Oh man guys, this BuzzFeed drive-by hit piece on Donald Trump is a doozy. Where do I even begin?
Let's start by acknowledging the fact that BuzzFeed is not an objective media outlet. They refused to run Trump's ads during the election, while allowing Clinton's, out of principle (IJR ran both). Their editor is infamous for declaring that some issues don't have two sides. Just last night, multiple editors tweeted about their crying during Obama's farewell address.
So, while their kitty content may be exceptional, there is a specific spot on the left of the ideological spectrum that BuzzFeed and its editors call home.
With that in mind, why would BuzzFeed not publish an unsubstantiated and unverified document from an anonymous British intelligence operative with explosive allegations about Donald Trump?
It's not just my opinion, by the way, that the accusations are unsubstantiated. That's BuzzFeed's opinion. Lacking even a modicum self-awareness, BuzzFeed's reporters admitted that some of the information in the document is false before publishing it anyway:
In the header:
“The allegations are unverified, and the report contains errors.”
And in the body:
“It is not just unconfirmed: It includes some clear errors.”
Even Politico admitted that it had looked into the document, and that their team of reporters “got nowhere.”
And the New York Times:
“The Times has checked on a number of the details included in the memos but has been unable to substantiate them.”
The document in question, alleging that Russia is holding some explosive information against Donald Trump, was compiled by an anonymous former British intelligence officer who now works as a private consultant. BuzzFeed even admits it was compiled specifically for political reason:
The document was prepared for political opponents of Trump by a person who is understood to be a former British intelligence agent.
That's your first clue. As a long-time editor put it:
In my experience, there is no source of whom you need to be more skeptical, and whose information you need to verify to the letter before you can even begin to think of publishing it, than an “intelligence” source.
I will give the intelligence community the benefit of the doubt here. If such a report existed, regardless of whether its true, it's their job to find it and show it to the proper authorities - as they did. The FBI was aware of it. President Obama was aware of it. Donald Trump was even aware of it. The media had seen it.
But this report has gone nowhere, with law enforcement or with the media, because of an astoundingly complex reason: it seems none of it has been or is verified to be true.
That should have been the end of it, then, until new information came forward that proves otherwise. But then someone, likely with partisan anti-Trump intentions, passed the explosive document along to BuzzFeed.
Why not publish it, if you're an openly ideological activist news site? It's essentially peddling conspiracy theories that, while haven't been proven true, haven't been proven false either! It plants seeds of doubt among left-wing readers who are open to being planted with BuzzFeed's seeds. It gets shares and clicks. It furthers a speculative narrative.
But here's how BuzzFeed justified it:
Now BuzzFeed News is publishing the full document so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.
This is an utterly lazy excuse. There's nothing for the American people to “make up their minds” about! There are no facts in the document, nor is there evidence, and some of it is already provably false. It is full of hearsay allegations. If this was a court trial, this speculative document would be thrown out faster than you can say “objection.”
It's going to backfire on BuzzFeed. Remember what BuzzFeed's standard for “news” about President-elect Trump is. And log this away for the next time BuzzFeed warns about the peril of “fake news.”