By Charlie Johnston
The media and political world today are all atwitter over a report from CNN and Buzzfeed that Donald Trump is a Russian agent – and includes salacious details of perverted sex parties Trump supposedly participated in. The establishment media has practically wet itself with enthusiasm over this lurid tale. The only problem is that the story started falling apart almost immediately.
Supposedly, the “information” came from a foreign intelligence agent. As John Podhoretz skeptically noted in the New York Post today, this bore less resemblance to an actual intelligence agent’s report than Dan Rather’s forged memo slurring George Bush. The report also listed specific places that Trump and associates had been – information that can be verified. Some of the most salacious stuff does not pass the first hurdle of verification. The memo states that in late August Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, secretly met with Kremlin officials in the Czech Republic. As National Review’s Jim Geraghty notes, there is proof that not only was Cohen not there for that date, his passport never shows a trip to the Czech Republic anytime. And at the time he was supposedly cavorting with Kremlin agents, officials at the University of Southern California confirm he and his son were on a visit to the campus.
The smoking gun, though, is that the memo is identical to a fictional account several members of 4chan, a social media platform, wrote for their own amusement in late October. 4chan allows users to post pictures and any story they want – actual, fictional or fake satire. The authors sent the report to anti-Trump GOP consultant Rick Wilson hoping they could troll him. Wilson, in turn, gave it to the CIA which pounced like a hungry trout on a juicy fly and included it in their official CIA classified report. Zero Hedge’s Tyler Durden lays out the full narrative. It is not possible that a couple of guys could have concocted a fictional story several months ago that is identical to the document included in the formal report just issued – unless the fictional account is the basis of that report. (And please spare me any speculation about a million monkeys with a million typewriters).
I used to warn my political clients that our opponents could only wound us, but friends could kill us. I would explain that we reflexively fully vet opponents’ statements – but our friends tell us what we want to hear. If we don’t fully vet them, too, it can lead to a fatal blunder spouting false information. I was as rigorous in vetting “facts” given by friends as those put out by foes (a characteristic readers of this site undoubtedly recognize). It kept us from running with some juicy stuff – but also protected us from fatal errors. The political and media establishment have shown us very clearly what they want to believe.
When I was a newspaper editor, there was a big story I wanted to break as we screamed into deadline. I had reserved the front page for it. Problem was, my rule on stories on which I did not have ironclad documentary evidence, such as a police report, would not run unless I had three independent and credible sources. Unfortunately, I only had two when we hit deadline. An entirely different backup story I had prepared ran on the front page. It is absurd that my standards on a county newspaper group were more demanding than those of today’s national establishment media. It is downright scary that my standards were more demanding than those of the modern CIA.
Both the media and the CIA have utterly beclowned themselves – but we don’t have to. There will undoubtedly be more of this sort of thing. The typical reaction of the beclowned media when they epically fail is to double down in hot rage on the very things that caused the failure in the first place. These things must come. The satan is more brilliant than anyone on earth, but he has a major weakness: his restless and eager malice. The satan strikes at any hint of vulnerability without any effort at discernment whether it is real or only perceived vulnerability. He thought he had won with the crucifixion, only to discover a few days later he had only helped facilitate Christ’s triumph. He does that sort of thing a lot, if not so dramatically, and never learns from it. Do not let malice and accusation get hold of your heart: it will surely lead you to grief. Vet everything whether it is congenial to you or not – and you will secure your reputation for credibility and probity.
The establishment media used to put ugly slants on stories to deceive the gullible. Now they are the gullible. Let us not count ourselves among their ranks. You may, however, take a little enjoyment as pieces of this story fall away like rotted flesh from a shuffling zombie. I know I will.