It’s both amazing and unsurprising for a journalist to call for less evidence to be revealed in a story.
The ongoing issue with the attack of Paul Pelosi last week is causing some problems for the media, one of those being that the story is, in fact, ongoing. As I mentioned on the last episode of The Lie-Able Sources VIP podcast, had they allowed this to be chalked up to an incident involving a local homeless individual, the story would likely be fading from the news cycle. But the insistence on making this a political hit job on conservatives–in the hopes of ginning up political momentum for the election–means the story is continuing to percolate in the press.
That media-fueled accusation has built this into a national story, and by looking to place blame for the attack on messaging from the right means that a growing number of news outlets are looking deeper into the story. Now, journalists are facing a story of questionable merit and mounting questions surrounding what took place. At the Washington Post, columnist Philip Bump has displayed the new desperation in the press, to deflect from the details as much as possible.
In a galling shift away from the press’ stated goals, Bump is putting up an argument that for anyone to ask for more evidence, such as demanding that police video from that night in the Pelosi home, is the act of feeding into conspiratorial mindsets. That’s right – asking for tangible evidence is the work of conspiracy theorists. This is an exercise in futility and frustration by Bump, and it exposes so much that is wrong with our modern press complex.
There is no obvious mystery about the attack on Paul Pelosi. With insistences that surveillance video needs to be released, though, the conspiracy theories continue to chug along. https://t.co/ZJ776pcigr
— Philip Bump (@pbump) November 3, 2022
At the start, Bump mentions “baseless claims about the attack,” and then after that opening sentence proceeds to make the case that dispelling these claims with facts is the wrong thing to do. Then, after decrying the spread of misinformation he writes, “What makes conspiracy theories so powerful, though, is information.” (I’ll pause a moment for the ensuing head-scratching, as we mull over how we have been lectured about mis-information in recent years.)
Mr. Bump then starts to unravel within his own column, mentioning how a Capitol Police recording has been released, and then as he thinks he is making a salient point, he instead manages to invalidate himself.
In short order, a new demand emerged: Release that video! Release the video of the responding police officers! What are you hiding?! Because this is how the conspiracy theory continues to ooze forward. There’s always some information out there being suspiciously hidden that will prove the conspiracy theory correct. If that information is suppressed, it reinforces the conspiracy theory. If it is released, it becomes evidence that contributes to the conspiracy theory.
No, Philip, the way you combat conspiracies is with facts and evidence. Those are the very elements that defang the speculations because then, there are fewer blanks filled in by outside interests. But here is where the impressive obliviousness comes to bloom; this is a journalist arguing against transparency, underneath the masthead of a publication that boldly declares, Democracy Dies In Darkness.
Earlier in the week, Politico got ensnared when it accused right-wing interests of trafficking in false speculation about the attack and the police involvement, specifically the claim a third party was on site. It became a problem for Politico because their own outlet had reported that detail. As I pointed out on the podcast, the editors went back and updated their initial report to now remove that third-party involvement – something the conservative targets accused of dealing in misinformation are not afforded. That’s rather convenient; leveling accusations at those who initially used your very intel, which has now been erased.
But all of this should inspire a journalist, as Philip Bump positions himself, to want more clarity, not pushing details under a bedsheet and covering that up with a quilt. The glaring aspect of these “baseless claims,” as Bump labels them, is that they derived from authorities. Look at this list of details from the attack that the media has called into question:
- The police had said a third party let them into the residence, where Pelosi and the attacker were already engaged.
- The attacker was said by sources in the police department to have been in his underwear.
- A 911 dispatcher stated during the call that Pelosi referred to the attacker by name, and referred to him as a friend
All of these details have now been changed by media outlets. Those discrepancies from the authorities would be expected to create curiosity and call for the revelation of more specifics from that night. Add to this confounding timeline the simple fact that there is a question about the lack of security on-site that morning. All of this should inspire journalists to want the videos released, from both the police body-cams and the security footage collected by Capitol police.
Bump just looks at all of this and tries waving people away, in classic Frank Drebin fashion. “But again, there’s no reason to think that the offered explanation is suspect and, again, releasing more information will simply throw more things at the base of the corkboard to be perused.” Then, with sheer delusion, Bump explains the very reason to see the evidence.
As an employee of a newspaper, I would, in fact, like to see the video that the Capitol Police overlooked, and the body-cam footage. It is the media’s job to question authority and to ensure accountability. It is also the media’s job to present accurate information to the public and to stamp out misinformation.
Great! This means you want the evidence, you want to question authority, and you want to beat back misinformation, right???
So while seeing that footage would be useful, there is not at this point any reason to believe that the attack on Paul Pelosi was anything other than what various legal documents have suggested.
Unreal. He just laid out every reason for the police footage from two agencies to be released, then steps away and shrugs, basically saying, “Meh, what can you do?!” In the case of Philip Bump, certainly not his damned job.
Let us recall, the only reason there is such a thing as police bodycams is because the press demanded these be used to supply evidence. Now, it is unseemly and unnecessary to use the evidence supplied by these very same cameras?! This is all the desperate work of supposed journalists, who are justifying not getting to the bottom of a story because it has become too uncomfortable for those in power they support.
In order to do so, as in Bump’s case, he has to reject the very operational standards of his profession, is only one of the pathetically funny things on display here. The other is his impotent justification for not doing so.
The requests for video footage of the Pelosi attack…is not primarily about the footage. It is primarily about using the request for the footage as a way to imply that something is being hidden.
Philip Bump is actively calling for this police evidence to remain hidden. This isn’t just implied. He is stating that, in the case of a story that continues to grow, there is no reason to continue covering it. His bosses need a change of the masthead for the paper, to read: Journalism Dies In The Washington Post.