A reporter for the Washington Post responded to a senator’s questions about anti-Trump protesters by comparing the senator to a conspiracy theorist who thinks the moon is preparing to invade Antarctica. That’s right: a journalist who works for the outlet that uncovered Watergate thinks asking questions makes you a crazy person.
This morning, U.S. Senator Ben Sasse had some questions:
Why don’t we have more reporting on paid rioting?
Who pays for it?
Through what orgs?
Who are the “workers”?
— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) November 17, 2016
He followed it up:
Question for those certain there is no such thing as paid protesting:
Why not just report more on astroturfing then? Size? Funders? Limits? https://t.co/sp0k3HWO0E
— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) November 17, 2016
These questions might just seem like an obvious and modest starting point for the type of things good journalists would look into. Obviously protests have groups organizing them and we have a history of paid agitation that we learned about as recently as, well, last month. It was a real, if woefully undercovered, issue throughout the campaign. There are probably a thousand good stories about the coalition power play between activists and the establishment in light of last week’s tremendous loss of power. Outside of newsrooms, people are wondering why these protests are being covered so kindly and favorably just weeks after the media spent three days melting down over Trump’s hesitancy to endorse an election that hadn’t occurred yet. (People tend to notice these things.) Inside newsrooms, it’s a different story. And Sasse’s tweets outraged liberal media.
One of Trump’s leading former GOP critics now laying rhetorical groundwork for an authoritarian crackdown –> https://t.co/HpZSteDb6M
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) November 17, 2016
I’m sure you can agree that Yglesias found a totally sane way to treat legitimate questions about protest organization.
Philip Bump used all his journalism skills to dig into the question thoroughly and conclusively. He spent so much time thoughtfully considering the questions and their answers that he had responded 90 minutes later with a Washington Post piece headlined “Sen. Sasse, here are some answers to your questions about ‘paid rioting’.”
And his superthorough investigation revealed that asking questions is a conspiracy:
Sasse’s question is a bit like asking why we don’t have more reporting on the fact that the Moon is preparing a superweapon with which to annex Antarctica.
Well, kids, I think we now know why we’re not getting (too many) good stories about the organization behind these protests. It’s because they think “organization” is a conspiracy theory.
He further explained:
So. Back to the senator’s questions.
“Who pays for it?” No one.
“How much?” Nothing.
“Why?” Like asking why the Moon wants to invade.
“Through what orgs?” None.
“Who are the ‘workers’?” They are “regular people.”
Um, if you say so, Philip Bump.
Funny thing about Philip Bump, of the Washington Post. You will never believe what his background includes. Take it away, Daily Caller, from when he was hired at the Post:
But lost in the media love fest was Bump’s partisan past — a history left unspoken in either the Post’s official announcement or any of the Twitter applause. Not only does Bump’s archive at The Wire betray a palpable bias in favor of progressivism; his career as a journalist began when he headed a vicious pro-labor blog which published the names and addresses of opponents later targeted by unions.
It goes on:
According to the political blog San Jose Inside, in 2009 Bump worked for the South Bay Labor Council (SBLC), a Silicon Valley-based union group with a penchant for making the political personal. Cindy Chavez, the group’s former chief executive, frequently targeted political opponents and local journalists who dared to stray from her preferred storyline.
Bump, for his part, was SBLC’s political director and administrator of “San Jose Revealed,” a pro-union website which published vitriolic hit pieces against the Council’s perceived enemies. Although the website was run anonymously, San Jose Inside discovered Bump’s connection through an examination of electronic evidence and two sources who alleged the SBLC made payments to him.
Under his direction, “San Jose Revealed” published the personal address — obtained under spurious circumstances — of a frequent target of pro-union groups. This individual’s home was later vandalized, with property destroyed and defiled with swastika graffiti.
Bump also reportedly published a map to the house of a deputy district attorney who prosecuted violent Bay Area gangs for a living, shamed a local business owner’s daughter for an unpaid garbage bill and posted the Match.com dating profile of an opposing local politician.
I think maybe part of the reason why nobody trusts the media is that they have paid activists writing their stories about why questions about paid activism are ridiculous. I could be wrong, but I think that might be part of it.
The failure to respond well to criticism or learn from mistakes might also play a role. Look at how Bump responded to criticism:
It’s hard to capture why the Acela media failed on such a massive scale in 2016 in one image, but this @pbump exchange gets close: pic.twitter.com/vEE6zk3eqI
— Steve Krakauer (@SteveKrak) November 17, 2016
Also, this week the groupthink media narrative is that “fake news” is responsible for Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton. And by “fake news” the media don’t mean “everything we published and broadcast and tweeted about the 2016 race, the candidates who campaigned in it, the storylines we pushed, and the storylines we suppressed.” They mean when your friend from 2nd grade shares a false story about aliens and Donald Trump. Yeah, that’s the ticket. They even pushed and promoted a fake news story about the fake news story, which is just awesome. I saw CBS News pushing the fake news story about fake news earlier today.
Well, I have an idea for where Philip Bump can start if he really cares about fake news. Back in March 2014, Philip Bump published fake information about, and I love this, how babies are made. He did it in service of attacking Marco Rubio and it was just so wrong that it was almost funny. I pointed out the error within hours, if not minutes. He still hasn’t corrected it. If he really truly cares about fake news and not just liberal activism, he should.
UPDATE: A reader found this 2013 Philip Bump gem from when he was capable of being inquisitive about paid activism:
The main question is this: Who hired Ovation to stage this totally authentic rally? Are there any morally questionable opponents of wind energy in the U.K. who are centered in midtown New York City and are willing to use money to buy allies, but not really very much money? Not that I can think of.
Update: Well, “Ovation” pulled the listing. (Of course.) But here’s a tip: If you wander around outside of Trump Tower in a trenchcoat whispering “man, i hate wind” under your breath, someone may hand you a $20 with a wink. You’ll know what to do.