Why the Donald should be pissed at Buzzfeed
The disinformation swirling around President-elect Donald J. Trump (savour that phrase for a moment) is so dense and toxic that it is virtually impossible to work out fact from fiction.
Only the video can give us an indication of the veracity of these two statements. Video of Trump mocking the journalist does exist, rendering Trump’s denials this week, redundant.
However, we are yet to see proof of the golden shower incident, even though, according to one source, the Russian security service (FSB) has the ‘tape’.
The document containing this startling and salacious allegation has apparently been circulating in Washington DC political circles since October, but it was published only this week by the news and listicle website, Buzzfeed. As you might expect, this sparked a political storm, with Trump issuing angry denials via Twitter and in a long-awaited media conference (His first in almost six months).
But can we rely on the Buzzfeed report, or more importantly, on the ‘dosssier’ itself. Buzzfeed’s motivation in publishing the report appears to be simple and self-serving: to generate clicks through to its website and boost its SEO rankings. We shouldn’t be surprised, this is a website renowned for dodgy, traffic-boosting tricks.
Even the three by-lined reporters who put together the Buzzfeed story, seemed keen to distance themselves from the leaked document, allegedly compiled by someone who claims to have worked for British intelligence (this is almost as unproveable as the claims made in the document itself).
Never mind the lack of verification, posting the document has done the trick it was intended to perform – within just six hours of the story being posted it had been viewed over two-million times. The rest of the media was also talking about the story, and about Buzzfeed.
As The Guardian reported, redacted versions of the document were known to US officials weeks ago and a summary of their contents had been given to both Trump and President Obama in recent days. But CNN and other media, including The Guardian, decided against publishing the full package because of the problem of verification. In fact, the CNN story would have disappeared if Buzzfeed hadn’t jumped on the bandwagon.
Trump, whatever you might think of him, has every right to be annoyed that this dossier has been published because it contains unsubstantiated claims that are highly-damaging and, in some jurisdictions, including Australia, would be considered defamatory.
How is publication justified?
I cannot stress this enough: there is no independent, reliable corroboration of anything in the dossier. In fact, it is likely that there is a strong political motive for the existence of this document, it could have come from anywhere and anyone with access to a keyboard could have written it. Media claims that the document was written by ‘a former western counter-intelligence official, now working as a private consultant’ (as reported in The Guardian) are also suspect. Who knows for sure where this dossier originated? The author is reported to be in hiding and in fear for his life now that the document has become public. He has been identified as Christopher Steele, a former British agent who now works for a private investigations firm.
Unless there is some form of proof that is reliable – for instance, the author is named and verified – we are right to be sceptical about the whole document, its contents and its conclusions.
Before backing away in subsequent editions, The Guardian, at first, appeared to give some credence to the dossier – and its author – by reporting comments by an un-named US official.
‘An official in the US administration who spoke to the Guardian described the source who wrote the intelligence report as consistently reliable, meticulous and well-informed, with a reputation for having extensive Russian contacts.’
But, this is not good enough for such explosive claims.
Given all the known unknowns about this dossier, how does Buzzfeed justify publication of salacious, unproven, highly-defamatory and likely made-up assertions about the man voters (rightly or wrongly) chose to govern the most powerful nation on the planet?
You can read the rest of this post at Independent Australia