The English author George Orwell wrote that “political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” But even Orwell couldn’t have imagined the propagandistic whoppers that American journalists would mouth in their frenzied attempt to sanitize Obama’s spying on Trump.
Again and again, Obama’s ministry of propaganda, with its branch offices from CNN to the New York Times to the Washington Post, solemnly instruct Americans that “unmasking is not spying.” That is about as convincing as the slogans carved on Orwell’s fictional ministry headquarters in 1984: “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.”
One needs surveillance skills to find any disapproving references in the mainstream media to the pervasive political espionage that the Obama administration conducted against Trump. Even the Trump haters on Morning Joe had to acknowledge the shamelessness of the New York Times in burying the Susan Rice story on A16 — a story that made only oblique and rationalizing reference to her political espionage.
Were Walter Duranty alive today, he could still find a job at the New York Times, except this time he would have to tell lies about Russians, not for them. In almost every story about Trump, some sinister reference is made to his “Russian” problem. What problem? That is never explained. We’re just supposed to shudder and assume the worst, even as James Clapper and Mike Morrell admit that the evidence for any Trump-Russian collusion is nil.
How dare Trump “divert” attention from a fiction by talking about a fact! Doesn’t he know that he is supposed to treat the collusion as real and Obama’s espionage as fake? What’s wrong with him? That’s the tenor of the coverage.
The stories get more and more ludicrous in their straining. On Monday, the media gravely informed the public that a campaign volunteer for Trump, Carter Page, once unwittingly met with Russian spies… two years before he volunteered. Oh my. What might we learn next? That some voters for Trump vacationed at Black Sea resorts in the years preceding their votes for Trump?
CNN’s Walter Duranty prize winner has to be Jim Sciutto, who put on his best anchor-man voice to tell us to avert our gaze from the spying on Trump. Omnisciently, he intoned that “it appears to be a story largely ginned up, partly as a distraction from the larger investigation.” An investigation into what? He didn’t say, but, trust him, it is pretty bad. After all, he has a “Republican” source — see how fair he is! — who says that Rice’s political espionage is not at all “unusual.” Who was this source? David Gergen in the green room? And let’s not forget that a representative for Rice had assured him that “the idea that Ambassador Rice improperly sought the identities of Americans is false.” Well, that settles it.
Alert CNN watchers, however, noted that Mr. Neutrality used to work for the Obama administration as a political appointee (as chief of staff to Ambassador to China Gary Locke). Like other former Democratic staffers — Chuck Todd, Jake Tapper, George Stephanopoulos, among others — Sciutto cultivates the affectation of the “straight-news man” to conceal his partisan background. But all it takes for that front to dissolve is a discombobulating Democratic scandal in which ACLU liberals find themselves in the role of Richard Nixon.
Susan Rice’s shaky, dry-mouthed performance on MSNBC Tuesday looked like a scene out of Orwell’s fiction too. Ministry of Truth official Andrea Mitchell hesitantly asked her questions about the scandal, making sure not to tax her too much or ask her any awkward follow-up questions. The interview lasted over ten minutes, but Mitchell couldn’t find time to ask her about the bald lie she told on PBS in March (that she knew “nothing” of unmasking the Trump team). Nor was Big Brother to be brought up under any circumstances. So even as Rice droned on about the importance of unsparing national security briefings, Mitchell steered clear of any mention of the beneficiary of that briefing — President Obama. The question that Mitchell once bit into with zest in the days of Watergate — What did the president know, and when did he know it? — never passed her lips.
But even in that safe space, Rice couldn’t avoid certain slips. “There was no collection or surveillance on Trump Tower or Trump individuals,” she said, before adding the lawyerly qualifier, “and by that I mean directed by the White House or targeted at Trump individuals.”
Translation: the FBI probed the computer server connected to Trump Tower, while she, Brennan, and the other Obama aides rifled through unmasked intercepts and transcripts of foreigners with whom he and his team were talking.