Culture Wars/Current Controversies

The Russiagate Whitewash Era Begins

By Matt Taibbi

After the WMD mess, Judith Miller got the blame, while a long list of just-as-guilty media villains failed upward. Now, a nervous press is looking for Russiagate’s fall guys.

“There is an old saying in journalism: You’re only as good as your sources,” wrote Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler, in a piece about the indictment of “Steele Dossier” source Igor Danchenko. The latter is being set up to take the rap as the dirty Russian rat who hoodwinked poor civic-minded Christopher Steele, the FBI, and the entire American press corps into propping up the biggest hoax since the WMD affair.

After America invaded Iraq and failed to turn up weapons of mass destruction, the press went into CYA mode. Pundits who’d panted for war now cooked up a new narrative, that the WMD “mistake” had been caused by a combination of faulty intelligence, over-confident officials in the George W. Bush White House, and one New York Times writer named Judith Miller. Everyone else who so forcefully screwed the pooch on that story, from New Yorker editor David Remnick to New York columnist Jonathan Chait to current Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg, emerged either unscathed, or draped in awards and promoted.

Now, the Russiagate tale many of those same people hyped is falling apart, and the industry is again building battlements to protect careers from a cascade of humiliating revelations. This time, a combination of Danchenko, Buzzfeed editor Ben Smith, and perhaps a few organizations like McClatchy will be tossed out of the lifeboat. If you’re ever tempted to think there’s honor among thieves, check out this recent flurry of Russiagate finger-pointing.

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