Analysis: The Durham Report reveals how bad news is spreading in Trump’s MAGA world

Trump’s statement made no sense – except to Fox audiences who really want it to be true.

Four days later, the Trump-aligned media is still amplifying his false message on a massive scale and ranting about the circumstances of his 2016 election victory over Hillary Clinton. Tuesday’s cover of the New York Post described “HILLARY THE SPY”. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page said “Trump was really being spied on.” Fox hosts have called it a “bombshell” dozens of times.

The court record in question is much less newsworthy than the explosion of false allegations that have ricocheted from it. Reporters who went down the rabbit hole to examine the evidence found something very different from what Trump and his media allies said. That should have been the end – but instead the detailed reporting became fodder for commentators to allege a media cover-up. That’s why it’s worth examining this as a media phenomenon and an example of how talking points are disseminated through a massive media apparatus and shared by millions of consumers.

The talking points all stem from this: On Friday night, as CNN’s Katelyn Polantz and Evan Perez explained in a Monday article, Special Counsel John Durham “accused a Democrats lawyer of sharing with the CIA in 2017 internet data purporting to show Russia-made phones used near the White House complex, part of a wider effort to arouse suspicion in the intelligence community about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia shortly after taking office.”

The charge was framed in what Polantz and Perez described as “vague and technical language” in a court filing. It was not accompanied by any indictment or other prosecution measures. But pro-Trump media noticed the dossier and began sharing it on Saturday.

The fact that this alleged “bombshell” was buried in a motion related to allegations about lawyers with a conflict of interest, and not an indictment, was the first sign that the story was not what say the right-wing media. The second was that the initial stories never went beyond technical language to explain what had allegedly happened.

But the ideological media that blew the case out of proportion had no incentive to apply journalistic analysis to the case. They were encouraged to do the opposite.

Among Trump loyalists, Durham’s inquiry into the origins of the FBI’s Russia probe is an attempt at vindication. Right-wing TV and radio shows regularly portray Durham as a hero trying to right the perceived wrongs of “Russiagate”. Key word: Perceived. Even though government and media investigations have confirmed dozens of links between the Trump campaign and Russia, and the candidate praised Kremlin interference in the 2016 election, Trump supporters insist that the issue was a “hoax” that was hyped by media and intelligence officials to hurt Trump’s feelings.

So in this pro-Trump media bubble, any information that supports the “hoax” hypothesis or the idea that Trump was right when he said he was spied on, no matter how irrelevant or incomplete, is turned into a great story. .

In this case, “the whole story seemed to be mostly fake or old news,” Charlie Savage of The New York Times concluded in a point-by-point press article Tuesday.

But the frantic chatter of Trump’s cheerleaders asserted otherwise. And inflammatory rhetoric, not news, is what drives right-wing outlets like Fox.

Trump’s statement on Saturday night alluding to the death penalty crimes cemented the weekend’s right-wing script. On Sunday morning, Fox aired an inaccurate banner on television that read “Durham: Hillary Clinton Campaign Paid Tech Company to ‘Infiltrate’ Trump’s Servers to Link Trump to Russia.” But that’s not what the court record says. And even though the banner had the word “infiltrate” in quotes, the folder didn’t actually include the word.

Before the mainstream media even started writing about the court filing, Fox’s Abnormal Operation aired a Sunday afternoon segment titled “MEDIA IGNORES DURHAM BOMBSHELL.” This segment, coupled with Fox’s massive coverage, inadvertently showed what was really going on. Fox networks mentioned Durham at least 30 times over the weekend, more than 80 times on Monday and 55 times on Tuesday, according to TVEyes data. Almost all of the coverage was political discussions moderated by hosts and guests, not news reporting by correspondents.

Through all the Fox and social media hype, it became right-wing cannon: it was a major story, a scandal that eclipsed Watergate, and the only possible reason other media wouldn’t. hadn’t covered, they were part of a cover-up. .

In reality, in-depth reporting with context and nuance takes time; sloppy stories and opinion columns almost all the time. But the lack of reporting has created an information void that Trump’s allies have filled with conspiracies and savage accusations. And once reporters followed up and debunked those accusations, it sparked even crazier claims about media collusion with Democrats.

Philip Bump of the Washington Post notedof Republican complaints about Durham’s lack of coverage, “It’s a sign of the strength of the pro-Trump/Fox News bubble that this is seen not as a reflection on the merits of the story but as a grand plot .”

It’s happening because, as many former Fox staffers have admitted, the network (and others like it) needs rabid content to keep people watching.

What other media are saying

At times it seemed like the MAGA media was trying to “will” a scandal to exist. “DURHAM REPORT ROCKS POLITICAL WORLD,” proclaimed one of the One America News banners.

To the extent that this was true, it was only true among Trump’s closest political allies, not the GOP as a party or the political system as a whole. The conversation had a snake-eating-its-own-tail quality to it, as Aaron Rupar, the author of a Substack newsletter titled Public Notice, observed on Tuesday.

“Republicans like Marco Rubio go on TV and give voice to the same lies about Clinton and espionage that are pushed by the hosts, tweeted Rupar. “Hosts can then cover these comments as news, further legitimizing the story in Fox News’ distorted propaganda. framework.”

The media machine also works on all media. Conservative media websites write about the most inflammatory comments made on television. Trump’s communications operation sends articles and statements to his mailing lists. Her family members and marketers share memes and reinforcement posts on social media.

Mehdi Hasan, MSNBC Host tweeted Tuesday, “You have to admire the ability of the right-wing media echo chamber to weaponize even the most high-profile stories (John Durham’s dossier!), twist and twist them, and then push them back with a discipline of relentless message on cable and online that liberals could only dream of.”

Take Fox’s 7 p.m. time Monday: It was an “insurrection,” host Jesse Watters said, while one of the banners beneath him read “HILLARY IS THE REAL INSURRECTIONIST.”

Watters was indulging in a grown-up version of the schoolyard taunt “I know you are but what am I?” and he is far from alone. Trump and his allies have sought to diminish the actual insurgency of January 6, 2021 by labeling other events as insurgencies. They used the same tricks with the term “coup”. Watters’ guest, Senator Ron Johnson, claimed that Trump suffered “an internal coup” during his presidency.

“The main co-conspirator is the mainstream media,” Johnson said, prompting Watters to say “it’s a lot worse than Watergate. I know they like to say that on other channels…but it’s in does the case.”

Watergate has been invoked more than 50 times on Fox since Saturday, according to data from TVEyes. Sean Hannity even showed footage from the movie “All The President’s Men.”

Writing for The Times, Savage observed that right-wing conspiracy theories “are often based on a misrepresentation of facts or outright misinformation. They also tend to involve dense and murky issues, so dissecting them requires asking readers to expend significant mental energy and time – raising the question of whether news outlets should even cover such allegations.Yet Trump allies portray the media as engaged in a cover-up if they don’t.

This loop continued on Wednesday on right-wing television. “Left-wing media reject latest dossier” was one of the main stories on Newsmax’s 2 p.m. program on Wednesday. A guest on the show, GOP Rep. Ralph Norman, assailed Clinton and said “it makes Watergate look like child’s play.”

Norman uttered the exact same line on One America News on Tuesday night. Hannity also on Fox. As always, Hannity urged viewers to keep watching, promising more bombshells to come: “This is just the beginning.”

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