Establishment Pundits Go Nuts Over New Russian Hacking Conspiracy

Since the story concerns Russia, all journalistic standards have, as usual, gone out the window, writes Caitlin Johnstone. 

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the Kremlin wall, Dec. 6, 2016. (Robert Parry)

By Caitlin Johnstone

The New York Times reports that GRU operatives launched a successful “phishing attack” on the Ukrainian gas company at the heart of scandalous allegations about Joe Biden, and establishment pundits are falling all over themselves to tweet the hottest take on this exciting new Russia conspiracy.

The story itself fails the smell test on a number of fronts. It falsely claims that allegations of Biden’s corrupt dealings with Ukrainian officials as vice president have been “discredited,” and its only named source is a cybersecurity firm with foundational ties to the NSA and to Crowdstrike, which you may remember as the extremely shady Atlantic Council-tied company at the heart of the plot hole-riddled 2016 Russia hacking narrative (whose CEO is now a billionaire).

The article also lacks any hard evidence for its claims, and is of course completely silent on any details as to how the security firm knows that the alleged hackers were both (A) Russian and (B) tied to the Russian government. This is par for course with mass media news reporting on anything negative about Russia, where all journalistic standards have gone out the window and nobody suffers any professional consequences for even the most egregious misreporting on that nation.

And, naturally, liberal pundits are guzzling it down like Mike Pompeo left alone at the table with the gravy boat.

“I hope my fellow editors will think hard — really hard, a lot harder than they did in 2016 — before publishing any material hacked by the Russians,” tweeted editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast Noah Shachtman in response to the NYT report.

It is very revealing that the head of a major mainstream publication believes news outlets should sit on a story exposing the corruption of a leading presidential candidate–no matter how newsworthy – if it’s believed to have come from “the Russians.” How many major stories are being spiked for no other reason than a loyalty to the US government’s geopolitical agendas against noncompliant nations, exactly?

Yet sentiments identical to Shachtman’s are currently being bleated by like-minded pundits throughout the Twitterverse right now.

“Me and Oliver Darcy took at look at this a year ago… newsrooms hadn’t a lot to say about it. Not a lot of self-reflection, it seems,” tweeted CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan in response to Shachtman’s post. “Hackers could target the 2020 election. How will newsrooms respond if they release stolen data?”

“Russians working hard for President Trump’s reelection: mainstream media do not need to collaborate with the Russians again and breathlessly promote their non-newsworthy findings, as they did in 2016,” economist David Rothschild tweeted, without specifying his peculiar definition of “non-newsworthy”.

“Will the media run info from national security hacks as blockbuster stories like in 2016? That’s the million-dollar question,” tweeted Michigan Advance editor-in-chief Susan Demas.

A CNN reporter took it up even further, preemptively speculating based on literally nothing that any evidence of Biden’s corruption which emerges from the phishing campaign will have been “doctored” by Russia.

“Russia could leak Burisma emails, and slip in some doctored emails, to harm Biden later on, if he is the Democratic nominee,” tweeted CNN’s Marshall Cohen. “The 2016 playbook all over again.”

This insanity was seconded and then ratcheted up even further by MSNBC’s Malcolm Nance, whose main job seems to be to push the Overton window of Russia hysteria toward the craziest end of the spectrum.

“DNC 2.0,” Nance wrote. “To protect Trump the GRU will manufacture and insert Black propaganda, fake emails in a data base Burisma emails to implicate Biden and support Trump. They don’t care if you believe it … it’s all to get Trump to believe it. He’ll destroy America to win.”

MSNBC analyst and former Obama administration official Richard Stengel, who has openly stated that he endorses the U.S. government propagandizing its citizens, seized on the opportunity offered by this lawless feeding frenzy to advance a completely baseless Russiagate theory, because why the hell not?

“‘Russia, if you’re listening, hack Burisma.’ GRU has done same thing to this Ukrainian firm that they did to DNC,” tweeted Stengel. “If Trump asked Zelensky on a public call to investigate the Bidens, what do you suppose he asked Putin on a private call? Vlad, do me a favor.”

“More evidence that Putin fears Biden and is actively trying to help Trump,” added the Obama administration’s Michael McFaul. “Not good. All who believe in American sovereignty should denounce, Democrats and Republicans alike.”

“I’ll say it now: I don’t care WHAT the emails say. If he’s the guy, he’s got my vote. PERIOD,” tweeted popular #Resistance pundit Brooklyn Dad Defiant in what could generously be described as a very odd confession.

There is at this time no legitimate reason to believe that the GRU was involved in any kind of cyberattack on Burisma, let alone that it found anything worth publishing. At the moment the only information we’ve gleaned from this incident is more insight into the fact that the news media environment of the most powerful nation on earth is deeply, profoundly unhealthy, and so are the individuals operating within it.

These are the people who shape the dominant narrative. These are the thought leaders, who really do lead the way a very large sector of the population thinks. We need to bring more consciousness to how wildly dysfunctional this is.

2020 has been wild already. And all signs indicate that it’s only going to get a whole lot crazier.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on FacebookTwitter, 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.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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25 comments for “Establishment Pundits Go Nuts Over New Russian Hacking Conspiracy

  1. Daniel
    January 16, 2020 at 09:22

    The corporate media are like a mean-kid high school clique scheming about how to bring anyone outside their circle down. (Though, sadly, the consequences of the media’s scheming are far more deadly.) There is no interest in fairness or justice of any kind, no sense of the common good (which in their eyes is seen as great weakness,) and no shame about their casual discard of the public’s trust in pursuit of advertising dollars and membership to elite clubs. The only people who buy this clique’s schtick, it seems (whatever brand they prefer – red or blue,) are those desperate to join in. To the rest of us, their self-serving agendas – the stories they tell and the lengths they go to spin them to their advantage – are entirely obvious and completely offensive.
    It’s no wonder that Russia-gate 2.0 is in full swing. It worked to the clique’s advantage very recently, even while the full implications of the scam remain, for now, elusive. But please, America, don’t fall for this again. Can’t you recognize BS when you see or hear it? If not, I urge you to turn off all cable TV media until you return to sanity. Without the emotional trigger-speak and Luntz-ian framing of issues on these ‘news’ channels, your critical thinking skills will return and you will treat stories like these in the Times with the healthy skepticism they deserve. Cliques are for jerks. Don’t join.

  2. January 16, 2020 at 07:41

    People need to get over the “Russiagate” narrative – Russia is no longer a “Communist” country, they are now Capitalists just like the good ol’ US of A. Wake up America!

  3. LowellHighlander
    January 15, 2020 at 22:54

    Let’s look at this election from the propagandists’ point of view: If Sanders wins the Democrat party’s nomination, that means that the field of candidates in November would be President Trump, Bernie Sanders, a candidate from the Green Party, and possibly a candidate from the Libertarian Party. To the establishment types, these would ALL be Russian puppets (on the assumption that Libertarians are pretty much anti-war, or at least far less bellicose than the duopoly). What will the corporate American media do then?

    • Steve
      January 16, 2020 at 06:17

      Vote for the Libertarian or hold their nose and vote for Trump.

      They may hate Trump’s guts (and they really hate his SALT tax cap), but at least he doesn’t want to fundamentally change the system that produces their wealth. If Sanders gets the nomination, Trump is going to get a whole bunch of neoliberal votes that went to Hillary in 2016.

    • Hank
      January 17, 2020 at 11:49

      I place ANY American who even brings up the participation of “Russian interference” in a serious way in the category of morons! I place ANYONE who accepts without question the mainstream media/government narratives of events in this world as UTTERLY STUPID MORONS! Some people will NEVER learn because they will NEVER LOOK! It’s all quite simple to see, like a jaywalker walking across a street, the crimes and lies that the USG has proliferated all these years to go about its sinister ways.

  4. Fran Macadam
    January 15, 2020 at 16:56

    Don’t forget that in December 2016 President Obama issued an executive order legalizing for the first time propaganda aimed at the American public.

    • Bill Mack
      January 15, 2020 at 23:36

      Sunstein prior to this … put “bots” online to harass those , who questioned the ‘September 11 , 2001 Commission Report’.


  5. Raymond Comeau
    January 15, 2020 at 15:35

    It appears totally that Former Vice President Biden and his son are characters who have committed actions that any honest prosecutor crimes. Yet, the Democratic Party of the USA does nothing to see that Former Vice President Biden be indicted. If he is innocent GREAT. If he is found guilty, he should go to prison rather than continue to run for President. What would happen if Biden wins the election and is then outed for his crimes in Ukraine and China?

    And, while I am at it, Pompeo should already be in Prison!

  6. Andrew Thomas
    January 15, 2020 at 14:45

    Replace Hillary with Bernie in their team cheers? We’re supposed to pretend Bernie is under attack by the Democratic establishment? DH, could you add something to this that backs up your “ the establishment choice is Bernie” belief? I sure haven’t seen anything that indicates it- in fact, nothing. This includes Caitlin’s excellent article. The only candidate that what she describes can possibly help is Biden, insofar as I can see. Please tell me what I am missing.

    • Hmmm
      January 17, 2020 at 13:22

      Yeah, I’m not seeing that either. CNN has certainly shown itself not to be a Bernie bro. I don’t necessarily think most MSM and establishment Democrats are as hostile to Sanders as some of his supporters contend, but I hardly see him as this year’s Hillary.

  7. rosemerry
    January 15, 2020 at 13:11

    The arrogance of the pitiful USA pretending that their “elections” which are completely farcical and bear no relation to democracy, are of interest to Russia, which knows that the same mean behavior is found in either “Administration”. Nearly half the US eligible population does not bother to vote, and large numbers are prevented by gerrymandering, vote-rigging, denial of rights using racially based laws, yet instead of trying to fix this, Dems blame Russia and Trump sanctions Russia (see Caitlin’s article on 25 ways Putin/Trump are not “close”)

    • Raymond Comeau
      January 15, 2020 at 15:22


    • boxerwar
      January 15, 2020 at 15:56

      (see Caitlin’s article on 25 ways Putin/Trump are not “close”)

      … or are they not the returning {Symbols} of [a new] Feudalism?


    • boxerwar
      January 15, 2020 at 18:11

      Return of Feudal Law as Trump’s
      “Make America Great Again”
      Fake News campaign Overthrows

      Constitutional Law/Facilitating
      America’sReturn to Feudalism /
      Shredding Constitutional Law \

      Bowing the knee in Acquiescence
      To Autocratic Conformity/ Control
      Inciting Mass Confusion\ Upheaval,

      World Order will exalt a Triumphant/
      Uncontested Master of the Universe as
      Sedulous Creator/Savior of the NWO. …

  8. Tedder
    January 15, 2020 at 12:42

    Caitlin’s comments gave me an important insight. I have previously wondered why otherwise sane people believe Russia somehow profits by Trump’s presidency, as no discernible benefits appear. Now I know. Russia supports Trump because they know that Trump will destroy America and thus, get the Americans off their backs. Brilliant strategy!

  9. Mike Madden
    January 15, 2020 at 11:44

    I’ve never cared about the source of my information, only its veracity.

    WikiLeaks has an unblemished record of publishing authentic primary source information. If there is a repeat of the “2016 playbook” going on here, it is Mr. Nance casting aspersions on the information before it is even examined.

  10. Blister
    January 15, 2020 at 10:10

    My car has a flat tire this morning. Must be the #&*@! Russians.

  11. DH Fabian
    January 15, 2020 at 09:51

    Predictable, and predicted. Democrats began setting the stage some weeks ago, to blame-away an expected 2020 defeat. What we’ve seen since the Clinton team launched Russia-gate, is just how recklessly, dangerously, ambitious today’s crop of Democrats are. And what we’ve seen of their devotees is a faction that no longer even pretends to be interested in facts, in reality. They just want to shake those pom-poms, replacing “Hillary” with “Bernie” in the team cheers.

    • zon moy
      January 15, 2020 at 12:57

      except that Bernie is just the bait to con the rubes back to the democrips. he wont be allowed to win unless he proves to be another crooked Obama.

  12. January 15, 2020 at 08:45

    Caitlin, as she usually does, incisively exposes the behavior of our major media. Great diagnosis, what we await is a prescription. What should be done is imaginable, what can be done is problematic.

    Judging from Caitlin’s comments, the American public as usual is being inoculated against news from Russian sources before it is made available. This is again true of Biden and Burisma. The contention that the Biden scandal is already discredited is an example. Don’t believe anything the Russia say but believe everything about their nefarious schemes to undermine our democracy.


  13. Realist
    January 15, 2020 at 03:12

    The media can say anything it pleases, with no respect for the truth whatsoever, because it is in the service of both the Goblins (GOPers) and the Orcs (Dems) who serve only Mordor (the Washington deep state) and its figurehead Sauron (role currently played by Donald J. Trump). Ain’t no one in that town, in that government or amongst the propagandists who pose as “journalists” who give a flying fig about truth or justice. They only bow down and serve POWER no matter how ruthless and demented it has become. The urge to serve the empire by cadres of craven sycophants is strong because the empire obviously pays top dollar for the loyalty it gets and personally destroys anyone who stands up to it one way or another.

  14. Eugenie Basile
    January 15, 2020 at 02:46

    Just watched the Berruyer documentary on UkrainGate and have to conclude the DNC and MSM really love their most ‘solid’ candidate. How schizophrenic have they become ….

    • DH Fabian
      January 15, 2020 at 09:53

      I think we’re still supposed to pretend that Sanders remains under relentless attack from the DNC establishment.

  15. Hmmm
    January 15, 2020 at 02:41

    Sure seems possible that planting this now is, in part, insurance against the possibility of Burisma-related revelations that are a tad awkward for the Bidens. They can then be discredited as Russian lies, or in any case the story can be shifted from what they say to who leaked them.

    (Or the hacking story could be true. Who the hell knows.)

  16. geeyp
    January 15, 2020 at 00:45

    This is a dictionary “a picture’s worth a thousand words” definition of insanity.

Comments are closed.