Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith Warns Liberals Not To Fall For ‘Delusional’ Tales About Trump And Russia
Buzzfeed’s editor in chief warned journalists to double check the facts when reporting salacious claims about President Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, noting Wednesday the whole narrative appears to be “veering out of control.”
“Trump’s critics last year were horrified at the rise of ‘fake news’ and the specter of a politics shaped by alternative facts, predominantly on the right,” Ben Smith writes. “They need to be careful now not to succumb to the same delusional temptations as their political adversaries, and not to sink into a filter bubble which, after all, draws its strength not from conservative or progressive politics but from human nature.”
Scam artists have taken note of a growing market for information that might undermine or topple Trump’s presidency, and have begun cashing in on the desperation of unwitting activists, Buzzfeed reports. One Israeli man paid an Italian con artist $9,000 for documents purporting to show ExxonMobil secretly bribed Trump to nominate Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state. The Israeli eagerly sent the documents to Democratic operatives and journalists, but they were found to be forgeries.
Without downplaying the significance of the fact that Russia attempted to influence the outcome of the presidential election, or the possibility of as yet uncovered leads on Trump’s alleged Russian ties, Smith urges reporters not to get carried away by sensational claims. He also notes that some of the smartest observers of the story, who are by no means shills for Trump, have publicly warned against getting too worked up about what often amount to unsubstantiated rumors or suspicions.
“And those of us covering the story and the stew of real information, fantasy, and — now — forgery around it need to continue to report and think clearly about what we know and what we don’t,” Smith adds, “and to resist the sugar high that comes with telling people exactly what they want to hear.”
Buzzfeed was the first outlet to publish a dossier of salacious — and totally unsubstantiated — allegations against Trump regarding Russia. Although other outlets such as The New York Times made it clear they would never publish what amounts to rumors, Smith defended the decision on the grounds the readers should be able to view the document that was being reported on and decide for themselves what to make of it.
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