Russia and the Idea of Objectivity in US Journalism

Spys from Russia Destroying US DemocracyI’ve never really doubted that Russia was involved in influencing the 2016 presidential election. I never got upset about it because I’m sure that they have done the same thing since about the time our nation was founded. The only reason it was of any special interest this year was that one of the major candidates for president was on record as being relatively positive in his posture toward Russia. And as a result, journalists were sniffing around more than they normally would and we learned more.

Even still, it isn’t like we ever found a smoking gun. During the election, I looked for information that proved that Russia was doing things that were meant to swing the election toward Trump. But I never did find anything. It was always just that a bunch of American governmental agencies believed that this was the case. I’m willing to go along with that, but it isn’t anything too outrageous.

Ridiculous Outrage

What is outrageous is how much liberals have become outraged about all of this. After all, the United States has a long history of not just interfering with the elections of other nations, but of actually staging coups to overthrow democratically elected governments. With the death of Fidel Castro, we liberals should take a moment to remember this. Regardless of what Russia did in the presidential election of 2016, the United States is the most meddlesome country in the history of the world.

On Thursday, Craig Timberg of The Washington Post published, Russian Propaganda Effort Helped Spread “Fake News” During Election, Experts Say. Oh my! There’s a snore-fest. Or you would think it would be one. But it wasn’t. It was big news. By Friday, everyone was talking about it. And just what did we learn? Well, not much:

The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.

Clinton Was Harmed By “Real” Stories in US Media

This is just absurd. Sure: there were lots of fake stories. They weren’t all intended to make Clinton look bad, but most were. Just the same: so what? The uncorroborated stories against Trump were taken far more seriously. But it wasn’t the fake stories that lost Clinton the election. Look at all the true stories about Trump — ones that would have killed the campaign of any normal politician? Those didn’t hurt Trump. Who, at this point, actually thinks that Clinton lost because the voters got the wrong information.

If you had to pick a single reason for Clinton losing, it would have to be constant innuendo about her private email server. And this was all, technically, true. It wasn’t things like the fake story that Obama withdrew his endorsement of Clinton. So this whole “fake story” obsession is just silly anyway.

But Timberg’s story was worse than even its obsession on “Russian propaganda destroying US democracy” would make it seem. Much of the article is based on work by PropOrNot (Propaganda Or Not) — a website that is completely anonymous. We aren’t even told the name of the executive director. According to the article, he “spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers.” I don’t remember the last time I heard so much hooey.

Russia Is Destroying US Democracy!

Much of the article is also caught up in what Robert Orttung had to say about all this, “They use our technologies and values against us to sow doubt. It’s starting to undermine our democratic system.” Oh yeah, it’s the Russians who are doing this! It’s not the Republican Party who have been pushing this argument for decades. It isn’t the president-elect himself who claimed that the election was rigged. It isn’t all the domestic propaganda about voter fraud. No, it’s Russia — using “our” technologies and “our” values.

This is what I most hate about our media. They spend a year and a half covering the presidential election as though it were the “most popular boy” contest for the high school yearbook. They obsess about Hillary Clinton’s email server, even though there was no actual information to report. And when it all ends in an ignorant narcissist being elected President of the United States, then it is time to get serious about what’s really going wrong in our democracy: Russia! Hackers!

Unbelievable.

Afterword

For more push-back on Craig Timberg’s article, see Mathew Ingram’s No, Russian Agents Are Not Behind Every Piece of Fake News You See. And see Ben Norton & Glenn Greenwald’s Washington Post Disgracefully Promotes a McCarthyite Blacklist From a New, Hidden, and Very Shady Group.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “Russia and the Idea of Objectivity in US Journalism

  1. What, the media ever accept part of the blame for what they did?

    Perish the thought.

    Clinton (and her voters) had to literally beat back every conceivable effort by a large list of entities and people but failed just in the wrong spots. Sure you can tell us to stop thinking CONSPIRACY but it is mighty odd.

    • The wonky thing about that WaPo story is we have actual evidence of Russians (and Macedonians, and Americans) creating/spreading fake news. We have some evidence Russia coordinated or facilitated the e-mail leak to Wiki. That site the Post references here has no evidence of any kind. Why run such a shoddy story? I check references harder than that, and I’m lazy!

      It’s such a dumb site, too, if one looks at it. The main thing the links it lists have in common is that they’ve at some point been critical of US foreign policy (from the right or left, I might add). That makes one a “Russian agent”? Surprised this site wasn’t listed, then! Now, I almost feel left out … ;)

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