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Failure of the Press: Russian Election Hacking

If they won’t ask the questions, who will?

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All we’ve been hearing from the mainstream media and government officials as of late is that the Russians hacked the election. The only thing missing from this allegation is evidence of Russian Government involvement. It is not wise for any of us to take the government only on its word and high confidence because that leap of faith is what got us into Iraq on March 20, 2003. This is a failure of our government to correctly frame the information it has and of the media who made these same fateful coverage flaws with the Iraqi WMD lies back in 2004. Is this deja vu?

So what do we know and what don’t we know? Let’s go directly to the joint statement of the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence, released on October 7th, 2016, for the answer to this question.

“The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations“ of Russian-directed efforts.”

“Some states have also recently seen scanning and probing of their election-related systems, which in most cases originated from servers operated by a Russian company. However, we are not now in a position to attribute this activity to the Russian Government.”

Essentially, this tells us that it looks like it could have been Russians, but gives no evidence of Russian government involvement. Sam Biddle of the Intercept wrote a great article in December in which he explains that the hacking technique being portrayed as evidence of Russian involvement “isn’t a Russian technique any more than using a computer is a Russian technique.

Nonetheless, 50% of Clinton voters believe that Russia tampered with vote tallies to help Donald Trump. This is largely thanks to media outlets that create headlines stating that Putin had one hand in the ballot box and another in the DNC’s inbox. Headlines like “U.S. Investigating Potential Covert Russian Plan to Disrupt November Elections” and “World War III: Democrats and America Vs. Trump and Russia” flood our print and online news sources. No wonder the general public is so misinformed.

This is dishonest reporting at its core. News outlets being too concerned about getting the next big headline out on the front page is responsible for this, the other part is a lack of regard for journalistic practice. A journalist is supposed to ask questions, push for more information, give the factual evidence as presented, not conjecture and speculation.

I expected better from the New York Times, in particular, seeing that they admitted to their reporting flaws back in 2004 on the alleged Iraqi WMD program.

“…we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge… Complicating matters for journalists, the accounts of these exiles were often eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq. Administration officials now acknowledge that they sometimes fell for misinformation from these exile sources. So did many news organizations — in particular, this one… Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper. Accounts of Iraqi defectors were not always weighed against their strong desire to have Saddam Hussein ousted. Articles based on dire claims about Iraq tended to get prominent display, while follow-up articles that called the original ones into question were sometimes buried. In some cases, there was no follow-up at all.” – New York Times FROM THE EDITORS; The Times and Iraq

The New York Times allowing itself to be spoon fed the narrative was a colossal mistake as it was for the many other news organizations that got duped. At least they were basing their coverage off of some sort of information back then. As we found earlier, there isn’t even any shitty evidence backing up these claims of Russian Government intervention now.

One can make the argument that there are things that average Joes like us will just never know–top secret information which the government is withholding from the general public because its release would give the ‘enemy’ some sort of upper hand as to how intelligence is collected. Fair argument. A government intelligence release from January 6th states:

“The Intelligence Community rarely can publicly reveal the full extent of its knowledge or the precise basis for its assessments, as the release of such information would reveal sensitive sources or methods and imperil the ability to collect critical foreign intelligence in the future.”

This might be one of those times where they have revealed the full extent of their knowledge and basis of their assessments. If our intelligence services had anything of substance right now that could pin the Kremlin down, they would release it immediately. Their argument, as it stands, is so unsubstantial that they need a disclaimer stating that “high confidence” does not mean confirmed.

Every media outlet that is spewing out the Government’s line of “Russian aggression” needs to stop right now because it is doing a disservice to the field of journalism and, more importantly, a disservice to the American public. These careless mistakes have already defined the era we live in today. We must not let them define our future by blindly escalating into Cold War II due to another failure of our eyes and ears: the media.

Written by Hank Jirousek

Hank Jirousek

The rhetorical baby-faced killer: Chicago-based.

Hank Jirousek is a Writer for Progressive Army.

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Failure of the Press: Russian Election Hacking