In Response to the Twitter Files, Establishment Media Rushes to Defend the FBI

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Last week, the FBI responded to the revelations exhumed from The Twitter Files in the most predictable way imaginable: by calling the journalists who reported on them “conspiracy theorists.” A decade ago, an attack like this on the free press by the federal government’s top law enforcement agency might have united journalists in indignant outrage. No longer. If the Twitter Files showed the extent to which the intelligence agencies are in bed with the social media platforms, the story’s reception by the mainstream press has only shown how eager the establishment media is to jump into the sheets with them. It’s not just that the corporate media has abandoned the kind of adversarial journalism exemplified by the reporting on the Twitter Files; it has taken on the role of defending the state against those who continue to practice it.

A few days after my friend and colleague Michael Shellenberger dropped Part 7 of the Twitter Files, CNN reporters Evan Perez, Donnie Sullivan and Brian Fung published a big story, also featured on the news channel, expressly aimed at refuting its findings. The central claim of the story was that the FBI had never “ordered” Twitter to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story. That claim is true: the FBI, indeed, had never issued a direct order to Twitter that they had no legal authority to issue. But neither Shellenberger nor any other Twitter Files reporter had ever made that allegation in the first place. Elon Musk had, in a tweet posted two and a half weeks prior to Shellenberger’s thread, in a discussion of an earlier Twitter Files installment written by a different reporter.

And CNN’s conclusion was correct: Musk, who is famous for his reckless tweets, had spoken inaccurately. But so what? Musk carelessly hyping a tweet thread with the hyperbolic claim that the FBI “ordered” suppression of a story does nothing to undermine the actual claim in the reporting, which is that the FBI used its influence improperly to discredit a true but politically inconvenient story. Seizing on Musk’s sloppy editorializing is a classic motte and bailey that CNN is using to tarnish a story that it cannot in fact factually refute.

By Leighton Woodhouse

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