Thursday, July 28, 2016

Russians Smrussians: A Follow-Up

Today at, Isaac Chotnier interviews journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has written many a story based on information revealed by Wikileaks – and provides evidence that while Slate may occasionally publish something that makes me roll my eyes, they are very aware of that increased rarity in national media: balance.

So to follow up on what I wrote yesterday about Slate’s pearl-clutching over revelations via Wikileaks that the Democratic National Committee worked hard to prevent a Bernie Sanders nomination, Slate offers this, via Greenwald:

[A]s a journalist, if there is material that is in the public interest that’s available to report on, I don’t think it should be a process that the journalist engages in to wonder whether or not the motives of the person who made it available are sufficiently pure to report on it, or whether the person who did it had some ulterior motive. If the material is in the public interest, and has been made available—regardless of how it has been made available, obviously once the authenticity is confirmed—the obligation of the journalist is to report on it, period.

Now, obviously, there are separate newsworthy questions about who did the [DNC] hack, and the reasons for it, and what the implications are that also ought to be journalistically examined. But in terms of the content of the material itself, whether it has been stolen by a whistleblower, or hacked by an adversarial government for nefarious ends, or for fun by some hacker, I ask one question: Is it in the public interest? And if the answer is yes, that’s the end of the inquiry.

Chotnier goes on with more traditional pearl-clutching, ironic in an industry that reveled in the leaks that brought the presidency of Richard Nixon to its knees, but Greenwald continuously and successfully knocks down Chotnier’s arguments. He also comes close to calling linking Trump to the Russians McCarthyism.

The entire piece is worth a read. Watch out for f-bombs, if that offends you.

(Again, I’m neither a Trump supporter nor a Clinton supporter. I’m just interested in this topic as it applies to my hobby of reading about Richard Nixon. That these modern claims so closely parallel Nixon’s Watergate scandal, and the fact that the national media is pearl-clutching because the Democrats are the victims this time around, is fascinating to me.)

Greenwald also chides the media for existing in their own echo chamber, a la Pauline Kael (‘I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.')

here’s what Greenwald says:

[I]f you are someone who wants to stop Trump or Brexit, your goal should be to communicate effectively with the people who believe it is in their interest to support Trump or Brexit. I think in general there is no effort on the part of media elites to communicate with those people and do anything other than tell them that they are primitive, racist, and stupid. And if the message being sent is that you are primitive, racist, and stupid, and not that you have been fucked over in ways that are really bad and need to be rectified, of course those people are not going to be receptive to the message coming from the people who view them with contempt and scorn. I think that is why Brexit won, and I think that is the real danger of Trump winning.

Greenwald rightly criticizes the national media for remaining squarely in the “you’re primitive, racist, and stupid” camp, without doing anything more to communicate with the “primitive, racist, and stupid” people who support Trump. I’ve only seen one major news outlet even attempt to do what Greenwald recommends. And that outlet is Buzzfeed. So goes the state of our national media.

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