The disinformation machine is working overtime against Joe Biden with three weeks to go, and Team Trump think they've won with with the fishiest story this side of a Russian trawler.
A newly discovered laptop, the FBI, a trove of emails, October, a presidential election—it sounds familiar. Especially when you add in a Russian disinformation campaign. On Wednesday, the New York Post released what it hailed as a bombshell: an unidentified computer repair store owner in Delaware had come to possess a laptop that contained Hunter Biden emails (and purportedly a sex tape), the hard drive and computer was seized by the FBI, the store owner at some point passed a copy of the hard drive to Rudy Giuliani, and one of the emails suggested that Hunter, who served on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma, may have in 2015 introduced a Burisma official to his dad, Vice President Joe Biden. The story depicts this as a big scandal, and Guiliani tweeted, “Much more to come.”
But the key point of the article was predicated on false information that Giuliani has been spreading for a long time—and that appears to be linked to a Russian disinformation operation that the Post neglected to note in its article. That is, the Post piece, based on an unproven smear, is in sync with Moscow’s ongoing effort to influence the 2020 election to help President Donald Trump retain power. (The FBI and other parts of the US intelligence community have stated that Vladimir Putin is once again attacking the US political system to boost Trump.) And this story presents a challenge to the American media: how to report on an orchestrated campaign to affect the election that relies on disinformation, salacious and sensational material, and the revival of allegations that have already been debunked.
The bad faith animating the Post story is demonstrated by its open embrace—in the first sentence—of a demonstrably false narrative and by its failure to report Giuliani’s association with a Russian intelligence agent who the Department of Treasury has accused of interfering in the 2020 election.
The article begins: “Hunter Biden introduced his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, to a top executive at a Ukrainian energy firm less than a year before the elder Biden pressured government officials in Ukraine into firing a prosecutor who was investigating the company, according to emails obtained by The Post.” The claim that Biden forced the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor to protect Burisma has been the centerpiece of Giuliani’s long-running, Fox-hyped effort (on behalf of his client Donald Trump) to dig up dirt on Biden in the former Soviet republic.
Biden in 2016 did push for the firing of this prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, but there is no indication this was done to assist Burisma. In fact, there is a boatload of evidence that Shokin was canned because of his own corruption. There was no active investigation of Burisma at the time of his dismissal. (The absence of such a probe was even cited at the time as one sign of Shokin’s malfeasance) And as has been widely documented, Biden’s demand that Shokin be dumped was part of an international effort to pressure Ukraine’s government to clean itself up in order to receive financial assistance. (Several Republican senators also called for Shokin’s removal.) Yet Trump and others have falsely claimed that Biden nefariously bounced Shokin to cover up supposed Burisma misdeeds.
The Post repeating this baseless accusation is an act of propaganda—and the foundation for the article. The email the tabloid touts as big news suggests that in 2015 Hunter introduced a Burisma board member to his dad. The newspaper implies that this was somehow connected to Biden urging Shokin’s dismissal the following year. If there was nothing untoward about Biden pressing the Ukrainian government to replace Shokin, there certainly isn’t anything necessarily scandalous about Biden having met with the board member. Moreover, the 2015 email to Hunter—which simply says, “thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father”—discloses nothing about any conversation the board member might have had with the vice president. It’s not even confirmed that this meeting occurred. (The Biden campaign issued a statement saying it had reviewed Joe Biden’s schedule and no such meeting “ever took place.”)
The Post provides no information connecting this email exchange and the Shokin case. But Rupert Murdoch’s paper is using this one email to revive the Ukrainian scandal that Giuliani has been trying to gin up for over a year. (This crusade included trying to raise $10 million to make a documentary that would be released before the election.) And don’t forget that it was Giuliani and Trump’s search for Ukrainian dirt that led to Trump’s impeachment.
In other words, the Burisma story is stupidly obvious in the disinformation department, and it has been for months. Both Twitter and Facebook are blocking the story as what it is: disinformation. Conservatives are howling and calling for the Trump regime to take immediate, permanent action against social media companies.
In other words, we're at the point where the media decides whether or not to run with the fake Biden story. They failed this test four years ago with Hillary Clinton.
Will they fail it again?