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May 19, 2020

Ben Smith: "Resistance Journalism" Has Corrupted the Heart of the Media

Glenn Greenwald quotes from a recent Ben Smith piece, a piece which notes that leftwing hero Ronan Farrow seems to be a shoddy journalist -- if a journalist at all -- who will freely dispose of rules and rigor in the pursuit of dramatic, book-deal-worthy headlines.

Smith also notes that Ronan Farrow had a completely fakenews "blockbuster" about the Trump administration supposedly destroying secret, incriminating correspondence with Michael Cohen. Spoiler: Proof for this allegation can be found in the same file establishing that Cohen's cellphone "pinged" towers in Prague, Czechia, when Cohen was meeting with Putin.

Smith attacks "resistance journalism" as being a wholly corrupt enterprise which not only violates all norms of journalism and rigor, but which praises itself for dispensing of such restraints when seeking to attack... well, let's face it: OrangeManBad.

What is particularly valuable about Smith's article is its perfect description of a media sickness borne of the Trump era that is rapidly corroding journalistic integrity and justifiably destroying trust in news outlets. Smith aptly dubs this pathology "resistance journalism," by which he means that journalists are now not only free, but encouraged and incentivized, to say or publish anything they want, no matter how reckless and fact-free, provided their target is someone sufficiently disliked in mainstream liberal media venues and/or on social media:

[Farrow's] work, though, reveals the weakness of a kind of resistance journalism that has thrived in the age of Donald Trump: That if reporters swim ably along with the tides of social media and produce damaging reporting about public figures most disliked by the loudest voices, the old rules of fairness and open-mindedness can seem more like impediments than essential journalistic imperatives.

That can be a dangerous approach, particularly in a moment when the idea of truth and a shared set of facts is under assault.

In assailing Farrow for peddling unproven conspiracy theories, Smith argues that such journalistic practices are particularly dangerous in an era where conspiracy theories are increasingly commonplace. Yet unlike most journalists with a mainstream platform, Smith emphasizes that conspiracy theories are commonly used not only by Trump and his movement (conspiracy theories which are quickly debunked by most of the mainstream media), but are also commonly deployed by Trump's enemies, whose reliance on conspiracy theories is virtually never denounced by journalists because mainstream news outlets themselves play a key role in peddling them:

We are living in an era of conspiracies and dangerous untruths -- many pushed by President Trump, but others hyped by his enemies -- that have lured ordinary Americans into passionately believing wild and unfounded theories and fiercely rejecting evidence to the contrary. The best reporting tries to capture the most attainable version of the truth, with clarity and humility about what we don't know. Instead, Mr. Farrow told us what we wanted to believe about the way power works, and now, it seems, he and his publicity team are not even pretending to know if it's true.

EVER SINCE DONALD TRUMP WAS ELECTED, and one could argue even in the months leading up to his election, journalistic standards have been consciously jettisoned when it comes to reporting on public figures who, in Smith's words, are "most disliked by the loudest voices," particularly when such reporting "swim[s] ably along with the tides of social media." Put another way: As long the targets of one's conspiracy theories and attacks are regarded as villains by the guardians of mainstream liberal social media circles, journalists reap endless career rewards for publishing unvetted and unproven -- even false -- attacks on such people, while never suffering any negative consequences when their stories are exposed as shabby frauds.

It is this "resistance journalism" sickness that caused U.S. politics to be drowned for three years in little other than salacious and fact-free conspiracy theories about Trump and his family members and closest associates: Putin had infiltrated and taken over the U.S. government through sexual and financial blackmail leverage over Trump and used it to dictate U.S. policy; Trump officials conspired with the Kremlin to interfere in the 2016 election; Russia was attacking the U.S. by hacking its electricity grid, recruiting journalists to serve as clandestine Kremlin messengers, and plotting to cut off heat to Americans in winter. Mainstream media debacles -- all in service of promoting the same set of conspiracy theories against Trump -- are literally too numerous to count, requiring one to select the worst offenses as illustrative.

Exactly the same journalism-destroying dynamic is driving the post-Russiagate media landscape. There is literally no accountability for the journalists and news outlets that spread falsehoods in their pages, on their airwaves, and through their viral social media postings. The Washington Postís media columnist Erik Wemple has been one of the very few journalists devoted to holding these myth-peddlers accountable ó recounting how one of the most reckless Russigate conspiracy maximialists, Natasha Bertrand, became an overnight social media and journalism star by peddling discredited conspiratorial trash (she was notably hired by Jeffrey Goldberg to cover Russigate for The Atlantic); MSNBCís Rachel Maddow spent three years hyping conspiratorial junk with no need even to retract any of it; and Mother Jonesí David Corn played a crucial, decisively un-journalistic role in mainstreaming the lies of the Steele dossier all with zero effect on his journalistic status, other than to enrich him through a predictably bestselling book that peddled those unhinged conspiracies further.

He notes that none of the "resistance journalists" on the left nor the overexposed, Soros-funded NeverTrump pundits who have promoted unhinghed conspiracy theories has paid any price at all for having done so. None of them in fact will even admit these are/were conspiracy theories.

Ask AllahPundit directly if the conspiracy theories he's pushed for three and half years were conspiracy theories. Ask Jake Tapper. Ask Brian Stelter. Ask David French.

They'll evade the question.

The point at which a conspiracy theory turns into a capital-letters Conspiracy Theory is when its adherents start scoffing at demands for evidence as if that's dirty pool.

Or when they scoff at the many, many proofs against their conspiracy theory -- you know, the ultimate proof that a conspiracy theory is true is when They have faked a lot of "evidence" to "disprove" it.*

David French is fond of claiming he never pushed these theories at all -- despite his published words promoting these theories -- and claims that he merely "supported Mueller."

But then the moment a #ResistanceJournalist gives him hope that the conspiracy theories he supposedly never promoted can be salvaged, he's right back out there pushing those conspiracy theories again.

Until that latest last gasp of hope is itself discredited.

Then David French is right back to claiming I never pushed the conspiracy theories that you can plainly see from my Twitter Timeline I pushed almost every fucking day.

Anyway -- none of them has paid a price, none of them has even been made to answer the most basic questions about why they were so eager to push a conspiracy theory despite -- as the CNN chyron would say -- those conspiracy theories being WITHOUT EVIDENCE.

In fact, the more conspiracy theories they push, the more they get promoted, and the more book deals they sign:

By far the easiest path to career success over the last three years -- booming ratings, lucrative book sales, exploding social media followings, career rehabilitation even for the most discredited D.C. operatives -- was to feed establishment liberals an endless diet of fearmongering and inflammatory conspiracies about Drumpf and his White House. Whether it was true or supported by basic journalistic standards was completely irrelevant. Responsible reporting was simply was not a metric used to assess its worth.

It was one thing for activists, charlatans, and con artists to exploit fears of Trump for material gain: that, by definition, is what such people do. But it was another thing entirely for journalists to succumb to all the low-hanging career rewards available to them by throwing all journalistic standards into the trash bin in exchange for a star turn as a #Resistance icon. That, as Smith aptly describes, is what "Resistance Journalism" is, and itís hard to identify anything more toxic to our public discourse.

Read the whole thing.

* There's a saying that no American thinks of himself as poor, but merely as a temporarily-embarrassed millionaire.

Similarly, for NeverTrumpers and the Anti-Drumpf! Media, there's no such thing as a discredited conspiracy theory -- just a temporarily-embarrassed Larger Truth.

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posted by Ace at 12:28 PM

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