Morning Brief: The slowest news week of the year has such a strong sense of dread hanging over it thanks to the investigation into the 2016 election
The week between Christmas and New Years is traditionally the slowest of the year, and so far we can be grateful that this year is so far proving no different. Still, there is a sense that one stupid move involving justice department could change all that.
This is the week that publications roll out stories that normally would be spiked, or worse, repost stories like this one — Why Prince George Wears Shorts All the Time — that should never have seen the light of day to begin with.
But it is also a time when journalists and commentators remind us that there may be big stories we are forgetting about, or downplaying. After the 2016 election it is hard to believe that the biggest of these, that the Russians meddled in the presidential election, isn’t universally seen as a major crisis for a democracy.
On Christmas Day, The Washington Post featured two stories on this theme. It was an odd choice to choose Christmas Day to post the stories — did they do so because they knew it would be a slow news day and so would stand out, or because they wanted to bury them? The long feature from Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Jaffe, in particular, seems like something that deserved bigger play, but maybe the editors of the Post saw it as only offering a recap of what was already known.
The miscalculations and bureaucratic inertia that left the United States vulnerable to Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election trace back to decisions made at the end of the Cold War, when senior policymakers assumed Moscow would be a partner and largely pulled the United States out of information warfare. When relations soured, officials dismissed Russia as a “third-rate regional power” that would limit its meddling to the fledgling democracies on its periphery.
Senior U.S. officials didn’t think Russia would dare shift its focus to the United States.
“I thought our ground was not as fertile,” said Antony J. Blinken, President Barack Obama’s deputy secretary of state. “We believed that the truth shall set you free, that the truth would prevail. That proved a bit naive.”
There is a perception among the media and general public that Russia ended its social-media operations following last year’s election and that we need worry only about future elections. But that perception is wrong. Russia’s information operations in the United States continued after the election and they continue to this day…
…In a single week this month, Moscow used these accounts to discredit the FBI after it was revealed that an agent had been demoted for sending anti-Donald Trump texts; to attack ABC News for an erroneous report involving President Trump and Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser; to critique the Obama administration for allegedly “green lighting” the communication between Flynn and then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak; and to warn about violence by immigrants after a jury acquitted an undocumented Mexican accused of murdering a San Francisco woman.
The New York Times, too, published a big expose during the Christmas break, though this one landed two days before the holiday.
Emily Steel interviewed the founders of Vice — and surprise, surprise — found that they regretted created a sort of frat house work environment, though having to pay settlements because of that work environment may be what they really regret.
Vice and its co-founder and chief executive, Shane Smith, have long been open about the company’s provocative atmosphere. But Vice is now struggling to reconcile its past — famous for coverage of streetwear, drugs and sex, as well as its raucous parties — with its emergence as a global media company backed by corporate giants like Disney and Fox.
In a statement provided to The Times, Mr. Smith and another co-founder, Suroosh Alvi, said “from the top down, we have failed as a company to create a safe and inclusive workplace where everyone, especially women, can feel respected and thrive.”
They said that a “boys club” culture at Vice had “fostered inappropriate behavior that permeated throughout the company.” The company distributed a longer version of the statement to its employees on Saturday.
Probably the biggest reevaluation happening today regards the Internet itself. The rise of social media on the web has a lot of people wondering if we really are better off today with such a powerful way to communicate. Like nuclear power and weapons, maybe we are simply too primitive a species to handle such a powerful thing.
For the last twenty years, I believed the internet prophets of old. I worshipped at the altar of Stewart Brand and Kevin Kelly. I believed that the world would be a better place if everyone had a voice. I believed that the world would be a better place if we all had no secrets.
But so far, the evidence points to an escapable conclusion: we were all wrong.
Or, to be generous, if we weren’t wrong, we were so far off on time scale that those who bought into the vision were mislead into thinking that the benefits would come in their lifetime. They aren’t going to.
Either way, I am sorry.
Photo Credits: Lone Hacker in Warehouse (above) and Anonymous Hacker (home page) by Brian Klug, used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
The post Year-end wraps still see Russian meddling as major story, along with regrets and mea-culpas appeared first on Talking New Media.