The Steele Dossier indicted the media

This guest essay on "The Steele Dossier," by Columbia Journalism School professor Bill Grueskin, constitutes, arguably, a new development in ostensible expressions of regret: the attack apology.  Although Prof. Grueskin acknowledges that the Steele Dossier was largely "fictitious," the pain this admission causes him seems palpable.  And due to his obvious discomfort, the words "false claim," "baseless allegations," "outright fraud" do not emerge from his computer.

Here is one of the professor's acknowledgments: "Many of the dossier's allegations have turned out to be fictitious or, at best, unprovable."  Many?  Which of the dossier's allegations is fact, and which is provable?  And by what theory?  The professor is silent.  Still, he wonders how so many journalists "were taken in so easily because the dossier seemed to confirm what they already suspected."  That Donald J. Trump was a Russian asset?  Grueskin, give us a break.  What the anti-Trump campaign, beginning with false allegations of DNC hacking and the Steele Dossier, prevented, as the late Professor Stephen F. Cohen noted many times on the John Batchelor radio show (now a podcast), was normal relations with Russia.

In mid-essay, this question from the journalism school professor: "So where did much of the press go wrong?"  (Much of the press?  Pretty damn well all the media.)  His immediate answer: Donald Trump.  Here is one of Grueskin's two paragraphs answering where he thinks the press went wrong:

First, Mr, Trump had long curried Mr. Putin's favor. Moreover, Mr. Mueller showed, and filed indictments that explained, how the Russians interfered in the 2016 campaign, hacking into Democrats' emails and taking advantage of Facebook and other social media companies to foment chaos and dissent.

(The jargon in The Mueller Report is "sow chaos.")

What does Grueskin mean by long currying Putin's favor?

Whom did Mueller indict?  (Grueskin does not elaborate.  What makes his charge of Russian "hacking into Democrats' emails" "provable"?).  In addition to Paul Manafort (see immediately below), Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, a bunch of alleged Russian agents who never will stand trial, George Papadopoulos, and Michael T. Flynn — what did his unfair indictment have to do with the dossier or collusion, other than serving as scapegoat for the totalitarian-minded Democrats who could not abide the election of Donald J. Trump in 2016?  Grueskin is silent on these details, but what are key details to propagandists other than obstacles to their lies?

Grueskin continues:

Mr. Trump's choice of Paul Manafort to serve as his campaign chairman reinforced the idea that he was in the thrall of Russia.  [Trump or Manafort?]  Those fears were borne out when a bipartisan Senate committee found Mr. Manafort to be a 'grave counterintelligence threat' because of his ties to a Kremlin agent.  So given all that [all what?], it was easy to assume that the dossier's allegations must also be true.  The distinction between what journalists assume and what we verify is often the difference between fiction and reality[.]  [Since when is providing "fiction" the mark of a journalist?]

The Mueller Report does accuse Russia of hacking into Clinton campaign computers, but the report does not provide details on how that "hacking" was carried out.  See, for example, the Report, beginning at page 98 (Washington Post edition), and the pages forward.  The Nation, not your right-wing periodical, published, August 9, 2017, an article on the report of experts that it is not possible that the DNC computer was hacked, citing technical reasons beyond, to use a Mueller term, "my purview."  This report found that the DNC was not hacked; the leaked information was by someone with access to DNC computers.  In short, the leaked information was an inside job.

As to Mueller and Manafort, this explanation of the Manafort indictment appears on page 621 of The Washington Post edition of The Mueller Report: "[Manafort] was charged in federal court in Washington, DC, on October 30, 2017, with crimes related to his work as a political consultant in Ukraine" and then, February 2018, charged with "fil[ing] fraudulent loan applications to banks[.]"  What does consultancy in Ukraine have to do with Russia, much less the Steele Dossier?  Nothing at all.

Throughout the essay, Grueskin tried to explain away the mindset driving "journalists" to accept the dossier's allegations as true.  For example, he commented that as "reporters" considered President Trump a liar, the dossier might be true.  In a parenthetical comment, he wrote, "Washington Post fact-checkers would catalog more than 30,000 Trump falsehoods during his term."  Without bothering to apply mere scrutiny, let alone strict scrutiny, to this bizarre claim, Grueskin would have us accept at face value the false claims of the virulently anti-Trump Washington Post.

Mr. Grueskin, in mid-essay, offered this apologia — for "reporters," not for the former president: "The situation also became complicated because some reporters simply didn't like or trust Mr. Trump or didn't want to appear to be on his side."  My translation: most "reporters," in covering Donald Trump, didn't want to let the facts interfere with their biases. Their aim was not journalistic.  It was political: defeat Trump.  Or, after his election, hurl him out of office.  Therefore, those whom Grueskin calls "journalists" or "reporters" are nothing of the kind; they are political hacks, partisan propagandists, lying scriveners, pure and simple.

Grueskin also cited the comment by Barry Meier, in his book, Spooked

"Plenty of reporters were skeptical of the dossier, but they hesitated to dismiss it, because they didn't want to look like they were carrying water for Trump or his cronies."  Aha!  By dint of projection, Grueskin helps us understand why the media did not dismiss the dossier, the allegation of collusion, and the rest of the lies spewed by the anti-democratic information network throughout the first term of President Donald J. Trump.  These propagandists were carrying water for Hillary Clinton and the anti-Trump Resistance, comprising congressional Democrats, the intelligence "community," and, of course, the media — intent first on defeating Donald J. Trump in 2016 and, having failed that goal, working assiduously throughout his term to unseat him, even to the point of unseating him after he left office.

And so Donald J. Trump was accurate all along when he directed a sharp comment at the media.  The anti-Trump media are the enemy of the truth.  How can propagandists who refuse to report actual events be anything other than "the enemy of the people"?

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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