The New York Times refuses to repeat its own report: Yesterday morning, the featured report on the New York Times' front page concerned "Confidentialinformantgate."
The "News Analysis" piece was written by Davis and Haberman. In hard copy, it appeared beneath a triple headline. The headline which appears online captures the drift of the piece:
With ‘Spygate,’ Trump Shows How He Uses Conspiracy Theories to Erode TrustAccording to the two reporters, Trump has been using another conspiracy theory to erode trust in the institutions which are probing his conduct. In their actual text, the scribes tried to define their complaint:
DAVIS AND HABERMAN (5/29/18): Last week, President Trump promoted new, unconfirmed accusations to suit his political narrative: that a “criminal deep state” element within Mr. Obama’s government planted a spy deep inside his presidential campaign to help his rival, Hillary Clinton, win—a scheme he branded “Spygate.” It was the latest indication that a president who has for decades trafficked in conspiracy theories has brought them from the fringes of public discourse to the Oval Office.According to the reporters, Trump has pimped "unconfirmed accusations" to push his "political narrative." Overall, this narrative about the "spy" seems to be his latest "baseless story."
Now that he is president, Mr. Trump’s baseless stories of secret plots by powerful interests appear to be having a distinct effect. Among critics, they have fanned fears that he is eroding public trust in institutions, undermining the idea of objective truth and sowing widespread suspicions about the government and news media that mirror his own.
Later, the scribes refer to "Trump’s willingness to peddle suspicion as fact." Since they ;later seem to say that Trump's story isn't completely baseless, we'd say that's their best account of what Trump is doing.
Alas! From the very day Trump announced his campaign, reporters have had a hard time paraphrasing his fuzzy claims and explaining what's wrong with his sweeping, unfounded accusations.
In this case, Trump is making a fuzzy, inflammatory charge which seems to go well beyond anything which is actually known to be true. That doesn't mean that his claim is wrong; it's virtually impossible to prove that something didn't happen. It means that he's gone beyond the known facts again, by his usual country mile.
Trump has made a sweeping accusation which he isn't prepared to define, let alone defend. This is gruesome conduct from a person in his position. It's also bad citizenship when voters let themselves get swept up in believing such unfounded claims, even from a politician they are inclined to support.
Trump is behaving badly, as always. But so, it seems to us, is the New York Times, along with the massive bulk of the mainstream press and pundit corps.
What's wrong with Davis and Haberman's analysis piece? Even as they assail Trump for going beyond the known facts, they refuse to report the known facts—or at least such facts as have been reported on the front page of their own newspaper. This strange journalistic behavior has been going on for eleven days.
Trump is embellishing the known and reported facts; in not quite equal-but-opposite fashion, Davis and Haberman seem to be hiding such facts as might help his political case. A bit later on in their piece, they offer this absurd attempt to recount what their own newspaper has reported:
DAVIS AND HABERMAN: Like most conspiracy theories, Mr. Trump’s latest has a kernel of truth many Republicans have latched on to. Several news organizations, including The New York Times, have reported that an F.B.I. informant contacted Trump campaign aides who evidence suggested had had suspicious contacts with Russians in 2016 as part of a counterintelligence investigation into possible efforts by Moscow to meddle in the election.Remarkably, the reporters say there's "a kernel of truth" to Trump's sweeping accusation. They then make sure that you won't hear what that kernel is.
In Mr. Trump’s telling, however, the informant was a spy sent by Mr. Obama and a cabal inside his Justice Department and the intelligence community who were bent on stopping his candidacy.
Let's be fair! The highlighted statement is accurate as far as it goes—but it omits the less attractive parts of what the Times has reported about the FBI's conduct. It's hard to avoid an obvious thought:
By eliminating basic details, Davis and Haberman are presenting the most innocuous version of what their own newspaper has reported, on page one, concerning what the FBI did. Trump, meanwhile, is embellishing the known and/or reported facts.
Davis and Haberman are cleaning things up. As they proceed, they quote three different Republican figures who say they have concerns about what the FBI did—but their concerns are never explained. Consider this example:
DAVIS AND HABERMAN: During the 2016 campaign, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, denounced Mr. Trump’s talk of the government hiding the real story about Sept. 11. “That’s something that really only comes from the kook part of America,” Mr. Graham said at the time.Graham says he wants to find out if "it" really happened. He also says he wants to know if there was a good reason for "it."
Mr. Graham said he had also been highly skeptical when Mr. Trump insisted last year that Mr. Obama had tapped his phones in Trump Tower, a stunning assertion for which he offered no proof.
“I thought, ‘Well, that doesn’t seem right to me,’” Mr. Graham said last week. But, he noted, it was later revealed that one of Mr. Trump’s former campaign associates, Carter Page, had in fact been under surveillance. And on “Spygate,” the senator added, “There seems to be something to this one. I want to find out: Did it happen? Is there a good reason?”
That said, what's the "it" to which he refers? There's no sign that he was asked; if he said, his statement was disappeared. We'll guess that Graham is referring, among other things, to the reported conduct in which one Trump aide was paid $3000 to fly across the Atlantic Ocean on a totally bogus premise so he could have his brain picked for several days by an undercover agent.
Within the context of a presidential campaign, does that behavior have Graham concerned? There is no sign that he was asked. If he said what has him concerned, the reporters didn't report it.
That possibly unattractive conduct was reported on the front page of the New York Times, and also by the Washington Post. But that report has been disappeared for eleven days by the entire mainstream press corps. It can't be found in the sanitized version of these events the two Times scribes presented in the passage we posted above.
For the last week and a half, the mainstream press has been sanitizing the FBI's reported conduct. As Trump embellishes the reported facts, the nation's pseudo-reporters have been hiding behind extremely fuzzy language of their own.
One of the principals talks about "spies;" the others talk about "informants." No one, not even the New York Times, is willing to repeat what the New York Times has reported for all the world to see!
Trump is embellishing what's been reported. Our "journalists" have their Windex out.
Trump is behaving like a Putin. The press is behaving like Pravda. Each part of this grisly pas de deux suggests the culture of an authoritarian state, in which the public hears nothing but massaged accounts of reality.
We're being played from both sides now! Is Judy Collins available for the soundtrack?