It is only Thursday, and this week has already exceeded all expectations for progressive and MSM lunacy in the increasingly demented attempts to discredit Donald Trump before the inauguration; and yesterday may well be the day that certain parts of the MSM finally went too far, even allowing for the appalling levels of stupidity that have emanated from the progressive left and to which we have all been subjected since the presidential election.
Over at Fairfax there is a headline that takes the campaign to a previously unimaginable low, even allowing for the paradigm shifting levels of progressive and MSM stupidity that have been on display since the election. The headline tells us, summoning all of the authority and credibility of an ‘unconfirmed report’, that the Russian Secret Service has evidence of ‘perverted acts’ by Donald Trump committed in the Presidential suite of the Moscow Carlton Ritz Hotel during a visit in 2013. It is said that Trump hired prostitutes to perform a ‘golden shower’ on the bed where the President Obama the First Lady previously slept. Troubling as that allegation sounds, the sting is the also unsubstantiated claim that Russia has been cultivating Trump for some time, and planned to use the evidence of Trump’s ‘unorthodox behavior’ to blackmail him, and the usual non-sequitur that somehow all of this is evidence of Russian interference in the US election.
The story surfaced on BuzzFeed on Tuesday, which published an article making the claims and including links to a series of documents said to substantiate them, and CNN quickly picked up and hyped the content.
Even the scantest review of the documents immediately raises suspicions about their authenticity, if no other reason than that there is nothing within them from which ownership or integrity of the contents can be verified; and Fairfax were obviously sufficiently troubled about the source to repeat BuzzFeed’s disclaimer that they had been unable to verify the documents. That concern wasn’t, however, sufficient reason to stop Fairfax publishing the story, for a true story it is, or airing the further claim that documents were produced by a ‘British Intelligence operative’ and had been widely circulated ‘through US political circles’ prior to the election. The latter points may well be the only truth in the whole sorry morass, as it seems the documents were passed around various media in the US for some time, all of whom rightly concluded that without verification it was not appropriate to published such scurrilous material. John McCain was, however, not so circumspect, and he handed the material to the FBI.
Anyone with even a modicum of common sense might at this point be thinking that something doesn’t sound quite right about this story; in its desperation to discredit Trump, the MSM have repeatedly suspended their sense of skepticism and the long-established practices of ethical journalism that ordinarily weed out the scams, the false and inherently improbable and the outright malicious slurs. Regrettably, it seems very little fails the smell test at BuzzFeed, CNN and Fairfax in these unusual days, especially if it leads to a headline from which anyone who doesn’t read the full story would conclude that Trump’s impending presidency is illegitimate, and the man himself is as debased, compromised and unpredictable as the progressive left wants us all to believe.
Rushing to judgement is an inherently risky practice, and the risk is exponentially multiplied when professional practices designed to mitigate risk are so eagerly cast aside; and on this occasion, a healthy sense of skepticism would have served Fairfax and the MSM rather better. In those circumstances, finding the source of the documents might well have been a sensible precaution. There are two concurrent lines running about the source. The first, reported yesterday, is that the story is based on a prank that began on 4chan and ran rather further than its anonymous creator imagined or intended. In this version the document was emailed to an anti-Trump agitator, one Rick Wilson, who apparently thought it was real and he gave it to the CIA. The second, and seemingly more probable line, is that a man now identified as a former MI-6 operative who works in a business intelligence and private security / investigation company created the document while retained by anti-Trump Republicans and Democrats and that Senator John McCain handed the document to the FBI. Whatever the truth, the document found its way to the CIA which exercised the same levels of judgement, discrimination, gullibility and plain old fact-checking as the MSM has done in reporting the story, and it included the claims in a classified intelligence report on Russia’s alleged involvement in the US election.
Trump immediately denied the story, and is said to be furious; and he has responded in a series of Tweets –
‘FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT’
‘Russia just said the unverified report paid for by political opponents is ‘A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FABRICATION, UTTER NONSENSE’ Very unfair’.
‘Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to “leak” into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?’
At a press conference earlier today Sean Spice, the incoming White House Press Secretary, said:
‘It’s frankly outrageous and highly irresponsible for a left-wing blog that was openly hostile to the president-elect’s campaign to drop highly salacious and flat-out false information on the internet just days before he takes the oath of office. According to BuzzFeed’s own editor, there are some serious reasons to doubt the allegations in the report. The executive editor of The New York Times also dismissed the report by saying it was, quote, ‘Totally unsubstantiated, echoing the concerns that many other reporters expressed on the internet.’ The fact that BuzzFeed and CNN made the decision to run with this unsubstantiated claim is a sad and pathetic attempt to get clicks. The report is not an intelligence report, plain and simple.’
The President-elect also responded in clear and unambiguous terms:
‘As far as Buzzfeed, which is a failing pile of garbage, writing it, I think they’re going to suffer the consequence. They already are. And as far as CNN going out of their way to build it up — and by the way, we just found out I was coming down. Michael Cohen — I was being — Michael Cohen is a very talented lawyer. He’s a good lawyer in my firm. It was just reported that it wasn’t this Michael Cohen they we’re talking about. So all night long it’s Michael Cohen. I said, ‘I want to see your passport.’ He brings his passport to my office. I say, hey, wait a minute. He didn’t leave the country. He wasn’t out of the country. They had Michael Cohen of the Trump Organization was in Prague. It turned out to be a different Michael Cohen. It’s a disgrace what took place. It’s a disgrace and I think they ought to apologize to start with Michael Cohen.”
Trump then refused to take questions from CNN and called them ‘Fake News’.
Russia has also denied the claims. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the claims are ‘nonsense’, that the dossier is ‘pulp fiction’ and was a clear attempt to damage relations between Russia and the US.
Even if it was not possible to substantiate the undeniably salacious underlying allegation, one fact included in the documents published by BuzzFeed that could be easily checked is the claim that one of Trump’s lawyers, Michael Cohen, travelled to Prague in August 2016 to secretly meet with Kremlin officials. Cohen has denied the allegation and produced his passport to show that he has never been to Prague, the Czech Republic or to Russia. Cohen says the allegations are ‘Fake news meant to malign Mr Trump’. In the face of Cohen’s denials, and documentary evidence to prove them, the story has shifted yet again with claims now made that the Michael Cohen is a different lawyer to the Michael Cohen employed by Trump; although quite how saying that a Michael Cohen unrelated to Trump visited Prague improves the credibility of the original story isn’t immediately apparent.
Credibility is in increasingly short supply in the MSM, which routinely accuses alternative media of propagating fake news. Is it any wonder that public trust in the MSM is plummeting, and their audience and revenue is fast disappearing, when they fall for this sort of juvenile prank in their desperation to discredit the President-elect? Any pretense of fairness or objectivity is shattered; for some in the MSM, it seems, any nonsense will do.
Fake News indeed! It is your XYZ.