The Mediaverse by Dennis Kneale, TruthDAO opinion columnist
Twitter Files Part 14 came out on Thursday, and it may offer one reason why the media have ignored this exposé for six weeks now: their own embarrassment about #Russiagate and how they covered a kerfuffle called #ReleaseTheMemo in early 2018.
Thanks to journalist Matt Taibbi, we now know that the media eagerly joined Democrat efforts to discredit and dismiss the Nunes Memo, a classified report saying the FBI had lied to the U.S. foreign surveillance court to get warrants to spy on the Trump campaign back in 2016.
Moreover, they promoted the false assertion that a Russian bot plot was circulating news of these anti-FBI charges on Twitter. They did so even after Twitter executives had warned reporters and Democrats that they had found zero evidence of any Russian involvement, at all. Twitter acquiesced in this deception and stopped short of publicly disavowing it.
Thus, with the media’s help, the Democrats were able to pull off a twofer. They diverted attention away from the FBI’s lies to the court. And they further stoked the bogus conspiracy theory of Trump collusion with the Russians by playing up the fake bot attack.
And know this: two years after this went down, a special investigation conducted by the Inspector General of the Justice Department found that “virtually all” of the allegations in the classified Nunes Memo were true, Taibbi points out. Yet the media jeered at it.
As outlined in 40 tweets, this story begins on Jan. 18, 2018, one year into the Trump administration. Republican Devin Nunes, then chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, releases to the committee a classified report on the FBI’s lies and the fabricated falsehoods in the Steele dossier, which was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Instantly, reports of the Nunes Memo started trending on Twitter under a new hashtag: #ReleaseTheMemo. This set off a "panic" among Democrats, who denounced the Nunes memo, “saying it was boosted by Russian bots and ‘trolls,’” Taibbi says.
Three days later, on Jan. 21, 2018, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Democrat, sent an open letter to Twitter chief Jack Dorsey, asserting that #ReleasetheMemo was being propagated by Russian bots: “We find it reprehensible that Russian agents have so eagerly manipulated innocent Americans.”
Two days after that, on Jan. 23, Democrats Rep. Adam Schiff and Sen. Diane Feinstein of California sent an open letter to Twitter’s Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, insisting the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag has “gained the immediate attention and assistance of social media accounts linked to Russian influence operations.”
But Twitter officials were "aghast," Taibbi reports, “finding no evidence of Russian influence.” He quotes an internal memo in which one Twitter executive says, “We are feeding congressional trolls.” Twitter revealed this lack of evidence to the Democrats and the media and was “roundly ignored,” as Taibbi tweets here.
So, for two months in early 2018, the media went all in to dismiss the Nunes Memo “in oddly identical language, calling it a ‘joke,’” Taibbi writes. MSNBC.com: “Two ex-DOJ officials on Nunes memo: ‘a bad joke.’” NBC News anchor Andrea Mitchell, quoted in the Hill: “Nunes has turned House Intel Committee ‘into joke.’” MSNBC shill Joy Reid: “So, the Nunes memo is a dud, failing to prove that the Russia investigation was illegitimate…”
The Washington Post, by columnists Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman: “The Nunes Memo is Out. It’s a Joke and a Sham.”
The joke is on us. We are being played.
Previously, I told you how one "little lie" about the Twitter Files got picked up by major media outlets and repeated on hundreds of websites; and how the media are ignoring this scandal in concert; and trying to undermine it; and playing down shocking censorship of valid Covid-19 content by both the Trump and Biden administrations. In another article, we explored why Twitter leaders failed to Just Say No.
That is more coverage than the entire staffs of the New York Times and the Washington Post have provided—combined. Search “Twitter Files” on their websites, and you find only this tiny trickle of verbiage: WashPost, NYT.
In the #ReleaseTheMemo pressure campaign from Democrats, Taibbi writes: “Despite universal internal conviction that there were no Russians in the story, Twitter went on to follow a slavish pattern of not challenging Russia claims on the record.” He continues: “As a result, reporters from the AP to Politico to NBC to Rolling Stone continued to hammer the ‘Russian bots’ theme, despite a total lack of evidence.”
As in this Associated Press headline: “Russian Twitter accounts push #releasethememo conservative meme, researchers say.” And this one in U.S. News & World Report: “Nail in the Coffin.” And this headline in Rolling Stone, where Matt Taibbi clinched his reputation as a fearless journalist: “Release the Memo: What’s the Conspiracy Behind the Right-Wing Meme?”
The media also blamed Russian bots for other memes, such as “#SchuymerShutdown, #ParklandShooting, even #GunControlNow – to 'widen the divide,' according to the New York Times, Taibbi reports. This, despite Twitter’s finding zero Russian involvement.
Yet, in their public comments, Twitter execs stopped short of contradicting the Russian conspiracy theory put out by Democrats. An internal note shows that, for on-the-record comments, Twitter said it “is committed to addressing malicious activity on our platform.” On “Deep background not for attribution,” Twitter spokesmen could say the #ReleaseTheMemo and #SchumerShutdown hashtags “appear to be organically trending.” Meaning: no Russians.
Matt Taibbi says that “NBC, Politico, AP, the Times, Business Insider and other media outlets who played up the ‘Russian bots’ story—even Rolling Stone—all declined to comment for this story.” No wonder. As did spokesmen for Democrats Schiff, Feinstein, and Blumenthal
But Devin Nunes tells Taibbi: “Schiff and the Democrats falsely claimed Russians were behind the Release the Memo hashtag, all my investigative work… By spreading the Russia collusion hoax, they instigated one of the greatest outbreaks of mass delusion in U.S. history.”
And the mainstream media accompanied them, applauding every step of the way.
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."