Russia hoax was the journalism version of check kiting
The Russia hoax, as President Trump correctly called it, is turning out to be a legal problem for some and a credibility collapse for journalism.
It was check kiting, as any old banker can tell you:
The scheme usually involves several checking accounts at several different banks. In effect, a bank deposits accessible money into an account while waiting for cash to be processed from an account at another bank when in actuality the other account holds no money.
An example of check kiting would be as follows: on Monday, a prospective check kiter deposits a $500 check from account A into account B and then shortly thereafter deposits a $500 check from account B into account A. On Tuesday, another round of deposits is made as well as some partial withdrawals. On Wednesday, one bank collects its monies from account A, while another collects its monies from account B. But there is no actual money in either account; instead, there is just a series of transfers of alleged funds back and forth between the two accounts.
Yes, that's right: A Clinton partisan deposits the false narrative with a reporter invested in Trump Derangement Syndrome — say, Maggie Haberman of The New York Times. Maggie writes a story, based on sources close to the information, and the next reporter — say, Don Lemon — even more fanatically obsessed with Trump, does a segment that gets retweeted all over social media. And so it goes until Mr. Durham returns the check, and everybody is looking for Maggie to get his money.
Andrew Sullivan nailed Maggie and her fellow "check kiters" this week:
We found out this week, for example, that a key figure in the emergence of the Steele Dossier, Igor Danchenko, has been indicted for lying to the FBI. He is also charged with asking a Clinton crony, Charles Dolan Jr: "Any thought, rumor, allegation. I am working on a related project against Trump."
The evidence from another key source for the dossier, Sergei Millian — touted across all media, including the Washington Post — has also been exposed as potentially fake. What has the Post done? As their own indispensable Erik Wemple notes, instead of a clear retraction, the Post has just added editors' notes to previous stories, removed sections and a video, and altered headlines retroactively. This is a bizarre way of correcting the record: "No such case comes immediately or specifically to mind, at least no historical case that stirred lasting controversy," said W. Joseph Campbell, a professor and journalism historian at American University.
This doesn't mean that Trump wasn't eager for Russian help. But Trump was right, in the end, about the dodgy dossier; he was right about the duped FBI's original overreach; and the mass media — Rachel Maddow chief among them — were wrong. And yet the dossier dominated the headlines for three years, and the "corrections" have a fraction of the audience of the errors. Maddow gets promoted. And the man who first published it, Ben Smith, was made the media columnist for the NYT.
Think of the other narratives the MSM pushed in recent years that have collapsed.
Yes, we could do a post of each of the narratives. In the real world, the victims of check kiting end up in the courts, trying to get their money. In the media world, they click the channel off or cancel their subscriptions. Can anyone read a story based on sources close to the information and take it seriously anymore? I don't. I take those stories as seriously as I do those polls based on "adults."
Let's hope Mr. Durham understands how important his task is. He owes the country an explanation for how something like this could happen. Don't expect the media to apologize or the Pulitzer Committee to recall its hardware. Nevertheless, the public has caught on, as trust in the media confirms.
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