Part 4—Ignoring The Crazy within the FBI: Let's revisit a recent oddity in upper-end news coverage.
start by assuming that you subscribe to the Washington Post. Yesterday, when the paper clunked on your doorstep, it was led by a front-page report about the latest apparent weirdness within the FBI.
The report appeared beneath a triple headline. Hard-copy headlines included, here's what Post readers saw:
HELDERMAN, HAMBURGER AND HORWITZ (11/2/16): FBI in thick of political frayIf you subscribe to the Washington Post, you saw the peculiar tweet treated as the day's most important topic.
FILES ON A PARDON BY BILL CLINTON
Lawmakes ask whether Comey is flouting policies
The surprise tweet from a little-used FBI account came about 1 p.m. Tuesday, announcing that the agency had published on its website 129 pages of internal documents related to a years-old investigation into former president Bill Clinton’s pardon of a fugitive Democratic donor.
The seemingly random reminder of one of the darkest chapters of the Clinton presidency a week before the election drew an immediate rebuke from Hillary Clinton’s campaign—with its spokesman tweeting that the FBI’s move was “odd” and asking whether the agency planned to publish unflattering records about Republican candidate Donald Trump.
“Will FBI be posting docs on Trump’s housing discrimination in ’70s?” asked Brian Fallon.
For the second time in five days, the FBI had moved exactly to the place the nation’s chief law enforcement agency usually strives to avoid: smack in the middle of partisan fighting over a national election, just days before the vote.
Inevitably, Rosalind Heldermen placed her thumb on the scale as she described the pardon in question as "one of the darkest chapters of the Clinton presidency." (For a fuller discussion of the pardon, see Joe Conason's new book.)
That said, the Washington Post treated that peculiar tweet as the day's most significant event—as the FBI's latest unusual move "to the place the nation’s chief law enforcement agency usually strives to avoid." The FBI's peculiar tweet topped the Post's front page.
The Washington Post was hardly alone in seeing the early afternoon emission as a major event. The previous night, Anderson Cooper had started his CNN program with a news report by Pamela Brown about the strange emission.
Soon, the punditry began. Legal analyst Jeff Toobin said this:
COOPER (11/1/16): Jeff, first of all, on this whole Marc Rich document dump from the FBI, is it just a coincidence that it happened now?We've corrected errors in the transcript. Where the msm is involved, few things are as they seem.
TOOBIN: Well, perhaps. It is certainly bizarre. As someone who has made FOIA requests to the FBI, they are notoriously terrible about responding to them. They take years. They don't release documents in any sort of orderly or consistent way.
I mean, it is conceivable that this was just a coincidence. But coming on top of Director Comey's, you know, very unusual and controversial release last week, it just makes the FBI look like a wing of the Republican Party.
According to Toobin, it was conceivable that the tweet was just a coincidence. He also said the "bizarre" event "makes the FBI look like a wing of the Republican Party."
Moments later, David Gergen pitched in. "Clearly, releasing it today is in violation of their other procedural rule, which is 'Don't throw anything in the middle of a political campaign,' " Gergen said. The situation had become "a circus," he said.
The next morning, the FBI's latest emission was triple-headlined at the top of the Post's front page. If you subscribe to the Washington Post, you got to read all about it.
But if you subscribe to the New York Times, you still haven't so much as been told that this emission occurred! This morning, for the second straight day, the FBI's tweet about the Rich pardon has gone unmentioned in the hard-copy New York Times.
In hard-copy editions, the FBI's peculiar tweet hasn't been mentioned at all. On line, the Times did link to an AP report about the peculiar tweet. Yesterday, though, we had to perform a search at the Times site in order to find the link.
There's no accounting for taste, or so the sages say. At times like these, there's also no accounting for news judgment. At the Post, the FBI's peculiar tweet was deemed the biggest event of the day. At the Times, the peculiar tweet has slid down a memory hole.
So it goes as the FBI inserts itself into world history. Concerning the agency's unasailable director, we will offer this:
Depending on what happens next week, James B. Comey—he's long been nicknamed "Comey the God"—may become a major figure in American history. Depending on what happens next week, he may go down, in many accounts, as the man who interceded in an irregular way to send Donald Trump to the White House.
In those accounts, James B. Comey will be remembered as a bit of a John Wilkes Booth. On the other hand, if Candidate Clinton emerges next week, his peculiar behavior in the past year will be largely forgotten.
Last week, Carl Bernstein got on the phone to declare that Comey the God had detonated a bombshell. Quickly, he helped CNN viewers frame the exciting event.
It was "unthinkable," Bernstein declared, that James B. Comey had acted in anything but a godlike fashion. By now, even we liberals have come to see that this embarrassing, scripted assessment may have been premature.
Can we talk? Over the course of the past twenty-five years, we the liberals haven't noticed much. Right to this very day, how clueless do we remain?
Good God! Just yesterday, Josh Marshall was linking, in generally approving fashion, to the New York Times' 4400-word, gong-show report about the scary uranium deal. To see him do so, brace yourselves, then proceed to click here.
Good lord! We don't think we knew, till we read Marshall's post, that the book from which the New York Times drew its gong-show report "was funded by one of the organizations Steve Bannon runs inside the Breitbart media empire."
Funded by Bannon and Breitbart! We don't think we knew that.
But sad! Even as he states that fact, Marshall is unable to see that the report in the New York Times was a consummate gong show—in our view, was the most propagandistic "news report" of the entire campaign.
(We liberals haven't noticed much as the age of pseudo-scandal has grown. How did Chris Hayes react to that sprawling, gong-show Times report which had been fueled by Breitbart? That evening, he called it "a bombshell report!" His guest, Michelle Goldberg, agreed. Welcome to Bombshells Inc.!)
Granted, we the liberals are generally helpless. Having said that, even we liberals have managed to see that James B. Comey—Comey the God—has engaged in peculiar behavior this past week.
Even we have been able to see that he may not be the consummate straight-shooter. For today, let's add a point which hasn't been raised. This point concerns The Crazy.
The spread of The Crazy has possibly been the major event of the past twenty-five years. Increasingly, the promulgation of partisan ideas has become extremely big business. As this industry has grown, we've seen that we the people are highly susceptible to believing and accepting crazy claims and ideas.
(For ourselves, we see this occurring within various tribes. Partisan liberals will only see it occurring Over There.)
Let's understand the role of The Crazy in what we've called Bombshells Inc.
Last Friday, Bernstein announced that a bombshell had detonated. Instantly, he demonized the target, Candidate Clinton, while hailing the greatness of her accuser, the official straight-shooter James Comey.
The pundit corps has increasingly spread its ideas through the promulgation of narratives built around demons and angels. Clinton and Clinton have long been cast in the role of demons. And when demons are active in The Village, all accusers must be cast in the role of angels.
All accusers must be vouched for. They must be propped up and believed.
Along the way, silly hangers-on like Bernstein have propped up some dreadful accusers. As it has turned out, the final assault on Candidate Clinton is running on corruption, not sex. But over these many years, the sex accusers have been propped up in the most ridiculous ways. By the basic rules of Scandal Culture, accusers must be believed.
In the case of accusers like Flowers and Willey, we the people couldn't be told about the claims which make it seem that these accusers should be numbered among the ranks of The Crazy. You couldn't be told that the high-minded Willey almost got a journalist killed through a false accusation. You couldn't be told that she later claimed that the Clintons had murdered her husband, along with her pet cat.
You couldn't be told that Flowers had trafficked in the same crazy murder claims. You couldn't be exposed to the ugly things she wrote in her play-for-pay book and said in her play-for-pay profiles.
The accusers had to be affirmed; along the way, some were even defined as straight shooters. But most important, you couldn't be asked to think about the remarkable spread of The Crazy.
Flowers and Willey made crazy claims. You couldn't be told about that.
This week, the FBI keeps issuing peculiar emissions. You can't be told about the way The Crazy has lurked within that realm.
Back in 1996, Gary Aldrich wrote a book. It wasn't an insignificant book. It went to #1 on the New York Times bestseller chart. It helps explain the crazy ideas many people hold today.
Who was Gary Aldrich? Among other things, he seemed to be crazy. In his number-one best-selling book, he claimed that first lady Hillary Clinton had decorated the White House Christmas tree with crack pipes, heroin spoons, and an array of exciting though disgusting sex toys. Not to mention those anatomically correct gingerbread men! With the rings through their wherever!
To her credit, Margaret Carlson challenged this craziness in Time. Or at least, she almost did:
CARLSON (7/15/96): Aldrich goes on for five pages about the December day in 1994 when he helped decorate the White House Christmas tree with an anatomically correct gingerbread man, lords doing a lot more than leaping and other "sex toys and self-mutilation devices" approved by Hillary Clinton. This is ludicrous. First, the entire press corps sees the tree and would notice three hens fornicating. Second, all the decorations sent in from artists are screened for appropriateness (two were tossed), logged in and photographed in October.In one way, Carlson challenged Aldrich's lunatic claims. In another way, she herself enacted the lunacy of the times.
Pornographic paraphernalia in the Blue Room has the ring of one of those preschooler fantasies elicited by overeager therapists in the McMartin child-sex-abuse case. Even David Brock, a fellow Clinton hater, had to cut Aldrich loose. An American Spectator writer in his early 30s who has purchased more than $1 million worth of real estate since penning poisonous attacks on Anita Hill and the First Family, Brock revealed that he was inadvertently the source for Aldrich's most sensational charge: that the President slipped out for assignations under a blanket in the back seat of a car, reminiscent of a scene from Dave. Pure, unverified gossip, said Brock.
How did Margaret Carlson know that Aldrich's claims were crazy? She didn't say the claims were crazy because Hillary Clinton would never do such crazy things.
Instead, Carlson knew the claims were crazy because, if Clinton did decorate the tree that way, her fellow guild members would have noticed! Plus, White House staff would have nipped it in the bud, all the way back in October!
(Four years later, Carlson created endless amusement on CNN as she did her mocking impression of Candidate Gore. There was no impression of Candidate Bush. She sat in one of CNN's "liberal" chairs as she entertained us. People are dead all over the world because of this crazy behavior. Carlson lives in a nice house.)
To some extent, Carlson's rebuttal was as crazy as Aldrich's original claims. That said, we mention Aldrich for a reason. We mention him because he's a former FBI agent.
In his number-one best-selling book, Aldrich claimed he was writing about what he he had seen during his White House posting. Carlson could tell his claims were false because the press would have noticed!
Aldrich made lots of "Clinton cash" peddling The Crazy to voters. That said, The Crazy has spread all through the culture in the past 25 years. Those Christmas tree claims were crazy, but so were the murder claims.
All these claims were tolerated. As a a result, this one last strike by John Wilkes Comey may bring us a President Trump.
This year, another book arrived on the scene making crazy claims about Hillary Clinton. This book was written by Gary Byrne, a former Secret Service agent. Our point is simple here:
Ever since 1992, the mainstream press has averted its gaze from the spread of The Crazy. We the people haven't been encouraged to see that The Crazy is becoming widespread in our midst. We also haven't been told that The Crazy may even extend to people who work for the FBI and the Secret Service.
Today, The Crazy is bubbling up from within the FBI. Bernstein rushes to vouch for the Director. Everyone else refuses to raise the possibility that The Crazy may be over-represented within that agency, which now resembles a "circus."
In Sunday's Washington Post, Sari Horwitz was willing to note that the agency boasts "a largely conservative investigative corps." She also notes that this conservatives corps has been "complaining privately that Comey should have tried harder to make a [criminal] case" against Candidate Clinton.
But that's as far as the press will go. You can't be told that our world is currently running on The Crazy. It can't be said that "largely conservative investigative" groups have been perhaps a bit entangled in this emerging culture.
Our journalists have avoided discussing The Crazy for several possible reasons. First, crazy people buy newspapers too. You wouldn't want to offend them.
Second, many Clinton accusers have trafficked in The Crazy. Those accusers must be kept propped up. For that reason, The Crazy must be disappeared.
Finally, the mainstream press corps is deeply sunk in The Crazy itself. They've trafficked in a whole lot of Crazy down through a whole lot of years.
Today, Marshall is linking you to that gong-show report about the scary uranium report. He's also been asking you for your pro-Clinton cash.
Follow the money, Bernstein once said. The money has led us to the precipice on which the future now stands.
Tomorrow: Brian Williams and Digby on narrative