MSM Begs For Trust After BuzzFeedNews Debacle

On Thursday BuzzFeedNews delivered the latest “bombshell” Russia-gate report to fizzle within 24 hours of its publication, one in a long series of wrong Russia-gate stories that have the media begging for forgiveness, says Caitlin Johnstone.

Inside The BuzzFeed Newsroom In New York City, 2015. (Anthony Quintano, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

By Caitlin Johnstone

Following what The Washington Post has described as “the highest-profile misstep yet for a news organization during a period of heightened and intense scrutiny of the press,” mass media representatives are now flailing desperately for an argument as to why people should continue to place their trust in mainstream news outlets.

On Thursday BuzzFeedNews delivered the latest “bombshell” Russiagate report to fizzle within 24 hours of its publication, a pattern that is now so consistent that I’ve personally made a practice of declining to comment on such stories until a day or two after their release. “BOOM!” tweets were issued by #Resistance pundits on Twitter, “If true this means X, Y and Z” bloviations were made on mass media punditry panels, and for about 20 hours Russiagaters everywhere were riding the high of their lives, giddy with the news that President Trump had committed an impeachable felony by ordering Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a proposed Trump office tower in Moscow, a proposal which died within weeks and the Kremlin never touched.

There was reason enough already for any reasonable person to refrain from frenzied celebration, including the fact that the story’s two authors, Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier, were giving the press two very different accounts of the information they’d based it on, with Cormier telling CNN that he had not personally seen the evidence underlying his report and Leopold telling MSNBC that he had. Both Leopold and Cormier, for the record, have already previously suffered a Russiagate faceplant with the clickbait viral story that Russia had financed the 2016 election, burying the fact that it was a Russian election.

Then the entire story came crashing down when Mueller’s office took the extremely rare step of issuing an unequivocal statement that the Buzzfeed story was wrong, writing simply, “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate.”

According to journalist and economic analyst Doug Henwood, the print New York Times covered the BuzzFeedNews report on its front page when the story broke, but the report on Mueller’s correction the next day was shoved back to page 11. This appalling journalistic malpractice makes it very funny that the NYT’s Wajahat Ali had the gall to tweet, “Unlike the Trump administration, journalists are fact checking and willing to correct the record if the Buzzfeed story is found inaccurate. Not really the actions of a deep state and enemy of the people, right?”

This is the behavior of a media class that is interested in selling narratives, not reporting truth. And yet the mass media talking heads are all telling us today that we must continue to trust them.

“Those trying to tar all media today aren’t interested in improving journalism but protecting themselves,” tweeted NBC’s Chuck Todd. “There’s a lot more accountability in media these days than in our politics. We know we live in a glass house, we hope the folks we cover are as self aware.”

More accountability in media than in politics, Chuck? Really? Accountability to whom? Your advertisers? Your plutocratic owners? Certainly not to the people whose minds you are paid exorbitant sums to influence; there are no public elections for the leadership of the mass media.

“Mueller didn’t do the media any favors tonight, and he did do the president one,” griped the odious Chris Cuomo on CNN. “Because as you saw with Rudy Giuliani and as I’m sure you’ll see with the president himself, this allows them to say ‘You can’t believe it! You can’t believe what you read, you can’t believe what you hear! You can only believe us. Even the Special Counsel says that the media doesn’t get it right.’”

“The larger message that a lot of people are going to take from this story is that the news media are a bunch of leftist liars who are dying to get the president, and they’re willing to lie to do it, and I don’t think that’s true” said Jeffrey Toobin on a CNN panel, adding “I just think this is a bad day for us.”

“It does reinforce bad stereotypes about the news media,” said Brian Stelter on the same CNN panel. “I am desperate as a media reporter to always say to the audience, judge folks individually and judge brands individually. Don’t fall for what these politicians out there want you to do. They want you to think we’re all crooked. We’re not. But Buzzfeed now, now the onus is on Buzzfeed.”

CNN, for the record, has been guilty of an arguably even more embarrassing Russiagate flub than BuzzFeedNews’s when they wrongly reported that Donald Trump Jr had had access to WikiLeaks’ DNC email archives prior to their 2016 publication, an error that was hilariously due to to the simple misreading of an email date by multiple people.

The mass media, including pro-Trump mass media like Fox News, absolutely deserves to be distrusted. It has earned that distrust. It had earned that distrust already with its constant promotion of imperialist wars and an oligarch-friendly status quo, and it has earned it even more with its frenzied promotion of a narrative engineered to manufacture consent for a preexisting agenda to shove Russia off the world stage.

The mainstream media absolutely is the enemy of the people; just because Trump says it doesn’t mean it’s not true. The only reason people don’t rise up and use the power of their numbers to force the much-needed changes that need to happen in our world is because they are being propagandized to accept the status quo day in and day out by the mass media’s endless cultural engineering project. They are the reason why wars go unopposed, why third parties never gain traction, why people consent to money hemorrhaging upward to the wealthiest of the wealthy while everyone else struggles to survive. The sooner people wake up from the perverse narrative matrix of the plutocratic media, the better.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on Facebook, Twitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a new book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.” This article was re-published with permission.

42 comments for “MSM Begs For Trust After BuzzFeedNews Debacle

  1. Brian Murphy
    January 23, 2019 at 18:29


    This article is sloppily written and hard to follow. It needed but did not receive proper editing.

    • John
      January 24, 2019 at 01:51

      You just described Caitlin Johnstone’s writing to a ‘t’.

    • Skip Scott
      January 24, 2019 at 08:20

      Please supply some examples of sloppy writing from the article. I found it very easy to follow.

  2. John
    January 22, 2019 at 14:12

    Seeing such criticism of the mainline news on a site that promoted the debunked Forensicator/VIPS Memo article make my hypocrisy meter go wild.

    • Skip Scott
      January 22, 2019 at 14:49

      Is that you, Dmitri?

    • PCM
      January 26, 2019 at 14:16

      @John: I assume you are talking about the VIPS forensic investigation that determined the DNC “hack” was actually a leak and that server contents were downloaded locally to a thumb drive by an insider rather than accessed remotely over the Internet by Russians. If so, who debunked VIPS’s analysis? Where did they publish? Some citations or links would be appreciated.

  3. Michael
    January 22, 2019 at 12:41

    The Russiagate stories from MSM and the hilarious entertainment of Warner and Schiff’s excited proclaimations in response have destroyed what little credibility these “journalists” have. Now they’ve crossed a line, manufacturing malicious lies about high school kids (possibly for wearing MAGA hats?) While the US allows a lot of leeway in slandering politicians and public figures, making up fake news stories about kids (and everyone today has cell phones for validating stories) should come back to bite them in a big way:

  4. Brian James
    January 21, 2019 at 22:39

    March 19, 2017 The CIA’s 60-Year History of Fake News How the Deep State Corrupted Many American Writers

    Whitney’s new book, “Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers,” explores how the CIA influenced acclaimed writers and publications during the Cold War to produce subtly anti-communist material. During the interview, Scheer and Whitney discuss these manipulations and how the CIA controlled major news agencies and respected literary publications (such as the Paris Review).

  5. KiwiAntz
    January 21, 2019 at 20:06

    The MSM doesn’t deserve respect or any sort of public trust which they have destroyed, due to their own Poltical bias & massive credibility issues? They are like the boy who cried Wolf when there was no Wolf? The MSM has cried Wolf, time & time again & people are now, tone deaf to their protestations, lies & retractions, hence their plummeting ratings & viewership? Its always a Bombshell announcement that’s not backed by any factual evidence inly unnamed anonymous sources which we are expected to believe, then they make a retraction that’s hidden, then they try to dispose of the original ridiculous News video or walkback the print article so no one can see the original Broadcast or newsprint lies? And Buzzfeed is a well known, fake fabrication of a website that can’t be taken at face value, they are a joke! I never watch or read MSM media anymore, its just propagandist nonsense, & you’ll be amazed at the meditative peace of mind & clarity you obtain by not reading or viewing their garbage!

    • Thomas Howard (@souphound1961)
      January 24, 2019 at 17:59

      Great comment. I too just ignore the MSM, both sides. They offer nothing but fake “red herrings” to the people and are only interested in raising their ratings, not reporting truthful news based upon interviews from people on both sides of an issue. Look at what they did to the Covington kids.

  6. John Parker
    January 21, 2019 at 19:51

    All activity on the “Trump is the anti-Christ” side is based on one criteria. If it gains them 5 seconds of relief from their terminal Trump derangement syndrome then it was worth doing. Credibility and reputation are minor considerations in this era. Their audience wants TDS relief and they want it now.

  7. Pft
    January 21, 2019 at 18:53

    Maybe Mueller, aka Mr Cover up, is on Trumps side. After all Trump just appointed his best buddy Barr as AG

    Its all about fake wrestling IMO. Just distraction and entertainment to take peoples eyes off the real issues

  8. Eric32
    January 21, 2019 at 16:58

    Anyone wh0 pays for cable or sat tv, subscribes to NY Times etc., is supporting this toxic junk info.

    Vote with your money, cancel this stuff.

    • Antiwar7
      January 22, 2019 at 08:55

      You got that right.

      I’ve avoided giving them any money since the early 90’s, when I observed their editorial policies were always pro-war and full of lies.

  9. peon d. rich
    January 21, 2019 at 16:31

    I think the MSM is trying to be objective (even Fox). They just have too little to work with: too little radical criticism on the part of their readers/listeners, too little willingness of the people to engage in radical critique of their own views; too little traction of any radical critique to become a political, cultural, social movement (Occupy had a flash); too little personal commitment to principles, on the part of the reporter or the population in general; too little willingness of all to let the full implications of events rattle their deeply held beliefs, no matter how much they pervert reality (children dying seen as collateral damage, or worse, as enemies). Principles of peace and justice are too remote for the MSM and its consumers; it’s ‘objective’ for everyone to stay in a level of reporting that is comfortable. It’s what the murderous Amerikkkans have done since the colonies.

  10. January 21, 2019 at 16:28

    Here’s attorney Sharyl Attkisson with her list of 67 media manufactured stories:

  11. January 21, 2019 at 15:42
  12. vinnieoh
    January 21, 2019 at 11:56

    Good stuff Caitlin, and they were all at it Sunday morning “responsibly” hosting pols and military proponents fomenting war against Iran.

  13. AnneR
    January 21, 2019 at 09:52

    Thank you Ms Johnstone for another excellent piece.

    The MSM – both here and in the UK is totally Orwellian Newspeak. And while most of it is privately owned by a small handful of the multi-rich, on each side of the ocean there is state-supported media. In the UK the BBC (its World Service too) is wholly state-supported, via licence fees. Here NPR-PBS runs on a mixture of funding, including federal (tax-payer monies) and corporate dollars. Without alternative media (one of the few things about which to be thankful for the internet) one’s thinking, one’s worldview would be completely captive to the never-ending propaganda.

    “Leftist,” “the Left wing,” “socialist” – these words are bandied about freely as descriptors of the (so-called) Dem party by both the Demrats and Reptiles demonstrating clearly that most Americans (the overwhelming majority by seems of things) haven’t a bloody clue what these terms used to mean, to instantiate.

    From this vantage these terms have been reduced to all but utter meaningless (likely deliberately so). Nowadays they appear to designate (wink, wink) those who (Demrat supporters largely speaking) from their merit-worthy, bourgeois eyries (sorry, Brit spelling) diverting the attention of the “unwashed” from the serious soci-economic matters afflicting them, the lower half of the population, toward those “progressive” talking points of “intersectionality.” This is what now apparently constitutes the “left” in the mainstream, truly right-wing, neo-liberal, neo-con Demrat party. The mild “New Deal-ish” stuff emanating from Bernie and AOC (in order to once again save capitalism from the “ignorant herd”?) is socialism lite and MIC supporting on the quiet.

    As someone whose late husband used to call “the Last Leninist,” I strongly object to the (deliberate) misuse of the terms “left” in all its forms and “socialist” to describe ANY Demrat politician or their supporters. Only when they renounce capitalism, especially imperialist-corporate-capitalism, and work toward an economy-polity that is based on worker cooperatives, that has as its foundational and integral reality, “From each according to [their] ability, to each according to [their] need,” will they be worthy of the the descriptor “left/socialist.”

    • January 21, 2019 at 10:10

      Anne, in fairness we need to add to your names:

      “Leftist,” “the Left wing,” “socialist” – these words are bandied about freely as descriptors of the (so-called) Dem party by both the Demrats and Reptiles demonstrating clearly that most Americans (the overwhelming majority by seems of things) haven’t a bloody clue what these terms used to mean, to instantiate.”

      I think we can add fascist, neo-nazis, Nazis, right wing to the names being bandied about, all to make it easier to choose sides and stay away from real issues. Issues are just to much to think about.

  14. will
    January 21, 2019 at 09:15

    has it real fizzled? During the time Trump was singing Putin’s praises on the campaign trail and receiving Russian help with hacking and information campaigns, Putin was dangling a few hundred million dollars in front of Trump. Buzzfeed stands by it’s story and now Poundstone or whatever her name is trusts grand inquisitor Mueler more than Buzzfeed.

    • Skip Scott
      January 22, 2019 at 14:12


      Do you trust Mueller? I thought you were all gung-ho on his investigation, and that he was pure as driven snow. If you don’t like Caitlin, you can always go back to Madcow. She’ll keep feeding your TDS.

  15. mike k
    January 21, 2019 at 05:59

    The MSM know that their mask is slipping, and the naked propaganda they spout is being slowly perceived by their audience. Hence their desperate attempts to claim credibility, and smear the alternative sources that are exposing the truth of our situation.

    • Vincent Berg
      January 21, 2019 at 17:58

      Yes, this can’t be sustained much longer. Real bombshells will need to be dropped soon.

  16. Jeff Harrison
    January 21, 2019 at 01:21

    Very well said Caitlin.

  17. Taras 77
    January 21, 2019 at 01:05

    This article is spot on and is among several “out there” with the list just keeps increasing almost exponentially.

    This article has at least 40 instances with his twitter feed substantially more than that. And still the press says trust us-the melt down should continue until they have some sense of shame and embarassment. The screen grabs of the over paid clowns from CNN and MSNBC still giggling all the way to the bank does not indicate that is going to happen any time soon.

  18. David G
    January 21, 2019 at 00:07

    Not disputing anything Caitlin Johnstone says here, or in any way gainsaying the malignant intent and effect of the Russia-gate hoax being spewed all over us nonstop by the Dems and the media, HOWEVER:

    There is poetic justice that Donald Trump – who built his fortune* and succeeded* in business* and TV entertainment/politics wholly by lying and betraying the confidence others had placed in him and repeatedly wriggling away from the consequences – may finally be laid low by a slander worthy of his own authorship, and has been reduced to proclaiming the simple truth (“no collusion!”) like any sucker, to the disbelief and mockery of the “classy” people whose acceptance he has always craved.

    His bafflement that this is what they’re getting him on, and now is when they’ve decided to stop buying his bullshit, is very enjoyable to bad-hearted people like me.

    * Obviously all these terms require massive qualification in Trump’s case, but by his own standards he’s had a pretty good 40-year run.

    • michael
      January 21, 2019 at 07:28

      Actually it’s more libel than slander, there is a legal distinction. And political figures rightly do not protection from libel laws (except maybe in the UK). The difference between a politician lying, which has always been the norm, and “journalists” making up stories (or advancing those of our Intelligence Agencies, now legal with the gutting of Smith Mundt) should be obvious. Making it worse, the MSM wants to censor any real information. As Glenn Greenwald noted, if these stories were mistakes (which happen), there would be roughly the same number in favor of Trump. Overturning the results of elections by the #resistance just pushes America deeper into Banana Republic land. No one can trust the top government bureaucrats who have become partisan Establishment supporters or their cheerleader MSM where “investigative journalism” is a bad phrase (unless it is lies made up to bring down an Elected President).

      • KiwiAntz
        January 21, 2019 at 19:51

        Michael you comment regarding America as a“deeper in Banana Republic”? IT IS a Banana Republic hence its rating of #25 on the Worlds Democracy rating scale as a Flawed Democracy? More like a failed Democracy & I doubt whether its a Democracy at all? It’s a Banana Republic with monkeys running the show!

  19. bardamu
    January 20, 2019 at 23:06

    Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept has an article listing at least 20 different false “facts” or stories about “Russiagate” and related Russia non-events.

    It’s worth seeing them all in one place, since it does not leave much doubt about the existence of a campaign of deliberate disinformation.

    • Will
      January 21, 2019 at 09:17

      ever wonder why so many of Greenwald’s “confidential” sources end up getting caught and put in jail?

      • Skip Scott
        January 24, 2019 at 12:25


        Please provide a list of Greenwald’s jailed confidential sources. I’m aware the Intercept is accused of not protecting Reality Winner. Who are these others?

  20. O Society
    January 20, 2019 at 23:00

    For Donald Trump, the truth is irrelevant. He says whatever he believes will get him what he wants in any given moment. Words are a tool whose utility resides in whether or not they work on their audience, not whether or not they correspond in any meaningful way to reality.

    However, Trump rubs Americans’ noses in one indisputable fact over and over: our media tell the lies which sell the clicks and shares and likes and retweets. Much of the narrative we are sold in America is nonsense. The criterion for success is advertising dollars. Thus, we grow stoopider by the minute.

  21. Tom Kath
    January 20, 2019 at 19:55

    I suppose propaganda very successfully relies on the old truth that “People are most assured and certain about that of which they are most ignorant”.

    • David G
      January 20, 2019 at 22:54

      “… but man, proud man,
      Drest in a little brief authority,
      Most ignorant of what he’s most assured,
      His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
      Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
      As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,
      Would all themselves laugh mortal.”

    • Maxwell Quest
      January 20, 2019 at 23:30

      Tom, we had an interesting discussion about this topic last year. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It’s also known as the “Confident Idiot” and “Climbing Mt. Stupid”:

      I’m sure it plays a role in the success of propaganda, but in my opinion the Dunning-Kruger Effect is just one of the many symptoms of the limitations of emotional-based thinking – a limited form of thinking that is easily overruled by either positive or negative emotions. In this case, Trump lovers and Trump haters are the least able to think clearly and objectively about the Russiagate controversy.

      Another contributing factor is a lack of life experience. Almost everyone is easily hoodwinked right out of the gate, but for those that are able to learn from their mistakes it gets progressively harder to fool them after they’ve been around the block a few times. Sadly, these learners only accounts for a small percentage, the majority refuse to take any ownership for their mistakes, and therefore remain victims.

      • January 21, 2019 at 15:12

        Actually, I read not too long ago that the better informed people, those with the most facts, are the most assured that their opinions are correct, and the least likely to change their minds. This is because they choose to believe and think about those facts which accord with their existing opinions. The syndrome seems to occur regardless of ideology.

  22. polistra
    January 20, 2019 at 16:59

    Caitlin is underestimating the people. It’s not that they CONSENT to all of this crap; they’re just realistic. They know that nothing they can do will change the crap. Revolution always makes things even worse.

  23. mike k
    January 20, 2019 at 15:31

    Congenital liars ignore being exposed, and just invent more new lies as if nothing happened.

    • bevin
      January 20, 2019 at 19:09

      Especially if they get paid by the lie

    • Tom Ratliff
      January 21, 2019 at 10:44

      “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” – Karl Rove

      Substitute “lie” for “act” in the above quote and it becomes clear why the liars aren’t apologizing. Control of the narrative ensures victory in the court of public opinion (mass media), which in provides pretexts for an array of plundering activities. If the liars aren’t busy lying, then it gives someone else the opportunity to control the narrative. For these sociopaths, lying is a valuable means to an end — part of a winning strategy –, not a personal faux pas that might bring one shame.

      • KiwiAntz
        January 22, 2019 at 00:11

        Great comments Tom but if History has shown us anything, it’s that Empires can fall pretty quickly & it becomes evident when the lying starts, the grandiose claims & rhetoric of hubris, arrogance & a inability to face the fact that its imperial rule is over? The America Empire is at this late stage & Trump is accelerating the process of it’s decline! Despite what Karl Rove stated about the US creating its own reality to suit the agendas, this is just another sign of Imperial decline & delusional thinking of a Empires waning power, influence & inevitable decline!

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