Media Yawns at the Twitter Files (OPINION)

Media Yawns at the Twitter Files (OPINION)

The Mediaverse by Dennis Kneale, TruthDAO columnist

If you are one of the 290 million Americans who aren’t on Twitter, have you even heard of the Twitter Files exposé? Maybe not, because The Washington Post, The New York Times, and CNN and other mainstream media have ignored this story or undermined it for days.

As a longtime journalist, I gotta ask: how dare they? This is a monumental story by most any measure, and their disdain and lack of interest seem to arise more from their own bias rather than from incompetent news judgment.

Elon Musk, the $200 billion man, began releasing internal emails in a document dump called #TheTwitterFiles starting last Friday night (Dec.1), detailing how Twitter interfered in the 2020 election by censoring the New York Post’s exposé on the Hunter Biden laptop scandal weeks before Election Day. He did this via journalist Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi), paragraph by paragraph, with email screen shots attached here and there.

A second batch dropped at 7:20 p.m. ET last night (Thursday, Dec. 8), in a series of 30 tweets by Bari Weiss (@bariweiss), the former New York Times editor. She shows Twitter censorship of conservative views went far beyond the Hunter Biden story: “teams” of Twitter staff “build blacklists, prevent disfavored tweets from trending, and actively limit the visibility of entire accounts or even trending topics—all in secret, without informing users.”

It is an unmitigated outrage—and most of the media are silent on it. Neither the Washington Post nor the Times had filed anything on the second salvo of Twitter documents by noon Friday.

The first batch of internal documents, unveiled a week ago, showed the FBI had been in frequent contact with Twitter executives leading up to the election, warning them that Russian “disinformation” could be coming. The FBI did this having had the Hunter laptop in its possession for almost a year, and knowing it might leak.

Taibbi also shows that Biden campaign officials made multiple requests to Twitter staff to muzzle certain accounts, so routine that one employee in an email responded to a new batch: “handled these.”

The Democratic National Committee got Twitter to silence voices it disliked, including actor James Woods (@realJamesWoods), and his acerbic commentary. Now Woods claims he will sue the DNC. I talk more about this on my podcast, “What’s Bugging Me,” on the Ricochet platform.

Is this a great story or what? Fox News and the New York Post jumped on it, of course, filling up most slots on the first couple of pages of Google search by that first Friday night and into the weekend. jumped on it early, too—and made sure to play down the story.

Taibbi posted his first tweet about the Twitter Files at 6:34 p.m. on Friday night, Dec. 2. Less than four hours later, at 10:23 p.m. on Friday night, posted a story by Brian Fung that would make a defense lawyer proud:

-- the document dump “largely corroborated what was already known”;

-- Twitter staff “grappled with fears” of  a “Russian hacking operation” (poor babies);

-- Taibbi said Dems prevailed on Twitter more than Republicans did, “but provided no internal documents to back up his assertion.” (Has CNN ever provided internal documents to back up any assertion in any story? Unlikely.)

CNN updated the story 48 minutes later at 11:11 p.m. to add four extra paragraphs of exoneration, my search on the Wayback Machine reveals, so as to point out:

-- “The Taibbi posts undermine a top claim by Musk and Republicans, who have accused the FBI of leaning on social media companies to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop stories.” (That is debatable: they leaned on the already-willing platforms to produce the same result. Suckers.)

-- Musk tweeted Friday night that Twitter acted “under orders from the government,” but Taibbi said “there is no evidence – that I’ve seen – of any government involvement…” (The latter falls short of disproving the former.)

-- Facebook lawyers say the same about Republican claims that the FBI “coerced” Facebook to suppress the laptop story, CNN states. (The FBI’s warning Big Tech of coming Russian interference—which never happened!—was a cunning form of coercion or cooperation, and it still is newsworthy.)

At The Washington Post, a blasé article by Cat Zakrzewski and Faiz Siddiqui ran online Saturday evening, saying, “It was billed as a bombshell,” but “by the time the dust settled Saturday, even some conservatives were grumbling that it was a dud.

The part about “even some conservatives” was true: former Trump advisor Sebastian Gorka tweeted, “Big Whop.” New York Post columnist Miranda Devine told Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson the Twitter Files scoop “wasn’t the smoking gun we’d hoped for.”

This is a questionable take, and the rest the Post story drops the election interference angle to focus on the “chief twit” (Elon Musk) and a cascade of challenges facing the company, which is now a privately owned enterprise rather than a publicly traded company. Who cares?

The Times ran nothing online on Friday night. And nothing all day long on Saturday.

Finally, after 6 o’clock on Sunday night, the Times ran an essayistic take by Michael N. Grynbaum that called the "Twitter Files" a “tempest” and ignored the FBI’s intervention, instead focusing on the “intense debates in the intersecting worlds of media, politics and tech.” A day later, the Times buried this navel-gazing thumb-sucker on page B5 with the headline:

“Musk and an Independent Journalist Ignite Debate by Releasing the ‘Twitter Files’”

Rather than, say, “FBI, DNC pressed Twitter to Interfere in 2020 Election.” Which they did do, essentially. Neither the Times nor the Post have published follow-up stories on the Twitter Files as yet. Why so shy, guys?

Dennis Kneale, @denniskneale on Twitter, is a media strategist and writer in New York. He spent more than 30 years at The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, CNBC, and Fox Business. His podcast is called "What's Bugging Me."