You have to hand it to the New York Times; they actually found a way to spin left-wing anarchists burning Bibles as “Russian disinformation,” all in one head-spinning headline to boot!
In “Bible-burning video goes viral, a win for Russia disinformation,” (print headline), Times’ writers Matthew Rosenberg and Julian E. Barnes, with contributor Mike Baker, attempted to debunk a viral video from the Portland riots showing BLM and Antifa protesters burning Bibles and American flags by disputing the source. While they desperately tried to minimize what happened, they couldn’t actually debunk the video at all. Because it did really happen.
Rosenberg and Barnes began their story sneering at conservatives for supposedly getting excited by leftists burning Bibles and American flags because it helped the Trump campaign:
For some of President Trump’s loudest cheerleaders, it was a story too good to check out: Black Lives Matters protesters in Portland, Ore., had burned a stack of Bibles, and then topped off the fire with American flags. There was even a video to prove it.
The story was a near-perfect fit for a central Trump campaign talking point — that with liberals and Democrats comes godless disorder — and it went viral among Republicans within hours of appearing earlier this month.
Before trying to minimize what happened:
...The truth was far more mundane. A few protesters among the many thousands appear to have burned a single Bible — and possibly a second — for kindling to start a bigger fire. None of the other protesters seemed to notice or care.
...Another clip shows what may have been the same Bible or a second one. A small crowd can be seen hanging around, some of the people watching the flames grow higher, but the scene looks and sounds as if it is far from the main action of the protest. The Bible appears to be used as kindling by two protesters working on the fire. There is no discernible reaction from the crowd as the book is put in the flames along with twigs and branches, notebook pages and newspapers. The crowd does cheer when an American flag is thrown on the flames.
That's an understatement. The Times journalists tried to suggest the video wasn't real because the original came from Ruptly, RT’s video service and it was just Kremlin-backed fake news to help Trump’s campaign:
Yet in the rush to paint all the protesters as Bible-burning zealots, few of the politicians or commentators who weighed in on the incident took the time to look into the story’s veracity, or to figure out that it had originated with a Kremlin-backed video news agency. And now, days later, the Portland Bible burnings appear to be one of the first viral Russian disinformation hits of the 2020 presidential campaign.
With Election Day drawing closer, the Russian efforts to influence the vote appear to be well underway. American intelligence officials said last week that Russia was using a range of techniques to denigrate Democrats and their presumptive presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr….
However, the reporters consistently undercut their own argument. For instance, they admit that Ruptly doesn’t just troll for conservatives but also puts out videos to appeal to the far-left, writing, "Some stories are tailored to appeal to conservatives, others to an audience that might be best described as the alt-left."
Yet this is just disinformation and a tall “tale” help Trump’s campaign?
Some of the stories spread by the Russian news outlets are outright fictions. But the most useful ones — the ones most likely to go viral — are those with a kernel of truth, like the tale of Bible burnings in Portland. It offers a case study in how the Russian information-laundering operation works, and how potent a weapon it can be.
...The Portland video represents the Russian disinformation strategy at its most successful. Take a small but potentially inflammatory incident, blow it out of proportion and let others on the political fringes in the United States or Canada or Europe spread it.
Defending the left-wing rioters is nothing new for the paper. They’ve moved from denying the violence, to crying about right-wing media not giving Antifa the “nuanced coverage” they deserve, to encouraging the violence and even defending the media aiding them from facing arrest.