsavory information about President-elect Trump an act of journalism? Well, by my definitions of it journalism is information that is independent, accurate and verified.
The material is, by Buzzfeed’s own admission, unverified, which makes it impossible to tell whether it’s accurate. As for independence, I honestly don’t know enough about BuzzFeed’s politics to know whether it leans left, right or center. I’ve always thought if it as essentially a tabloid operation, and tabloids DO have a well-documented bias, but not a political one. They are biased toward scandal and sensationalism, and a let’s-just-throw-this-agaisnt-the-wall-to-see-what-sticks approach. That appears to be what Buzzfeed is doing here.
To say that it is being presented so people can “make up their own minds” is disingenuous.
Without accuracy and verification any such personal decision is meaningless. Trump supporters will disbelieve it; his opponents will give it more credence. But what does that gain either side?
I do hope this topic will not come to dominate Trump’s news conference today (scheduled to start about 2 hours from when this is being written). The report is out there; both he and the Russians have flatly denied it. Let’s get some journalists with the resources and access to investigate this to verify (or refute) the damaging information, and let’s just dismiss it from the discourse until that happens and we have some accurate, factual information to discuss.
However, even though BuzzFeed is being disingenuous in presenting this as a piece of helpful information, Trump is being equally disingenuous (or worse) in his denunciation of it. Of course, he needs to denounce it and I don’t question that he is entitled to do so.
But I call the move disingenuous because he not only failed to denounce so-called “fake news” but actually trafficked in it when it was to his benefit politically.
The allegations in the report may or may not be accurate; it’s possible — even likely — that some or all of them are completely fabricated. However, Trump was fine with such fabrications for many months of the campaign, starting with his long-running support for birtherism. His snide remarks on the campaign trail about Hillary Clinton’s stamina were designed to reinforce completely fabricated reports of her ill health circulating in the right-wing echo chamber.
So fake news about an opponent: just great, let’s endorse and repeat it. Fake news directed against him? A shameful “witch-hunt.” That is pure hypocrisy.
One final point: though Trump presents himself as a “truth-teller,” he also has a well-documented tendency to present completely fabricated or made-up information as verifiable fact. Politifact has rated 70 percent of his statements of supposed “fact” as “mostly false,” “false” or “pants on fire” lies. Like the boy who cried wolf in the fairy tale, when you have that poor of a reputation for telling the truth, the denunciations ring pretty hollow.
But please let’s all remember this one, and make sure the tweet is preserved in multiple places so it can’t be denied later.
Because with everything that has come out about Russian interference in our political process (verified by US intelligence agencies, though largely rejected by Trump) if we do someday see independent, verified information reported that sets the lie to this particular tweet — especially the statement about deals and loans — Trump must be called to answer for it.