Sense of decency

Francesco DEBEDb
4 min readJan 4, 2017

You want to complain about “fake news”?

A respectable news agency (Bloomberg) writes:

Prodded to produce evidence by Russia, which has denied a role in hacking — and by an openly skeptical President-elect Donald Trump — the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security did so Thursday.

Another respectable one (AP) echoes:

It was also the first time the U.S. has officially and specifically tied intrusions into the Democratic National Committee to hackers with the Russian civilian and military intelligence services, the FSB and GRU, expanding on an Oct. 7 accusation by the Obama administration.

Seeing, I suppose, how the water is now safe for swimming (see my N.B. below), the third one (CBS) jumps in:

U.S. releases report detailing hacking allegations against Russia.

U.S. officials do not often release the details of their investigations — but they did Thursday.

And on, and on.

But the US Government did no such thing. The Joint Analysis Report (written in stunning prose and including a diagram with the word “comand”sic) provides absolutely no evidence for anything, which is obvious to anyone with half a clue (not to mention those with significantly more clue). What’s more, one of the main authorities previously cited as having identified the threats called the report a “jumbled mess”. True, some in the media try to be cautious (and somewhere there’s a joke about that awkward moment when even Rolling Stone — Rolling Stone, Karl!doubts your story), but…

But no matter. In a bit, someone will link to the Bloomberg story or a slightly less misleading article (one has to read all the way to the fourth paragraph for “But security experts say that the document provides little in the way of forensic “proof” to confirm the government’s attribution”). Then someone else will link to that, and in a few weeks the established fact will be not just that Russia did it (this claim is not discussed here), but that evidence for it was provided. It will be referred to as something that everybody knows, and you will be a crazy conspiracy nut if you question it.

I will repeat it again, so I do not get misunderstood. I am not questioning whether any evidence exists that Russia did it, or even how strong this evidence is. I am merely stating that the DHS report did not offer such evidence.

But the respectable YouGov put it (ironically, right after lamenting about people not believing FBI/CIA story on the DNC), “Once a story is believed, it also seems to stay believed.”

So, when the Washington Post gleefully says,

Many Americans believe a lot of dumb, crazy, destructive, provably wrong stuff. Lately this is especially (though not exclusively) true of Donald Trump voters, according to a new survey.

please know — that very survey found that 37% of all voters (and 52% of Democrats and 50% of Clinton voters!) think that the statement “Russia tampered with vote tallies in order to get Donald Trump elected President” is “definitely true” or “probably true”.

Is that surprising? What do you expect when we “know” (see above) that the government already provided evidence for what AFP calls “vote hacking”, and both AP and NPR call “election hacking”? Why are respected news sources contributing to the mis-information, manufacturing “facts” out of thin air with such ease that one can only watch it with morbid fascination?

So whether attributable to malice or stupidity, these transgressions — coming from the media that we are expected to trust — are orders of magnitude more insidious than fringe or click-bait sites pushing some silly #pizzagate-Harambe-Pepe nonsense.

Is there left no sense of decency, at long last?

Given Gell-Mann’s Amnesia, should one now question other things being written? This is an example of MSM contributing to the erosion of trust in themselves, and it is not the fault of talk radio or alt-right or extraterrestrials. It is entirely their own doing.

And when this pushes some people that ask “if they lie to me about X, what else are they lying about” right into the welcoming arms of Alex Jones — whose fault is that?

And so it goes.

P.S. And on the subject of malice vs. stupidity. There was no need to claim that there’s any evidence in the report. It would have been OK to say “the intelligence services have evidence they cannot show you because classified secret stuff”. But no. They had to pretend. Malice? Stupidity? It’s better to keep one’s mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.

N.B. Yeah, I did not bother checking the chronology — whether it was indeed CBS that felt like it was safe jumping in after Bloomberg and AP, or indeed it was more brave than I claim. For all I know, the timeline could have been different. Point still stands. I’ll happily issue a correction if it comes. (Heh-heh).