Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Michael Tracey works on processing dubious claims on the Trump-Russia scandal

The evidence in the Trump-Russia scandal continues to pile up. That includes the related misdeeds aimed at avoiding or suppressing formal investigations, like Trump himself more-or-less confirming that he intended to obstruct justice by firing James Comey as FBI Director.

But there has been some over-eagerness on the part of some on the center-left to embrace claims not yet documented in the public record.

Michael Tracey of The Young Turks has been particularly, even stubbornly skeptical about claims in the scandal. To the point of being irritating about it sometimes. But then good journalism sometime irritates people. And antiwar advocates were justifiably suspicious of the exceptionally sloppy but high-profile article in the Washington Post just after the election citing a group calling itself PropOrNot that pretty much no one had heard of before and whose members and funding were not identified that was smearing several antiwar website that practice left-leaning advocacy journalism as sock puppets for Russian government propaganda: Craig Timberg, Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say 11/24/2016, although the Post article itself omitted those sites' names. After considerable pushback (like this piece by Ben Norton and Glenn Greenwald. Washington Post Disgracefully Promotes a McCarthyite Blacklist From a New, Hidden, and Very Shady Group The Intercept 11/26/2017), WaPo posted an embarrassing qualification that now appears at the beginning of the story.

Adrian Chen wrote of the WaPo/PropOrNot incident, "The story of PropOrNot should serve as a cautionary tale to those who fixate on malignant digital influences as a primary explanation for Trump’s stunning election. The story combines two of the most popular technological villains of post-election analysis — fake news and Russian subterfuge — into a single tantalizing package." (The Propaganda About Russian Propaganda The New Yorker 12/01/2016.

As Dave Lindorff wrote for the media watchdog group FAIR (Rather Than Exposing Propaganda, WaPo Shows How It’s Done 12/08/2016), "in a staggering lapse of journalistic ethics and standards, the Post allowed PropOrNot’s entire staff to remain anonymous. Nor did Post editors require Timberg to afford any of the sites PropOrNot maligned as Russian propaganda tools a chance to respond—a basic requirement of responsible journalism."

So, yes, some of the Trump-Russia scandal reporting has been bad. And not everyone interested in making Russia and the Trump Administration look bad are doing so because they want to promote peace and democracy in the world.

This report gives us kind of a live-action version of how Michael Tracey is processing this kind of information, Trump/Russia: Does "The Resistance" Have Its Own "Fake News" Problem? TYT Politics 06/06/2017:

Michael interviews several people who put forward claims as proven that aren't necessarily so, including a man who says Trump was laundering money for the Russians. I've seen people express suspicions about Trump's casino business that certainly make it legitimate to investigate the possibility of Trump have laundered money for Russians through his casinos and that their are RICO charges pending based on that. And it wouldn't surprise me to hear evidence that it was so. But I haven't yet. At the rate new claims are coming out, maybe I'll be looking at this differently 24 hours from now.

Michael reports that this particular claim about RICO charges came from a site run by Bill Palmer, The Palmer Report, that has not established a good reputation for making credible claims. Pamela Engel did a news investigation of the site, 'People want it to be true': Inside the growing influence of a mysterious anti-Trump website Business Insider 05/16/2017.

Louise Mensch has become a popular site for Democrats on Trump-Russia news; Donna Brazile even made a tweet boosting her as a source. But her reporting has also been a bit dodgy. Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ed Markey embarrassed himself on one occasion taking a dubious Louise Mensch report as reliable. (Jon Swaine, New fake news dilemma: sites publish real scoops amid mess of false reports The Guardian 05/16/2017)

Another dubious source cited by one woman in Michael's report is Claude Taylor. (Bob Johnson, No, Claude Taylor and company are not reputable sources on Trump-Russia Daily Kos 05/05/2017; Zack Beauchamp, Democrats are falling for fake news about Russia Vox 05/19/2017)

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