Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Interview with Barry Meier, author of “Spooked”

By Matt Taibbi

Throughout the Trump years, it made sense that reporters chased sexy-sounding Russia stories. What journalist with a pulse wouldn’t? These were riveting tales about the president of the United States, under investigation by the FBI and other agencies, who was apparently really suspected of traitorous dealings with a foreign dictator.

A lot of the loudest headlines grew out of the private “dossier” of a British ex-spy named Christopher Steele, whose reports told of a “well-developed conspiracy” between Russians and Trump, who was supposedly being blackmailed for cavorting with peeing prostitutes. News organizations devoted mountains of ink to portraits of Steele and serious examinations of his allegations. But when Special Counsel Robert Mueller first and then Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz returned damning verdicts on Steele, journalists weren’t mad about being taken for a ride.

Barry Meier, in his new book Spooked: The Trump Dossier, Black Cube, and the Rise of Private Spies, fires back on behalf of his profession at the private oppo hounds who fed so many of these dicey stories into the public conversation. He also wonders about the reporters who were “in the car that crashed” and still haven’t said anything, saying, “I don’t know what’s going on in their heads.”

Below, an interview with the author on the Steele Dossier, the reaction within the business to his book, and the problem of checking sources in the digital age:


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