The principles of American Newspeak, vol. 1
By Matt Taibbi | 27 October 2020
MATT TAIBBI — How do you call something “Russian disinformation” when you don’t have evidence it is? Let’s count the ways.
We don’t know a whole lot about how the New York Post story about Hunter Biden got into print. There are some reasons to think the material is genuine (including its cache of graphic photos and some apparent limited confirmation from people on the email chains), but in terms of sourcing, anything is possible. This material could have been hacked by any number of actors, and shopped for millions (as Time has reported), and all sorts of insidious characters – including notorious Russian partisans like Andrei Derkach – could have been behind it.
None of these details are known, however, which hasn’t stopped media companies from saying otherwise. Most major outlets began denouncing the story as foreign propaganda right away and haven’t stopped. A quick list of the creative methods seen lately of saying, “We don’t know, but we know!”:
- Our spooks say it looks like the work of their spooks.
A group of 50 “former senior intelligence officials” wrote a letter as soon as the Post story came out. Their most-quoted line was that the Post story has “all the classic hallmarks of a Russian information operation.” Note they said information operation, not disinformation operation — humorously, even people with records of lying to congress like James Clapper and John Brennan have been more careful with language than members of the news media.
Emphasizing that they didn’t know if the emails “are genuine,” these ex-heads of agencies like the CIA added “our experience makes us deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case,” noting that it appeared to be an operation “consistent with Russian objectives.” Politico, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, the Daily Beast, and many other outlets ran the spook testimonial.
- It was prophesied.
The Washington Post needed four reporters — Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller, and Josh Dawsey — to tell us that “four former officials familiar with the matter” spoke of a long-ago report that the would-be source of the Post emails, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, had been “interacting with people tied to Russian intelligence” in Ukraine. As such, any information he “brought back” from there “should should be considered contaminated by Russia.” Therefore, by the transitive property of whatever, the New York Post story should be dismissed as part of an “influence” operation. […]