Friday, February 10, 2017

Break it, don't fake it

For those who still have your "News: Break it, don't fake it" buttons from the ACES plagiarism summit a few years back, here's a real-life reminder: The more you rely on fake news ...
... the less likely people are to believe it when you break news:
In the second position, we have an important story -- the new national security adviser appears to have lied like a rug about "inappropriate and potentially illegal" doings, and in turn the vice president either was misled or lied right along -- done with old-school heft:

“They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia,” Pence said in an interview with CBS News last month, noting that he had spoken with Flynn about the matter. Pence also made a more sweeping assertion, saying there had been no contact between members of Trump’s team and Russia during the campaign. To suggest otherwise, he said, “is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.”

Neither of those assertions is consistent with the fuller account of Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak provided by officials who had access to reports from U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies that routinely monitor the communications of Russian diplomats. Nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

All of those officials said ­Flynn’s references to the election-related sanctions were explicit. Two of those officials went further, saying that Flynn urged Russia not to overreact to the penalties being imposed by President Barack Obama, making clear that the two sides would be in position to review the matter after Trump was sworn in as president.

Nine sources is pretty good. Unlike, say, the accompanying case of Mission Not Impossible:

On its face, this is a remarkable story. The man whom Trump picked to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court is turning on the president just a week after he was nominated. Given how much Trump hates being criticized by alleged allies, it was a stunning comment — and one that lit the political world on fire Wednesday night. How would Trump react? Would he pull the nomination? Attack Gorsuch? Both? Neither? As always with Trump, all options were on the table.

But dig a little deeper and the conspiracy theories begin to seem, well, not so conspiratorial.

That's been true of conspiracy theories at least since Roosevelt orchestrated Pearl Harbor. It made damn sure that Pilate washed his hands and sealed his fate, and that Obama had Scalia murdered in a fit of pique. And when you're told that the witch Elizabeth Warren soured the milk of Mitch McConnell's cows, the first source you should turn to is ... 

The Democratic National Committee, for one, was not fooled. “While Donald Trump’s morning tweets show [White House strategist] Steve Bannon may not have clued him in on the ruse, this is clearly a meaningless White House-orchestrated attempt to help Judge Gorsuch pretend he won’t be a rubber stamp for the Trump administration,” said a DNC spokesman.

This is actually serious, kids. The Post has done, and continues to do, noble and risky work in cataloguing the incompetence, thuggishness and buffoonery of the entire Trump enterprise. That's not the same kind of checking and balancing a real branch of government might do, but it's a reminder of why we've conceived of the press as a "fourth branch": an independent actor that puts the evidence-based question to the public when the existing three branches get out of line. That role is critically compromised when the press decides to buy into conspiracy theories, period -- whether you side with the proponents of the theory or not. We are supposed to be the adults in the room, not the ones who come home with a handful of magic beans we got in trade for our credibility.

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