Yet Another Major Russia Story Falls Apart. Is Skepticism Permissible Yet?

by Glenn Greenwald, Intercept

Last Friday, most major media outlets touted a major story about Russian attempts to hack into U.S. voting systems, based exclusively on claims made by the Department of Homeland Security. “Russians attempted to hack elections systems in 21 states in the run-up to last year’s presidential election, officials said Friday,” began the USA Today story, similar to how most other outlets presented this extraordinary claim.

This official story was explosive for obvious reasons, and predictably triggered instant decrees – that of course went viral – declaring that the legitimacy of the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election is now in doubt.

Virginia’s Democratic Congressman Don Beyer, referring to the 21 targeted states, announced that this shows “Russia tried to hack their election”:

MSNBC’s Paul Revere for all matters relating to the Kremlin take-over, Rachel Maddow, was indignant that this wasn’t told to us earlier and that we still aren’t getting all the details. “What we have now figured out,” Maddow gravely intoned as she showed the multi-colored maps she made, is that “Homeland Security knew at least by June that 21 states had been targeted by Russian hackers during the election. . .targeting their election infrastructure.”

They were one small step away from demanding that the election results be nullified, indulging the sentiment expressed by #Resistance icon Carl Reiner the other day: “Is there anything more exciting that the possibility of Trump’s election being invalidated & Hillary rightfully installed as our President?”

So what was wrong with this story? Just one small thing: it was false. The story began to fall apart yesterday when Associated Press reported that Wisconsin – one of the states included in the original report that, for obvious reasons, caused the most excitement – did not, in fact, have its election systems targeted by Russian hackers:

The spokesman for Homeland Security then tried to walk back that reversal, insisting that there was still evidence that some computer networks had been targeted, but could not say that they had anything to do with elections or voting. And, as AP noted: “Wisconsin’s chief elections administrator, Michael Haas, had repeatedly said that Homeland Security assured the state it had not been targeted.”

Then the story collapsed completely last night. The Secretary of State for another one of the named states, California, issued a scathing statement repudiating the claimed report:

Sometimes stories end up debunked. There’s nothing particularly shocking about that. If this were an isolated incident, one could chalk it up to basic human error that has no broader meaning.

But this is no isolated incident. Quite the contrary: this has happened over and over and over again. Inflammatory claims about Russia get mindlessly hyped by media outlets, almost always based on nothing more than evidence-free claims from government officials, only to collapse under the slightest scrutiny, because they are entirely lacking in evidence.

The examples of such debacles when it comes to claims about Russia are too numerous to comprehensively chronicle. I wrote about this phenomenon many times and listed many of the examples, the last time in June when 3 CNN journalists “resigned” over a completely false story linking Trump adviser Anthony Scaramucci to investigations into a Russian investment fund which the network was forced to retract:

Remember that time the Washington Post claimed that Russia had hacked the U.S. electricity grid, causing politicians to denounce Putin for trying to deny heat to Americans, only to have to issue multiple retractions because none of that ever happened? Or the time that the Post had to publish a massive editor’s note after its reporters made claims about Russian infiltration of the internet and spreading of “Fake News” based on an anonymous group’s McCarthyite blacklist that counted sites like the Drudge Report and various left-wing outlets as Kremlin agents?Or that time when Slate claimed that Trump had created a secret server with a Russian bank, all based on evidence that every other media outlet who looked at it was too embarrassed to get near? Or the time the Guardian was forced to retract its report by Ben Jacobs – which went viral – that casually asserted that WikiLeaks has a long relationship with the Kremlin? Or the time that news outlets retracted suggestions that RT had hacked into and taken over C-SPAN’s network? And then there’s the huge market that was created – led by leading Democrats – that blindly ingested every conspiratorial, unhinged claim about Russia churned out by an army of unhinged conspiracists such as Louise Mensch and Claude “TrueFactsStated” Taylor?

[read more here]

5 Responses

  1. If you tell a lie long enough…. Doesn’t seem to be working as good as it used to.

    • They do not even make an alright effort at crafting plausible or logical-sounding lies. RT penetrating C-SPAN to direct its video feed for nefarious purposes just HAS to be an idea the mainstream media burrowed from an Onion article. Pass the popcorn and enjoy the simply hysterical dross that they sell as their “reporting”. It’s unfortunate millions other than us still see it as journalism instead of comedy originally meant to be propaganda.

  2. Is there a retraction watch website? It would be fascinating to have them all collected in one place and it would be a treasure trove for researchers.

  3. it’s my opinion that the dhs is the single greatest domestic threat to american liberty; they’re both a para-military organization & an intelligence organization that operates within the united states — thereby making posse comitatus irrelevant.
    it’s also my belief that it’s the dhs who has been behind various hoaxes & false-flag events such as sandy hook, etc.
    and the powers-that-be wanted to hand our elections over to these guys?

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