The catalogue of journalistic “errors” in the US media over the last few weeks – the wrong ABC story about the instructions Michael Flynn supposedly received from Donald Trump, the still more wrong CNN story about the email sent to Donald Trump Junior about the publication of the Podesta emails by Wikileaks, and now the ludicrously wrong story in the Washington Post about Donald Trump and the supposedly empty stadium addressed by Donald Trump in Pensacola Bay – brings to mind a recent article by David Aaronovitch in the London Times.
Writing on 30th November 2017 Aaronovitch contrasted – I thought a touch too portentously – the rigorous fact-checking of the mainstream media with the supposedly lax attitude to facts shown by the alternative media
…..readers should know that this diligence is what mainstream media folk do all the time. It is, arguably, the main part of what makes us mainstream. It’s costly, irritating, time-consuming, and often disappointing. The great scoop you thought you had fades in front of your eyes.
If you read a story in a paper like The Times, or you see it on a channel like the BBC or ITN, it’s going to have been subjected to an editorial process that wants to get things right and that cares whether what it says is accurate. In my experience, working for serious newspapers, journalists absolutely hate getting things wrong.
These solemn words – written following the unmasking by the Washington Post of Jaime Phillips, a plant unsuccessfully sprung on the Washington Post by a group calling itself Project Veritas – were written on the very same day that ABC News – a news organisation just about as ‘mainstream’ as it gets – was forced to correct its false story about the supposed instructions given during the election by ‘candidate’ Trump to Michael Flynn.
ABC’s ‘error’ has now been capped by CNN’s even more egregious error – brilliantly dissected by Glenn Greenwald – concerning the email supposedly sent to Donald Trump Junior about the publication by Wikileaks of the Podesta emails.
It turns out that this ‘scoop’ – heavily promoted by CNN throughout the day on 8th December 2017 – was based on a misreading of the date of the email, which was actually 14th September 2016 and not 4th September 2016 as CNN reported.
It also turns out that CNN – and various other mainstream media organisations which independently reported the same story drawing on the same sources (almost certainly Democratic Party staffers in the House Intelligence Committee) – published and promoted its ‘scoop’ without first checking or even looking at the email in question.
Moreover notwithstanding the indications that it might have been deliberately misled about the date of the email, CNN refuses to identify the sources of its false story (there are rumours that one of the sources may have been an aide of Congressman Adam Schiff).
Not much evidence here of the rigorous approach to fact-checking that David Aaronovitch so solemnly writes about.
Now comes the even more ludicrous Washington Post story of the in reality not empty stadium in Pensacola Bay.
Whilst this story is trivial, it well illustrates a point about the mainstream media’s coverage of Donald Trump. This is that the mainstream media sees itself at war with Donald Trump and has done so since long before he was elected.
In such a war news becomes a weapon to be used ruthlessly in order to gain an advantage. Obviously that leaves no room for the rigorous fact-checking David Aaronovitch and other mainstream media pundits talk about. On the contrary, as Glenn Greenwald and other media watchers such a Robert Parry have repeatedly pointed out, fact-checking and even basic journalistic skepticism about the most fantastic claims and stories made about Russiagate and Donald Trump have been thrown out of the window.
The result is an unending cascade of false stories about Donald Trump and about Russiagate which as Glenn Greenwald says have now become too numerous to list.
In such a climate protestations from the mainstream media about their rigorous approach to fact-checking should be seen for what they are: just more propaganda in an increasingly bitter media war.