Journalism sinks to the bottom of The Atlantic

September 13, 2020

In October, 2016 I wrote my “American press playing Russian roulette with election coverage” column. It asked the questions: “But what happens when that free press abridges itself? What happens when that “free press” abandons its special place under the Constitution in favor of promoting its own group ideology and supporting but one single political party? What happens when the desire to promote replaces responsibility to inform?”

Gave the answer, “You get the 2016 Election coverage, that’s what. You get a mainstream press and corporate media network reallocating every spare resource into destroying one side while doing everything possible to prop up the other.” and went on to cite the most recent examples at the time.

One might think that an industry already flailing in the public trust department would strive to do better for the 2020 contest. Such thinking would be wrong.

From the sham impeachment coverage, to the all over the place COVID-19 speculation, to the more recent “Trump is dismantling the Postal Service” hyperbole it’s been a year of anything but truthful, objective, in context reporting.

But the recent Atlantic magazine article claiming that while in Paris in 2018 for the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI President Trump remarked to staff regarding a planned trip to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers” and referred to U.S. Marines buried at Belleau Wood as “suckers” goes lower than even I thought this current crop of propagandists posing as journalists could go.

Chief Editor Jeffrey Goldberg’s proof the President said such things? Four anonymous cowards with “firsthand knowledge”.

As the list of those going on record denying the story grows longer so too grows the number of members of that 2016 Russian roulette press coming forward to defend Goldberg’s garbage.

Hundreds of column inches and untold television hours have been devoted to the “other news outlets have independently confirmed” narrative and asking why if Chief of Staff John Kelly and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. made the trip by car why couldn’t the President?

Let’s take the later first. Once weather grounded Marine One, the trip was no longer a short flight but a logistical nightmare for the Secret Service charged with protecting the President. Kelly and Dunford attending versus a Presidential motorcade rumbling through towns and countryside is as apples to oranges as it gets. Yes, it’s that simple.

And as for that so called confirmation? Glenn Greenwald, co-founder of The Intercept, and no friend of Donald Trump’s, exposes the farce for what it is.

Writing in a recent column: “…all that likely happened is that the same sources who claimed to Jeffrey Goldberg, with no evidence, that Trump said this went to other outlets and repeated the same claims…Or perhaps it was different sources aligned with those original sources and sharing their agenda who repeated these claims.”

He continues that “neither AP nor Fox obtained anything resembling “confirmation.” They just heard the same assertions that Goldberg heard, likely from the same circles if not the same people, and are now abusing the term “confirmation” to mean “unproven assertions” or “unverifiable claims” (indeed, Fox now says that “two sources who were on the trip in question with Trump refuted the main thesis of The Atlantic’s reporting”).”

He then notes “journalism is not supposed to be grounded in whether something is “believable” or “seems like it could be true.” Its core purpose, the only thing that really makes it matter or have worth, is reporting what is true, or at least what evidence reveals.”

And he closes with“…conflating the crucial journalistic concept of “confirmation” with “hearing the same idle gossip” or “unproven assertions” is a huge disservice. It is an instrument of propaganda, not reporting. And its use has repeatedly deceived rather than informed the public.”

Speaking of deceiving. How many articles supporting Goldberg include the context that the Atlantic it is now majority owned by Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective? The person, Ms. Powell Jobs has already contributed at least $500,000.00 to Joe Biden’s Presidential campaign and the organization she controls is a left leaning philanthropy focusing on among other issues climate, immigration, education and social justice.

Donald J. Trump is the last person Ms. Powell Jobs wants as President. And she’s willing to use her money and her magazine to do whatever she can to influence the election against him.

All of a sudden an anonymously sourced hit piece about an event almost two years old dropping two months before a Presidential election makes sense.

It’s not professional, ethical or in any sense worthy of being called journalism, but when removing Trump is all that matters, nothing matters. Truth and public trust be damned.

PUBLISHER NOTE:  A version of this column first appeared in the September 12, 2020 print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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