Thanks to the New York Times: How do unfounded accusations gain purchase? Gain purchase, then start to worm their way into everyone's heads?
Consider a letter which was published in this morning's New York Times. The writer seems to be a Clinton supporter—but he's also a Trump enabler:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (10/11/16): Let’s assume that what has been charged by both candidates about how the other has treated women is true. That Donald Trump groped and forced himself on married women—because he could. That Hillary Clinton attacked the women her husband was involved with, to discredit them.The writer suggests we assume the truth of various accusations. As part of the deal, he suggests we assume that Hillary Clinton really did "attack the women her husband was involved with, to discredit them."
Mrs. Clinton acted (rightly or wrongly) out of loyalty, to defend her husband, and to preserve their marriage and image. Mr. Trump acted for his own sexual gratification, despite his marriage, and to, in his mind, burnish his image. The difference should carry significant weight in that comparison. Motives matter.
By his second paragraph, he has stopped assuming that this is true; by now, he's describing the motives which lay behind Clinton's actions, which he now seems to treat as a fact. He goes on to suggest that her behavior wouldn't be as bad as certain conduct with which Candidate Trump stands accused, partly because of things he himself has said. In the course of this rumination, he helps advance an ugly claim about Candidate Clinton—a claim for which there is very little evidence.
The New York Times is very dumb to publish a letter like this. But then, this is the New York Times, so what else is new?
Did Candidate Clinton really "attack the women her husband was involved with?" Last Monday, the Times gave legs to this extremely murky claim with a 2900-word "news report" which picked and chose among some very old facts with remarkable skill. One week later, the paper publishes a letter which encourages readers to assume that the claim is true.
The news report was horrible work. The publication of the letter shows horrible journalistic judgment.
But then, this is the New York Times. Readers, what else is new?