Greg Sargent in a WaPo op-ed blames journalistic conventions for amplifying Trump’s recycling nonsense, but the institutional problem is that there are media outlets for whom this is their stock in trade. Those outlets are the 2016 audience upon whom Trump will rely again in 2020. Trump does this constantly and consistently; it is why he calls on OANN in his pressers.
But here’s the problem: These formulations do not constitute a neutral transmission of information, even though they are supposed to come across that way.The new information actually does not “boost” Trump’s claims about the Russia investigation or “discredit” it. And if there is “no evidence of wrongdoing,” then it cannot legitimately be “turned into an election issue.”
There’s no way to neutrally assert that new info “boosts” an attack or constitutes a “salvo” or is “becoming an issue.” The information is being used in a fashion that is either legitimate or not, based on the known facts. Such pronouncements in a from-on-high tone of journalistic objectivity lend the dishonest weaponizing of new info an aura of credibility.
Memo to the media:— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) May 14, 2020
Please stop claiming that the Mike Flynn unmasking "boosts" Trump's attacks or "gives him an election issue."
It does not do anything of the sort. Merely by saying that, you're misleading readers and rewarding bad faith.
Here’s the problem.
There’s no way to *neutrally* assert that new info “lends ammunition” to an attack or “allows Trump to make an issue” out of something.
Either the new info *legitimately* allows this, or it does not. You need to say which it is.When people criticize the media for “But Her Emails,” journos often respond that critics don’t want Dems scrutinized.
But that misses the objection, which is about *presentation and proportionality,* and creating misleading *impressions* of equivalence.Some others are making similar and related points. See these tweets from @AdamSerwer, @nycsouthpaw, @zackbeauchamp and @samstein.
I tried to turn this argument into a full piece (see the thread above or this link: washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/…)
Ask yourself this: In 2016, how many times did you hear that this or that revelation about Hillary Clinton’s emails or other matters “gives Trump ammunition” or “gives Trump an issue” or some such, only to see the revelations themselves turn out to be little or nothing?
Beyond all the problems noted above, it doesn’t undermine the validity of the Russia investigation itself (which the Justice Department inspector general found to have a lawful basis, despite many problems).And, importantly, it in no way undermines that investigation’s conclusions, that Trump committed extensive and likely criminal obstructive acts and that Russia did engage in extensive electoral sabotage to help Trump, for which a dozen Russians were indicted.
This is plainly on its way to happening again. But it doesn’t have to. One way to avoid this: If something doesn’t actually “boost” or “lend fodder” to a big claim that Trump is making, just don’t report that it does.
Speaking of fodder:
.@realDonaldTrump’s propaganda & disinformation machine, which operates according to a despot’s playbook, is the most aggressive & odious in history. It far surpasses even Russia’s ability to trample the truth, harm U.S. security, & undermine America’s reputation worldwide.— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) May 14, 2020