From Smirking Chimp
At the smallest, crappiest newspaper in the world -- even at a high school paper -- no sane editor would publish a story that wasn't backed by solid evidence. As the 20th century print journalism cliche' goes, if your mother says she loves you check it out. So why are the nation's most prestigious multi-Pulitzer-winning newsgathering organizations repeatedly claiming that hackers working for the Russian government stole emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, and gave them to WikiLeaks?
Because the CIA says so.
Well, not the actual CIA. Some unidentified people who claim to have seen some report say so.
The charge against Russia is explosive. "In a 'closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill last week,' intelligence officials told senators that it was now 'quite clear' that electing Trump was Russia's goal," according to Vox. Hothead Sarah Palin enabler and senior Arizona Senator John McCain called it "an act of war."
Even Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman -- historically a voice of reason and prescience -- dove into the neo-Red-baiting morass of this weird month, writing that "bad guys hacked the election" thanks to "useful idiots" (a Cold War slur used against lefties like, um, Krugman, pinned here to Trump and his advisers).
(Hypocrisy alert! I'll save my catalog of covert U.S. attacks against other nations' democratic elections -- Obama's role in the recent coup in Honduras comes to mind -- for some future book, a format where word counts aren't as constricting.)
Anyway, newspapers and magazines and radio and television and Internet news sites say that Russia was behind the hacks. So, as my editor at the Columbia Daily Spectator would surely have asked, what is the basis of this contention?
"The CIA's conclusion does not appear to be the product of specific new intelligence obtained since the election, several American officials, including some who had read the agency's briefing, said on Sunday," wrote the Times' Mark Mazzetti and Eric Lichtblau. "Rather, it was an analysis of what many believe is overwhelming circumstantial evidence -- evidence that others feel does not support firm judgments -- that the Russians put a thumb on the scale for Mr. Trump, and got their desired outcome."
The primary basis of this "overwhelming circumstantial evidence" appears to be that whoever hacked the DNC also hacked the RNC but only released the DNC stuff to WikiLeaks. "If the Russians were going to interfere, why on earth would they do it to the detriment of the candidate that was pro-Russian?" asked Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
My editor at the Spec would not have been impressed.
As Sam Biddle writes at The Intercept, "you can't help but notice all of the qualifying words: Possibly, appears, connects, indicates."
Why would the very same journalists who let themselves get duped 13 years ago dutifully transcribe what amounts to nothing more than unsubstantiated allegations?
I don't know if Russia is innocent of hacking those emails -- any more than the New York Times and the Washington Post and CBS News and so on know that they're guilty.