Part 2 . The Buzzfeed Story Portends Widening Spin Information Voids
“President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.
Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen.
And even as Trump told the public he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.”
The Buzzfeed story dumped late Thursday night. American news media reporting on cable TV and especially American news media sitting on Twitter lit up the night sky with blazing flares of, “If true,” while simultaneously breathlessly speculating, as if the story was true. The way the media tacked on that cover-their-butt, “if true ” disclaimer ran completely counter to all of the media’s oft touted standards of journalistic ethics, so many of them preach and preen about. They say that they independently corroborate stories before running them.
None of them independently corroborated the Buzzfeed story, before reporting on it. What they did was devote enormous air time and breathless tweet time to propelling an uncorroborated story into the spin stratosphere and incite an impeachment drumbeat. It amounted to just spreading an extremely damaging rumor that, if not true, amounted to a media smear effort and the target of that smear effort has no way to undo the damage.
What also happened and speaks to something deeper than just crappy and careless journalism, is as soon as the Buzzfeed story dropped, top Dems, many of them in Congress, who have pushed for Trump’s impeachment lit up Twitter with calls to open Congressional hearings into impeachment immediately. Here are a few that I retweeted with my comment added:
“If” and if two federal law enforcement officials are the sources, they are damaging the case by leaking it to the media, all to feed Dem spin hysteria.
“may have” Shouldn’t Dems be trying to encourage people involved in the investigation to quit leaking, which will help promote public confidence in the investigation’s findings? All this leaking is damaging the credibility of the investigation.
“If” What if it’s not true? As responsible elected officials, shouldn’t you verify IT IS TRUE, before ginning up another Dem SPIN tsunami? This is a coordinated Dem SPIN character assassination tactic and unfair to any American, even ones you hate.
“if accurate” This orchestrated Dem/media spin attack is intended to set the pretext for just that happening.
Another orchestrated Dem SPIN attack here. This leaks is the media cover for House Dems to open impeachment investigation rather than wait for Mueller’s report. A leak with unnamed sources & no independent corroboration. Dem SPIN machine is a corrupt mob operation.
“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” spokesman Peter Carr told INSIDER in an email on Friday.”
That almost full day of an uncorroborated story (rumor) creating an information void portends a dangerous problem. The potential for false stories to be dumped in the media to create chaos, civil unrest or distrust in our government, must be responded to promptly.
Frankly, I believe our entire national security system relies too heavily on civilian mass media for news on domestic happenings, with no plan for an independent quick response avenue to verify facts on the ground or deal with an aggressive disinformation attack. We all turn on civilian cable news networks or go online to some civilian news site. Our emergency broadcast system works for natural disasters, but it’s not designed to respond to an orchestrated disinformation attack.
Our government needs to develop some independent approaches to be able to rapidly assess facts in a disinformation attack crisis, that are not dependent on the civilian news media. It’s a potentially serious gap in our national security in this new information age.
Trump, love him or hate him, should not be the target of orchestrated spin smear campaigns and likewise he should not engage in smear campaigns against other American citizens or businesses. The same standards of conduct should apply to Democrats and Republicans. The media should pause and take a long, hard look at their journalistic ethics, because they are totally corrupting reporting by engaging in spin information warfare. Quit with the Trump obsession and just report factually accurate news.
In my previous post, I mentioned how rumors can have serious national security implications. In our era of rabid partisan politics, it sounds almost quaint and nostalgic to speak about our federal government being committed to promoting national unity. However, in both world wars, there was a unified effort by both sides of the aisle in Congress and the president to promote national unity and to devote effort to quelling demoralizing rumors and propaganda efforts. By the 1960s, the American Left had moved to tearing down the system and fueling divides and that progressed to the embrace of SPIN information warfare by the 1990s. Since Trump mastered the Left’s SPIN info war, both parties are consumed by spin.
We often try to find some nefarious master planner conspiracy theory to blame or explain how complicated events happened, but often human systems, especially complex ones, end up on the brink of collapse through innumerable small and large events, decisions, interactions and failures. It’s easy to try to pin America’s problems on Trump or the Russians or the Left or the Right, but in reality there’s probably way more factors involved than even our best systems analysts will ever understand. Suffice it say, plenty of our top national security experts are alarmed at the deepening partisan divides in America and they are alarmed at the increasing level of public incidents of partisan rage and hatred being reported. And that is why I keep writing about stopping the scorched earth SPIN information war.
We may never know exactly how SPIN info war evolved or who all was involved in developing the techniques. We may never know if hostile foreign intelligence was involved at its inception, but we assuredly know, with the escalated Russian cyber attacks and online troll activities, that they are definitely involved now.
SPIN relies on ramping up repetitive messaging (mostly disinformation efforts) and it operates heavily on orchestrated smear campaigns. Every American, especially our political leaders, have the ability to reject mass media scorched earth SPIN information warfare and work to promote respect and civility in our public discourse. Our media, which is a necessary component for SPIN info war to even work, has the power to stop engaging in being a conduit and an enabler of spin messaging and smear campaigns. If the media actually followed their own journalistic ethical standards, that would put a huge dent into the SPIN war operations.
I believe that the current hyping that social media needs to do more to stop Russian information operations and hate groups or sites set up to report on suspected Russian fronts potentially will create more unintended problems curtailing free speech than they will solve. It’s one thing for national security professionals to track suspected Russian fronts and hate groups, but it’s another to publicly list those or badger social media companies to root out hostile foreign information operators.
People are smart enough to make up their own minds what they want to believe and creating a Red Scare atmosphere is counter-productive. I know I have listed a few sites that I suspect are hostile front operations or have some connection to an orchestrated SPIN messaging operation. However, I’ve thought about this more and watched how many on the Left are painting in very broad strokes the “alt-right” and “hate speech” labels or turned every incident of someone in the Trump camp of even being in the same room as a Russian, as evidence of something nefarious (see poor Jeff Sessions being accused of Russian collusion), the potential to create a McCarthyite mob mentality, especially cyber mobs, it seems better to promote good citizenship and civil discourse than to try to publicly identify hostile foreign influence agents. Leave that to the professional national security people to quietly figure out.
I prefer a “Kill Them With Kindness” strategy to defeat SPIN information warfare in the public square… and a whole bunch of political leaders stepping up to the plate to lead by example.