WSJ’s Russia ‘Scoop’: Is It ‘Fake News” If There’s No News?

Street Journal
John Wisniewski

George Orwell once wrote that news coverage of the Spanish Civil War was so bad, it could not even be measured against facts: “Early in life I have noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie.”

So, too with the Wall Street Journal‘s latest “scoop” on the Russia conspiracy theory. It might be called “fake news,” except that the term implies there is actually some news involved to fabricate.

The Journal reported Wednesday, in a breaking news alert: “U.S. intelligence agencies starting in the spring of 2015 detected conversations in which Russian government officials discussed associates of Donald Trump, several months before he declared his candidacy for president.” Its sources are “current and former U.S. officials,” which means the mainstream media continue to benefit from leaks of classified information, obtained in foreign wiretaps.

Some of the conversations allegedly referred to meetings between Russian government officials and “associates” of Trump — though the Journal does not explain whether those “associates” are Trump advisers, employees, or merely people he may have done business with in the past.

“It isn’t clear which Trump associates or advisers the Russians were referring to, or whether they had any connection to his presidential aspirations,” the Journal admits ruefully.

Halfway into the article, the Journal‘s Shane Harris admits that there is actually no news:

The U.S. intelligence agencies weren’t sure what to make of the vague and inconclusive information, given that Mr. Trump had done business in Russia and was a global celebrity well-known to prominent people there. The names of Americans do sometimes show up in conversations involving Russian officials that are overheard by U.S. intelligence.

But now, the Journal says, those snippets of conversation might be relevant, because of the Donald Trump, Jr. story.  “[T]he Trump Jr. emails enable investigators to look at earlier reports with fresh eyes, and to ask new questions, the current and former officials said.”

In other words, there is no news, but there might be one day. In the meantime, the Wall Street Journal is determined to keep the political tension going, lest this flagging narrative die a natural death.

Or perhaps the Journal, feeling outpaced lately by the New York Times, has decided to run whatever half-finished stories it has on hand, sensing that the Donald Trump, Jr. news cycle may be the last opportunity. The Post did the same in May, when it tried to pass off a story about a joke by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as a real investigate bombshell.

Nothing exposes the emptiness of the Russia conspiracy theory more than the Democrats’ immediate resort to “treason!” and the mainstream media’s effort to dress up non-stories as major new developments.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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