Supposedly “Objective Reporters” Not So “Objective” When It Comes To The Scary Russian Menace

Michael Tracey
Dec 17, 2016 · 3 min read
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Our vaunted, “objective” press is now asserting far and wide as incontrovertible truth that “Russia” did in fact “hack the election,” by which it is meant that Russian government actors deliberately accessed the email system of the Democratic National Committee, and successfully tricked John Podesta into clicking a “phishing” link in an email. These in tandem are supposed to mean that the election was “hacked.” Then, something something something WikiLeaks. Putin bad. Trust us. Believe the government. The government loves you.

Of course, the questions from reporters to Obama today at his year-end press conference presupposed that Russia 100% committed these sinister acts, even though no evidence has yet been publicly presented to that effect. Here’s the lead question from Josh Lederman of the Associated Press (who passive-aggressively “liked” my critical tweet while the press conference was still ongoing; so he’s sitting steps away from the president, staring into his computer/phone, “liking” tweets... OK.)

LEDERMAN: “There’s a perception that you’re letting President Putin get away with interfering in the US election… are you prepared to call out President Putin by name for ordering this hacking?”

Note how this question is constructed. Embedded in it are some premises. First is that “a perception” exists somewhere out there that Obama is meekly and supinely letting Putin “get away with” large-scale subterfuge intended to destroy American democracy. Who harbors this “perception”? Lederman doesn’t cite anyone. Maybe… Lederman himself? If so, he ought to just state that up front, rather than attributing it to some mysterious unknown entity.

Also, “interfering in the US election” is certainly a loaded phrase. It could connote a variety of things. For one, it could mean that actual votes were tampered with, or the tabulation of votes was maliciously manipulated. But, there’s no evidence for this and no one seriously suggests it happened, aside from a few cranks. Yet journalists who purport to be “objective” are using the phrase “interfere in the US election” as shorthand for “sent John Podesta a phishing link,” which is just self-evidently absurd. “Interfere in the US election” connotes some kind of grand, complex endeavor to undermine democracy, and accessing Podesta’s stupid gmail account certainly would not rise to this level — nor would “hacking the DNC.” But the casual news consumer doesn’t know the ins-and-outs of this matter, so when he hears “Russia interfered in the US election,” he quite reasonably assumes something more nefarious. Obama himself appeared to recognize this discrepancy:

This is important because journalists ought to be skeptical of incendiary government claims, especially given recent history, which tells us that these claims are regularly proven false, but not before they’re used as pretext to launch disastrous wars. Journalists’ questions to the president could’ve thus conveyed such skepticism. They could have asked him something like, “Discerning the provenance of ‘hacks’ with complete technical precision is notoriously difficult. Surely the bar should be quite high before we assign blame for these actions to a nuclear-armed power. Do you have direct evidentiary basis for tracing the Podesta phishing email to Putin? If so, can you produce it immediately?”

Instead, Lederman kicked off the press conference with a question that presupposed Obama’s alleged “inaction” to be baleful and weak, with the aim of goading Obama into admitting that he had not “done enough” and needs to step up to the plate and show Putin who’s boss.

The way that the media (both “objective” and avowedly liberal) has worked itself into a frenzy over this Russia mania is truly disturbing, and it’s an example of the kind of crazed self-fulfilling groupthink that has got us mired in so many catastrophes in the past. Lederman obviously has not learned any lessons, and would apparently rather try to agitate for increased US-Russia hostilities under the guise of Serious Objective Journalism than get at the actual truth.


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