NY Times: ‘The Truth Is Worth It’...But Erase the Whistleblower’s Name From the Web?

November 16th, 2019 10:03 PM

The New York Times's impeachment coverage continued with the paper casting as heroic the testimony of Maria Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, under a predictably treacly banner headline over Saturday’s front page: “Ex-Envoy ‘Devastated’ As Trump Vilified Her.” (Showing that nothing goes unpunished by the angry left, many on Twitter demanded the heads of the editorial writers for such a “sexist” headline.)

The rest of the paper’s coverage of impeachment has had bits of exaggeration, hysteria, and hypocrisy, such as the social media “whistleblower” angle that reporter Sheera Frenkel found on Friday. She was strangely unconcerned that powerful social media companies were squelching speech online by trying to memory-hole a name being bandied about online as the possible identity of the White House “whistleblower” that started the latest Trump impeachment ball rolling -- Eric Ciaramella, a CIA analyst and former National Security Council staffer.

The headline, “A Purported Identity Still Circulates Online,” made it clear the Times thinks it’s a bad thing that people are able to discover such a fact, and encouraged social media outlets to disappear the name down the media memory hole, presumably for the benefit of impeaching President Trump. So much for journalists uncovering the truth.

Frenkel herself did not question the conventional anti-Trump wisdom of social media companies squelching facts. Making it even more hypocritical is that the Times has yet to report on ABC retaliating against its own whistleblower for revealing how ABC buried a bombshell accusation against accused pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. The only brief, reluctant mention of that angle in the paper came during a hostile story about Donald Trump Jr.’s fiery appearance on ABC’s morning chat show The View).

Frenkel wrote:

A week ago, YouTube and Facebook said they would block people from identifying the government official thought to be the whistle-blower who set in motion an impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

It hasn’t worked out so well. A name believed by some to be the whistle-blower has been shared thousands of times on Facebook. Videos discussing the identity of the whistle-blower have been watched by hundreds of thousands of people on YouTube....

She blamed “right-wing news sites.”

Liberals are suddenly very concerned when people break corporation rules.

The failure to keep this official’s name off social media is the latest indication of how difficult it is for these companies to police their sprawling platforms. Armies of human content moderators and screening with artificial intelligence have often proved unfit for the task, particularly when many people are intent on breaking the rules.

Frenkel was very worried that a piece of factual news was being reported without the Times’ permission.

Twitter, notably, didn’t block naming the whistle-blower. That allowed Donald Trump Jr., who has over four million followers, to tweet a name. Numerous conservative commentators spread Mr. Trump’s tweet, and began sharing images and videos on social media channels that they believed showed the person’s identity.

Frenkel also tried a repellent bit of guilt by association (click "expand"):

Conspiracy theorists and people with fringe beliefs have become adept at using social media to get ahead of news cycles, and sow misinformation before mainstream news organizations can establish verified facts. And they have become skilled at avoiding community standards on social media sites.

In the weeks after the March 15 attack on a New Zealand mosque, for example, violent videos of the attack flooded Facebook, YouTube and other social media channels....

“Here we are, in the midst of impeachment hearings, and we are witnessing the real time seeding of a story line by conspiracy theorists through social media,” said Joan Donovan, a research director at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center.

So a factual identification of someone accusing the president of impeachable offenses is somehow a “conspiracy”? Such credulous reporting makes the paper’s slogan for subscriptions (“The truth is worth it. Support independent journalism.”) rather hollow, given that only “part of the truth” is worth covering.

The Times is hardly clean when it comes to keeping identifies of sensitive people secret. For ideological reasons it has outed the CIA station chief in Iran, and ran an op-ed from a professor advocating the “doxxing” (revealing personal information on private citizens for the purpose of targeted harassment) of citizens who work for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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