Over at The Federalist there is a post that has been retweeted by Donald Trump himself
'16 Fake News Stories Reporters Have Run Since Trump Won' https://t.co/0dHld5kiVc
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2017
The article, 16 Fake News Stories Reporters Have Run Since Trump Won, is really worth the read. It points to sixteen particular stories, after last weekend we can add another one to the list, that were provably false at the time they were written and yet major media ran with them anyway. The media calls these mistakes, but statistically mistakes fall on both sides of the mean score. When you have them all falling in one direction it gives the air of calculated campaign focused on discrediting a president and his administration.
While not quite fake news there is a whole class of stories we’re seeing floated which take unsubstantiated rumors, add a totally false context, and then run as stories.
Take this one from today’s New York Daily News, Trump launched Yemen raid after being told Obama wouldn’t have been ‘bold enough,’ report says. What does that say to you? Most likely you read it the same way as this guy?
Seems like a totally normal, not at all batshit insane way to make life-and-death decisions about national security. https://t.co/i4PQQnI2o3
— Radley Balko (@radleybalko) February 8, 2017
This is not to unnecessarily slag on Balko with whom I agree with on a lot of things but to point out the pernicious nature of the headline and the fact that all too many very normal people become head-up-the-butt batsh** crazy anytime you mention Trump’s name.
Let’s go to the “report.” It is from NBC News and headlined Yemen Raid Had Secret Target: Al Qaeda Leader Qassim Al-Rimi.
Preparation spanned two administrations. After the election, the Pentagon presented President Barack Obama’s team with a broad plan to accelerate U.S. counterterrorism operations in Yemen, and the Obama administration referred the proposal to the incoming Trump team.
After two months of military preparation increasingly focused on the opportunity to capture al-Rimi, Trump was told by Defense Secretary James Mattis and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that his capture would be a “game changer,” according to a senior White House official with direct knowledge of the discussions.
In making their case, they told Trump that they doubted that the Obama administration would have been bold enough to try it, this official said.
The so-called “package” for the mission was larger than any counterterrorism strike since the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden: two dozen SEALs, backed up by 30 to 40 other Americans on the ground and in the air. A half-dozen Yemeni soldiers and a dozen commandos from the United Arab Emirates who had developed the intelligence leading to the target were also involved, and a Marine Corps Quick Reaction Force was waiting offshore, multiple officials said.
There are two important things to keep in mind here. First, USCENTCOM denies that one guy was the target (and that sounds like the truth because you can “hope” a certain guy is there but you can’t plan a mission like this to target one guy because the lead time and distances are too great), and second, there is no way anyone believes taking out any single terrorist is more than a momentary victory. There are billions more where he came from. And the “bold enough” comment is sort of absent context. Are they talking about the size and scope of the mission? Are they talking about the risk factor? And anonymous sources are always the most reliable, too.
To make this story work you also have to believe that our SecDef, James Mattis, and the chairman of the JCS, Marine General Joseph Dunford, baited Trump into approving a high-risk mission by using a comparison to what Obama would have done. This paints a very unpleasant picture of callous cruelty on the part of Mattis and Dunford who are depicted in this scenario hellbent on doing something big and need to work Trump’s ego to get permission. In fact, it is very similar in objective to a story Reuters was pushing last week which accused Trump of planning the mission and doing a damned poor job of it. Just like this story, it only makes sense if you are willing to believe in epic incompetence at every level of command and that the military was anxious to send men off on a high risk and poorly prepared operation.
You can’t believe the Daily News headline and not believe Mattis and Duford were gambling with men’s lives just to prove a point. This is a story that may or may not have a kernel of truth but we can say with a great deal of certainty is wrong and dishonest in the implication it wants the reader to draw.