Journalists Hate Conspiracy Theories and Fake News, Except When They Don't
Our moral, ethical, and intellectual betters in the media can't seem to figure out why nobody trusts them anymore. Their profession tends to poll about as well as the dregs of society, like pimps and drug dealers and politicians. And yet the less respect journalists earn, the more they demand. The less professional they are, the more they scold us for talking back to them. The more we expose their lies, the louder they lie.
There's been a lot of talk in the news lately about conspiracy theories, so I thought I'd examine a few of them.
Let's start off with a look at the once-respected magazine with the increasingly ironic title Newsweek. Earlier this week, Nina "Presidential Kneepads" Burleigh published a story with a sensational headline: "How an Alt-Right Bot Network Took Down Al Franken." Wow, sounds juicy!
According to Burleigh, Franken's downfall wasn't due to his own actions. It had nothing to do with the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct by numerous women. It wasn't because his own colleagues in the Senate demanded his resignation. No, it was all a nefarious plot by evil Russians and white nationalists and other popular villains of the day. The bad guys used nefarious Internet magic to take Franken down, apparently because they wanted a slightly less famous left-leaning Minnesota liberal to take his Senate seat.
There was just one problem: It wasn't true. At all. Whoops!
We are retracting the Al Franken story. After investigating further we can’t verify source claims that the botnet was political. I’m sorry.
— Nina Burleigh (@ninaburleigh) February 21, 2018
The plainspoken apology is a welcome change of pace, but this is an odd thing for an investigative journalist to say. Why would Burleigh need to investigate further? Shouldn't such investigation take place before the story is published? I don't get it, which must be why I'm not a big-shot journalist like Nina Burleigh.
Then there's CNN's Chris "My Last Name Is" Cuomo. The other day, Cuomo retweeted this to his 1.3 million followers:
This is in reference to a June 2016 post at something called The Tab, by someone named Cody Davis. The headline is "I was able to buy an AR-15 in five minutes." Oh my goodness. That's terrible. Take that, you blood-drenched NRA murderers!
Except it's a complete lie. See, when you read all the way down to paragraph 18 of Davis' story about window shopping in a Virginia gun store, you find this:
After [the gun salesman] walked me through the paperwork, all five pages of it, I told him I changed my mind and wanted to think more before I bought an AR-15. He told me it wasn’t a problem and listed the store hours if I wanted to come back. I then said thank you and walked back to my car.