DC Trawler

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Hey, didja hear the one about Trump and the Russian hookers?

Alright, look: This is gonna get gross. I’m warning you right now. But this stuff is out there, and it’s a perfect encapsulation of the state of mainstream (ahem) journalism in 2017.

Alex Pfeiffer reports:

BuzzFeed published documents Tuesday containing unverified information from an alleged former British intelligence agent on deep-ties between the Russian government and President-elect Donald Trump…

An alleged former British intelligence agent turned private investigator — who was hired by anti-Trump Republicans and Democrats — compiled a dossier on ties between Trump and Russia…

The memo claims that an unnamed source told the alleged former British spy that Trump had gotten the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Moscow, “where he knew President and Mrs Obama (whom he hated) had stayed on one of their official trips to Russia, and defiling [sic] the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him.”

Which is, frankly, hilarious. I know I’m a bad person and all, but I get a chuckle out of imagining such a thing happening. I mean, the idea of Trump hating Obama so much that he paid some hookers to pee on a bed where Obama once slept. It’s funny! It seems like the sort of thing a really rich guy with serious impulse-control problems would do.

But that’s all it is: a funny idea. It’s fun to imagine because, for all we know, it’s entirely imaginary. Nobody has identified this former British spy (I’m picturing Austin Powers). And at least one of the other allegations in this memo, the claim that Michael Cohen met with Russian agents in Prague last year, doesn’t check out. The story is as empty as the bladders it describes.

Here’s how BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith rationalizes his decision to publish this stuff:

I guess he figures that if he admits up front that this stuff is completely unverified, he’s passing along the responsibility for verifying it. “Hey, I dunno. Could be true, could be BS. I’m just throwin’ it out there, folks!” That doesn’t seem like a journalistic standard he would apply to, say, Barack Obama.

Remember him? Not to impugn their journalistic integrity, but BuzzFeeders were openly weeping, and making sure everybody knew about it, during Obama’s “farewell address.” And then there was this:

But okay, when it comes to Donald Trump and anybody else who identifies as a Republican in 2017, BuzzFeed is completely unbiased. Sure.

At least you got the clicks, Ben. #GoldenShowerGate is trending on Twitter. That’s what it’s all about, right? That’s journalism.

After this, I’m done with reporters whining about being grouped in with “fake news.” If the only difference between an unverified report from an anonymous Macedonian teen and an unverified report from an anonymous British spy is whether or not you want to believe it, you’ve abdicated your responsibility as a journalist.

In the case of Donald Trump and the golden-shower party with Russki hookers, remember that wise old saying:

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary effluent.

P.S. How many guys named Michael Cohen could there be, anyway?

How many guys named Ben Smith are out there?