05 Feb 2018

CNN’s Reporting Not Holding Up Too Well

Trump 24 Comments

This article from March 2017 refers to Trump’s “baseless wiretap claim,” though the denials quoted in the article now read–with the benefit of hindsight–as non-denial denials. (E.g. they are carefully worded to say that President Obama would not have ordered FBI surveillance on Trump.)

This article from October 2017–just four months ago–did not age well. This is my favorite paragraph:

But even by Trump standards, this morning’s tweet is somewhat remarkable. He is suggesting that a dossier prepared by a former member of British intelligence has not only been totally discredited (it hasn’t — more on that in a minute) but that it might have been funded by some combination of Russia, the Democratic Party and, wait for it, the FBI!

I realize it must be hard for critics of Trump to understand how his die-hard fans can tune out all the evidence that he’s a boor, a liar, incompetent, corrupt, etc. etc. Well, stuff like the above is part of the explanation.

The reason I’m posting these CNN links is that, in the wake of #TheMemo, a bunch of people–such as James Comey–are saying, “This is it? NBD.” They’ve forgotten (or are pretending to forget) that the stuff in that memo was dismissed as paranoid lunacy less than a year ago.

24 Responses to “CNN’s Reporting Not Holding Up Too Well”

  1. Khodge says:

    I no longer think that watching progressives tie themselves in knots was the best part of Trump’s election. (But it has been fun!) The unsung, systematic dismantling of the regulatory state has been intriguing.

    But, still, watching the main-stream media try to control the beast they created is a thing of wonder.

    One can only go so far in criticizing CNN for admittedly false and misleading reporting. The current model is a barrage of non-stop stimulation. Stopping the press may be figuratively harder now as capturing views becomes more challenging.

    Watch the Max Headroom tv series for one of the best analyses of the current market place.

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      CNN and other news organizations have made occasional errors and misstatements, but I think for the most part the mainstream media does a good job of trying to convey the truth as best they can. I realize that that statement will sound delusional to a lot of people, but I think that’s because certain political forces have an interest in deligitimizing the media as much as possible.

      I do think the media has a slight liberal bias, but not nearly to the extent that people on the Right make it out to be. I think this is a case in which where you stand depends on where you sit.

      • Khodge says:

        First, it must be noted that too many lines have been crossed, from reporting to journalism. There is abundant evidence that people are getting their news from comedians (or, in the case of talk shows, “comedians”).

        All facades were dropped when, immediately following the election, news channels declared war on President Trump.

        It is also important to note that specifically news outlets continuously make editorial statements by what they choose to cover. The bias is real and not really hidden.

      • Matt M says:

        Hey Keshav,

        I never recognized that before SSC, I already knew you from here!

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          Oh, haha. You’d think my unusual name would be hard to miss.

          I guess it’s not surprising that there’s considerable overlap between the audiences of the two blogs, considering that I learned about Slate Star Codex from Bob Murphy’s blog.

  2. Richie says:

    Don’t worry. Harold will soon be here to clear it all up for us.

    • Harold says:

      Ta dA! Here I am!. All will soon be clear.

      The article on funding criticises Trump saying the finding was by FBI, Russia and the DNC.

      There seems to be no evidence that Russia or the FBI paid for the dossier. I could find none, in any case. There was some indication that the FBI might have considered paying Steele for further work (not the dossier). It appears to me that the Oct 2017 article is substantially correct. The dossier was not funded by FBI, Russia and the DNC, but by the DNC and the Washington Free Beacon (Singer).

      Democrat clowns might have made a complete hash of the dossier by bigging it up, but that is a very different thing.

      On the first one, Trumps phones were never tapped, but had they been Obama would not have done it. Pretty clear really. I don’t see why some people have such a problem with this.

      Some of Trump’s people got intercepted as they spoke to Russians, but that is a very different thing altogether. The wiretap claim was baseless.

      It is possible I have missed something, so if anyone has any evidence that FBI and Russia paid for the Steele dossier or that Obama tapped Trump’s phone I am happy to be enlightened. But there is little point simply mentioning that Trumps people got caught up in surveillance, or that the DNC paid for the dossier as I have already acknowledged these points.

  3. Matt M says:

    It occurs to me that in the early days of the Trump presidency, the media, when attempting to discredit his statements, would often add something like “The President offered no evidence for this claim.” Which now, in hindsight, strikes me as a very strong CYA sort of move. Like, they didn’t say he was definitely wrong, only that he offered no evidence, meaning they were fully justified in acting as if he was definitely wrong.

    • Harold says:

      Matt, if people make outrageous claims against someone it is usual to offer some evidence. The lack of evidence is a very important fact.

      We can’t say that the claim is definitely wrong, but without evidence we have no reason to believe it.

      This is not a CYA move but the only way an honest media can say it.

      • Matt M says:

        A pretty selectively used qualifier though, don’t you think.

        Have yet to hear a “the actress offered no evidence for her claims” follow-up in response to a #MeToo post where a starlet claims to have been sexually assaulted…

        • Harold says:

          I wondered about that, so googled “offered no evidence for his claim”. A great many examples showed up and only one was Trump.

          There is that there is a huge difference between personal testimony to which you were a witness or a participant and claims about third parties about which you have no direct knowledge.

          If you are making a claim about which you could not know without evidence it is reasonable to ask what evidence you have. If you are making claim about what happened to you or what you witnessed then it is not a sensible question. The evidence is you saw it with your own eyes.

          We need other evidence to secure a conviction, sure. The starlet may be lying. But it is totally reasonable to ask of someone “how do you know?”

          If the answer is “I was there and I saw it” that is a reasonable answer.

          If there is no answer forthcoming we have no reason to accept the person’s claim.

  4. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    Bob, people weren’t dismissing the notion that the FBI paid Christopher Steele to obtain his research as a lunatic conspiracy theory. I am quite sure that if you asked the October 2017 version of Chris Cilizza whether the FBI paid Christopher Steele to obtain the research he had done, he would have said “Yes, I think so.” What people were dismissing as lunacy is the absurd notion that the Democrats and the Russian government conspired to produce phony information to smear Trump, and not only that but that the FBI was involved in this sinister conspiracy too.

    (I would also like to state for the record that the Dossier has not been discredited.)

    And the U.S. government was forced to admit in Court that Trump’s wiretapping claim was baseless. Donald Trump was not wiretapped, Trump Tower was not wiretapped, and Obama didn’t order any wiretaps. It’s just someone in the Trump campaign that was wiretapped.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Keshav, even on your own terms, you are still wrong. This is from the Nunes memo:

      “The application does not mention Steele was ultimately working on behalf of—and paid by—the DNC and Clinton campaign, or that the FBI had separately authorized payment to Steele for the same information.”

      So if you want to say the Nunes memo is false, OK fine. But that’s not what Comey et al. are saying. Instead they’re saying, “*This* is what all the fuss is about?”

      Are you now going to say that the CNN author would’ve totally been fine if Trump had tweeted “Who paid for this? Democrats, FBI (or both)?” and it was merely the Russian element that made it ludicrous?

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        No, I’m not disputing that statement in the Nunes memo. But yes, if Trump’s tweet ommitted Russia, I think Chris Cillizza’s response would probably have been less “he’s advancing an lunatic conspiracy theory” and more “he’s making a misleading statement”. And it would be misleading, insofar as the FBI paid for the info after the fact, rather than hiring Christopher Steele to produce the dossier in the first place.

        But that’s admittedly a minor point. The main thing that Chris Cillizza was pushing back against was the narrative, which started getting pushed by Trump folks in October that “Trump isn’t the one who colluded with Russia, Hillary and the Democrats are.” This took two forms, the “Uranium One scandal” and the “Fusion GPS scandal”. (Perhaps not coincidentally, this narrative started getting pushed in earnest in the last week or two before the first indictments in the Mueller investigation.)

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Keshav wrote: “(I would also like to state for the record that the Dossier has not been discredited.)

      Do you mean in the same way that the Niger yellowcake claims haven’t been discredited? I mean, there really *is* a country Niger.

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        No, I mean in the ordinary sense. Parts of the Dossier have been confirmed, and parts of the Dossier are still unverified, but it has not been established that the Dossier is full of lies as a lot of Trump supporters seem to claim.

    • Rory says:

      In some ways I see what you’re saying but overall I don’t know if it is that you are being too charitable or Cilizza is being slippery.

      Cilizza’s article – to my reading – is not compatible with the interpretation you put forth regarding the organizations involved in the conspiracy. He says a few times that alleging it was “some combination” of the DNC, FBI, and Russia is crazy. The DNC and the FBI arguably being convenient allies in this instance (with Russia being a non-entity) would be “some combination” of the three. I agree that Cilizza would probably say “of course the FBI pays for its info in one way or another”, as would most people. However, I find it EXTREMELY hard to believe that 4 months ago he would condemn thinking that a conspiracy strictly between all 3 was deranged but a conspiracy merely between two of those three parties was respectable, if not plausible.

      Overall I think there are several ways that you, I, or indeed Cilizza could spin his article ex post to avoid him looking silly, however they require a razor thin (and it seems to me, nonsensical and arbitrary) margin between what is and isn’t lunatic to believe. After all, what does Cilizza mean by “funded” – that the dossier was paid for in advance, or paid for at all, at any point? The situation as it is now to my understanding is that the Democratic Party wanted dirt on Trump and paid for it, and the FBI was only too happy to underhandedly use a potentially biased source, not only not disclosing its potential bias but knowingly and recursively using the original source to corroborate himself. This is setting aside for now the further issues of the FBI never letting this see the light of day if they got their way and them securing – what? – thousands or tens of thousands of such wiretaps with means that may be just as dubious for all we know. Cilizza’s face is not egg-free in my book because a Clintonian parsing of his article is required to construct something that – at best – resembles only 70% of the reality 4 months afterwards.

      This really does make it feel like you were being told to polish your tinfoil hat if you thought Major League Baseball, the DOJ, and the Neptunian branch of the Free Masons were conspiring a push for single payer, but if it was “just” that Mark McGuire had been laundering money through the British NHS for Eric Holder it would have been too banal to mention.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        This is an awesome sentence:

        This really does make it feel like you were being told to polish your tinfoil hat if you thought Major League Baseball, the DOJ, and the Neptunian branch of the Free Masons were conspiring a push for single payer, but if it was “just” that Mark McGuire had been laundering money through the British NHS for Eric Holder it would have been too banal to mention.

        • Rory says:

          Thanks! I seek to entertain *and* inform.

  5. Bitter Clinger says:

    Everything in the Nune’s memo had been leaked and reported on in some fashion in the past year. What makes it interesting is what has been leaked and reported on that is NOT in the memo. I am of course referring to: From the Guardian; Julian Borger Wed 11 Jan 2017 09.36 EST. “The Guardian has learned that the FBI applied for a warrant from the foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court over the summer in order to monitor four members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials. The Fisa court turned down the application asking FBI counter-intelligence investigators to narrow its focus. According to one report, the FBI was finally granted a warrant in October, but that has not been confirmed, and it is not clear whether any warrant led to a full investigation.” For the mathematically inclined, it has been reported that FISC warrants are rejected at a .03 percent rate. That means if the FISC court worked a standard five-day a week schedule that if this is the ONLY rejection since 9/11, they approved one a work day for the last 17 years! Holy Be-Jesus Glen Greenwald!! Back to a more serious note, I am curious about who the other three targets were. I guess we can be pretty sure Papadopoulos was one of them but who were the other two? A while ago I asked Harold about what the Russians did. He said at the time it was “off topic”. I still want to know. Clinton outspent Trump by a two to three times margin (depending on the source) and we KNOW that money buys elections. How did the Russians overcome this monetary advantage, Facebook Ads? Republicans cannot stand sexual innuendo, yet when the Billy Bush tapes came out it bounced off Trump as if his name was Ted Kennedy, Chris Dowd, Bill Clinton, or Barney Frank. How did the Russians manage that? And then the final straw was getting James Comey to re-open the Clinton E-mail investigation at the most opportune time to destroy her candidacy, considering it has now been reported that the e-mails had been in the FBI’s possession for at least four weeks before hand. I am quite sure Harold can clear all this up. Thank you in advance.

  6. Harold says:

    “Harold can clear all this up. Thank you in advance.”

    I fear your thanks might be misplaced. Whilst it is heartening that you have such confidence in my knowledge, I do not know everything the Russians did. Neither have I ever said that Trump’s victory was entirely down to the Russians. I think it is pretty clear that the Russians “interfered”, but like everyone else I don’t know how effective that was. The Dems played a pretty significant part too, and the timing of the FBI announcement of the emails looks to be significant also.

    However, I do know that of 40,117 FISA warrant requests, 21 were turned down and 3,704 were granted after alteration. The Guardian’s description of being asked to narrow the focus seems to fit the “granted after alteration” category, or nearly 10% of the total. Not so much of a story.

    There was a record spike in rejections in Obama’s final year, so something might have been going on, but this particular “rejection” does not seem significant.

  7. Bitter Clinger says:

    Dr. Murphy, I was going to write a reply to Harold but gave it up as futile, but I am curious as to whether your mention of “Niger yellowcake” was random or was it a subtle reference to the Valerie Plame affair? Of course, we know that the FBI director during that debacle was a man of unimpeachable integrity, the most honest and ethical FBI director since J. Edgar Hoover; Robert “Bobby Anthrax” Mueller. Reading the Wiki article about Plame (It was not the spin I would have put on it but the facts are what I remember) I am astonished at the number of people involved with trying to bring down Bush/Cheney that are now involved in trying to bring down Trump.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      BC wrote: but I am curious as to whether your mention of “Niger yellowcake” was random or was it a subtle reference to the Valerie Plame affair?

      No, I just meant when you looked at the alleged evidence that Bush Admin. presented about Saddam developing WMD, that one was really bad.

    • Harold says:

      ” I was going to write a reply to Harold but gave it up as futile”

      Indeed. Resistance is futile!

      However, I presented a fact based response backed up by actual numbers. I don’t see why you consider a response futile unless you are accepting my argument completely, in which case a response is futile.

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