Thursday, May 27, 2021

#FakeNews secrets: How the sausage gets made

This might be the most important book published this year:

A review from Jason Foster in The Federalist:
New Book From Former NYT Reporter Eviscerates The Bogus Steele Dossier And The Journalists Who Peddled It

Out today, Barry Meier's book contains a comprehensive, page-turning narrative of the massive media and political dumpster fire that was the Steele dossier.

The New York Times published an excerpt:

Secret Sharers: The Hidden Ties Between Private Spies and Journalists
A booming, renegade private intelligence industry is increasingly shaping (and misshaping) the news.
Foster's review focuses on the role Fusion GPS played in fomenting the Russia-gate hoax via the Steele Dossier. Meier's book is much more than a debunking of that stew of lies, partisan talking points, and resistance wishcasting. Spooked raises serious questions about the news industry and professional journalism. Knowing what we now know about their practices and methods, any fair-minded reader has to ask: “Why should we trust the legacy media about anything?”

As the title suggests, the problem goes beyond Glenn Simpson, Michael Steele and their Ahab-like quest to bring down President Donald Trump. Fusion GPS also worked for Theranos while that firm was desperately trying to hide the truth about their business. Black Cube worked for Harvey Weinstein to silence victims and scare off reporters.


Harvey Weinstein counted on a complicit media

"The gossip industry is run on the barter system. If I've got a story about you and you don't want it printed you say 'Hold it. I'll give you something better' and I'll print the other story and save you."
Meier reveals that prestige journalists played the same barter game with Simpson that Weinstein exploited before his fall:

Simpson’s animus for Bill Browder apparently remained unrequited. “In order to get Glenn, you first had to do a hit piece on Browder,” said Schwartz, adding that she and Ross weren’t interested in taking up Simpson on that deal.

“Who wanted it known”

At best this behind the scenes barter system is a terrible disservice to news consumers. It hides, rather than reveals, vital information.

Reporters and private investigators long have had a symbiotic relationship that is hidden from the public. Hired spies feed journalists story tips or documents and use reporters to plant stories benefiting a client without leaving their fingerprints behind.
Renata Adler in a review of one of Woodward and Bernstein's books, zeroed in on a critical flaw in modern journalism: the use of anonymous sources and the attendant machinations of source and reporter. Such methods, she noted, “makes stories almost impossible to verify. It suppresses a major element of almost every investigative story: who wanted it known.”

Firms like Fusion GPS now exploit these questionable practices. They make money by misleading the public on behalf of the rich and powerful. Reporters enlist (wittingly but secretly) on the side of the rich. The whole ethos of journalism is turned upside down.

This doesn't accord with the image journalists present to the public. It probably doesn't accord with the self-image journalists have of themselves. Sadly, it is our media reality now.

The bigger scandal is the silence of the rest of the media. Many organizations knew about Fusion GPS's history and its attempt to promote the Russian-hoax. They knew, that is, a vitally important part of the story: “who wanted it known”. They knew, as well, about Glenn Simpson's aggressive demands for quid pro quo for access to his “super spy”. They knew it and concealed this from their readers and viewers.

The “watchdogs” protected each other with a code of omerta.

Photographers hate to be photographed. Surgeons require nearly twice the amount of anesthesia ordinary patients require to undergo surgery. Journalists are the least receptive to professional scrutiny by their colleagues.
Renata Adler

An inconvenient book: The problem with sources

Why ‘investigative journalism’ is problematic


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

When intellectuals celebrated rudeness

These New York writers constituted the first intelligentsia in American history – which is a shade different from a group of intellectuals. The figures near Emerson formed a community of intellectuals but not an intelligentsia – not, at least, as defined by Renato Poggioli: "an intellectual order from the lower ranks ... an intellectual order whose function was not so much cultural as political. Poggioli had in mind the Russian writers of the late nineteenth century, but one can find points of similarity with the New York writers. We too came mostly from "the lower ranks" (later composing rhapsodies about the immigrant parents from whom we insistently fled). We too wrote with polemical ferocity. We too stressed "critical thinking" and opposition to established power. We too flaunted claims to alienation.

A footnote about this "Russianness" of the New York milieu came from Lionel Abel in the forties. Invoking, or improvising, "the tradition of the Partisan," Abel wrote: "For good or ill, modern politics is a school of rudeness… The exquisite aristocratic tact which subtly specified the circumstances under which things could be called by their right names is today something we know about largely from books, not from anybody's public behavior."

Insurgent groups hoping to rouse anger against established authority will always be tempted to violate rules of decorum. Rudeness becomes a spear with which to break the skin of complacency. In its early years Parttsan Review was often rude, sometimes for no reason whatever, as if to demonstrate its sheer prickliness. But there were serious reasons, too. Rudeness was not only the weapon of cultural underdogs, but also a sign that intellectual Jews had become sufficiently self-assured to stop playing by gentile rules.

Irving Howe
A Margin of Hope