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December 04, 2017

FusionGPS Scandal May Lead to Exposure of Pay-for-Publish Journalism Scandal

I've said before that I do not think FusionGPS needs to pay reporters to publish stories. I don't think reporters would want that stated explicitly. It would lead to their firing if exposed, and even if not exposed, it would erode their narcissistic conception of themselves. And their egos are very, very important to them.

FusionGPS has allowed it has paid reporters for "research" into topics Fusion itself has been paid to be interested in.

And that's how I think the pay-for-play scandal works. Not with an explicit agreement that the reporter must publish such-or-such story. But just paying them to "research" a person who Fusion has been paid to dig dirt on.

You don't have to demand that reporters publish whatever they turn up. They'll do that almost automatically, because reporters dig up relatively few bits of information that haven't been spoon-fed to them. So any information they do dig up will 99% be published -- as long as it's not so shaky that the pitiful editorial oversight that exists now shoots it down.

So I don't think people should expect an explicit pay-for-publish agreement. Rather, FusionGPS is paying bounties to reporters to dig dirt on its targets, and then relying on reporters' own desire to break stories to achieve the ultimate goal of getting that dirt published in newspapers and on network news broadcasts.

This would still be corruption, obviously. A reporter paid by a third party to become "interested" in some target Fusion itself is being paid to discredit is a reporter acting as a headhunter to collect a bounty.

But I don't think the dirty scheme is accomplished with an explicit publish-this-and-we'll-pay you agreement. (Certainly, if such an agreement is made, you'll never see a written record of it -- that's the sort of thing they'd save for a face-to-face whisper.)

Of course, FusionGPS can also just hand-deliver stories to friendly figures in the media too -- perhaps paid to be friendly -- and let the reporter do a minimum of fact-checking before submitting it to his editors as his own "research."

And then maybe FusionGPS can dummy up its expensing ledger to claim such actual pay-to-publish deals are merely for "research."

Either way, Lee Smith continues being the hardest workin' man on the FusionGPS beat, and discusses how "journalism" is done in the Age of Fusion.

It's a must-read, read-the-whole-thing piece. He names names. He also notes, importantly, that the "Fusion Four" are former WSJ reporters, and other WSJ reporters, who previously worked with the Fusion Four, now routinely transmit Fusion-friendly talking points, and are scattered throughout the media now (as reporters tend to change employers frequently).

Although you really should read the whole thing and decide for yourselves, here's a part of it:

Carol Lee of NBC News is another WSJ alum. At her new job she has worked on Russiagate stories with Ken Dilanian, a reporter Browder believes to be a regular and reliable purveyor of Fusion GPS-manufactured talking points. In September, for instance, Lee and Dilanian broke a story about the June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, which also included Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort.

The network of journalists who take dossiers from Fusion GPS is rich and deep.
Lee and Dilanian reported, "Two sources tell NBC News that Manafort's smartphone notes from the meeting included the words 'donations' in close proximity to the reference to the Republican National Committee." NBC News was eventually forced to walk back the story when it turned out the word on Manafort's phone was "donors," not "donations," a difference that nullified the thrust of the story, which was to suggest that Russia was funneling money directly to the Trump campaign.

But who fed Lee and Dilanian their story? It seems likely from the list of people at the meeting that their sources included Veselnitskaya herself and another Russian at the meeting, Rinat Akhmetshin--who both had partnered with Fusion GPS to try to undo the Magnitsky Act on behalf of pro-Putin elements. Indeed, Simpson met with Veselnitskaya before and after her meeting with Trump Jr.--a meeting Simpson says he didnít know about until it was later reported.

The network of journalists who take dossiers from Fusion GPS is rich and deep, which is how the company manages to seed so many stories around the media and make its money. Others whose tenure at the Wall Street Journal intersected with those of Fusion GPS principals and who have filed numerous stories on the Trump-Russia narrative that originated with Fusion GPS's "Steele" dossier include, among others, Devlin Barrett and Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post, and Matthew Rosenberg of the New York Times.

Paid Mouthpieces for Unknown Interests

...

Much of the fourth estate, it seems, is a world of Renfields, grotesque courtiers gorging on scraps left at the masterís table: reporters who conceal the for-profit sources that pay them and coordinate campaigns of political warfare with the partisan operatives and intelligence officials theyí\/re supposed to be reporting on; and editors who publish conspiracies drawn from a platform for a Russian-manufactured disinformation operation furnished by former colleagues advocating on behalf of a pro-Kremlin interests to undermine American law. Why have they pushed a narrative based on a dossier that they couldnít verify? Because they couldn't abide the results of an American election.

For nearly a year most of the press--with the exception of Yahoo News and Mother Jones--held off from reporting on the dossier because they couldnít discern how much, if any, of it was true. It was Barack Obama who put it back in play when, as CNN reported, his four intelligence chiefs briefed the newly elected Trump in early January 2017.

"One reason the nationís intelligence chiefs took the extraordinary step of including the synopsis in the briefing documents was to make the President-elect aware that such allegations involving him are circulating among intelligence agencies," reported CNN.

No, the point was to provide a pretext for a press that before the election had refrained from publishing the dossier to now put it out in the open. With the briefing, Obama's intelligence chiefs had re-credentialed Fusion GPS's oppo research as a news story. Now it was legitimate. Then the feeding frenzy began.

Corrupt Institutions Canít Stop Corruption

...

Our political institutions, including the press, are designed to check the power that any one group accrues as a consequence of its sociological dynamics, and make it difficult for them to advance their narrow interests, friendships, or whims at the expense of the public. The scandal that now threatens to put a stake through the heart of the media is that it may have been paid to publicize what it knows and has known for more than a year: The Great Kremlin Conspiracy Theory is a hoax.

Or, as a friend says, it was an information operation against the incoming government, launched not by a foreign enemy faction but an even more bitter domestic enemy faction.


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posted by Ace at 04:47 PM

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