I have previously explained in a series of posts how the conservative media entertainment complex and the Trump administration are amplifying “active measures” (propaganda) practiced by the Russians. See, for example, The conservative media entertainment complex is an ancillary to Russian ‘active measures’ propaganda.
Trump’s sycophant allies in Congress are also willing participants in amplifying “active measures” (propaganda) practiced by the Russians. There is this disturbing turn of events today. Russian media is outing the alleged whistleblower after Rand Paul’s reckless outbursts:
President Donald Trump’s allies are trying to retaliate against the whistleblower whose complaint triggered the Ukraine scandal. And no one is doing so more enthusiastically than Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who tweeted out a link to a right-wing article in RealClearInvestigations that purported to reveal the whistleblower’s name, occupation at the CIA, and photograph.
As Salon reported earlier, “The unconfirmed report named a 33-year-old CIA analyst as the purported whistleblower, although mainstream media outlets have declined to disclose the name after his attorneys warned that they have received death threats targeting their client. Republican lawmakers have reportedly repeatedly attempted to get the whistleblower’s name on record at impeachment hearings in hopes that it will be released publicly.”
Thus far, although that article has been live for several days, the mainstream media has ignored it, resisting any effort to spread information about the whistleblower that would compromise their federal legal protections and open them up to reprisal or threats.
But according to The Daily Beast, there is one group of media outlets that is eagerly promoting Paul’s reckless attempt to out the whistleblower: Russian state media.
Not only did sites like Russia Today, TASS, and Rossiya-1 disseminate this same information shortly after Rand Paul did, one of the sites falsely claimed that the original source was the Washington Post rather than Real Clear Investigations, apparently to give the information more legitimacy.
This, notes The Daily Beast, marks the latest in a long string of efforts by Russian propaganda networks to boost Trump and attack the impeachment investigation — which in addition to attempting to remove a president Russian officials broadly think is strategically useful to them, also centers on his apparent efforts to extort the government of Ukraine, a nation which Russia is violently occupying and from which they are annexing land.
Enter Russian asset Donald Trump Jr., who recklessly tweets out name of ‘alleged whistleblower’:
President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., shared the name of an alleged whistleblower with millions of his followers on Twitter.
Trump Jr. sent the tweet on Wednesday despite concerns for the whistleblower’s safety.
In his tweet, the president’s son linked to a Breitbart article which speculated that the person who blew the whistle on the president’s dealing with Ukraine had also “worked closely” with anti-Trump forces during the 2016 campaign.
According to Huffington Post reporter Yashar Ali, nobody at the White House had any advance knowledge that the president’s son was going to out the whistleblower:
Andrew Bakaj, the whistleblower’s lawyer, would neither confirm nor deny the reported name, but said Trump Jr. and others were endangering the person as well as the system built to protect whistleblowers. Whistleblower’s lawyer blasts Trump Jr for putting his client’s family ‘at risk’:
“Identifying any name for the whistleblower will simply place that individual and their family at risk,” he told AFP.
“It won’t, however, relieve the president of the need to address the substantive allegations, all of which have been substantially proven to be true.”
On Wednesday morning, Trump Jr retweeted a Breitbart article with the headline, “Alleged ‘Whistleblower’ […] Worked Closely with Anti-Trump Dossier Hoaxer.” As The Washington Times points out, the name was first published by RealClearInvestigations last month, claiming that the whistleblower is a 33-year-old man from Connecticut and a registered Democrat (This article will not print the name).
“Because of course he did!!!” Trump Jr tweeted. “Alleged ‘Whistleblower’ […] Worked Closely with Anti-Trump Dossier Hoaxer.”
Condemnation came swift. According to CNN’s Jake Tapper, the whistleblower’s lawyer said that any attempt to name the whistleblower “will simply place that individual and their family at risk of serious harm.”
But Trump Jr doesn’t see what the big deal is.
“The entire media is #Triggered that I (a private citizen) tweeted out a story naming the alleged whistleblower,” he tweeted a few hours later. “Are they going to pretend that his name hasn’t been in the public domain for weeks now? Numerous people & news outlets including Real Clear Politics already ID’d him.”
According to the law, whistleblowers should expect to enjoy anonymity and protections from reprisal. Whether or not a private citizen who also happens to be the president’s son is violating that law remains unclear.
- The right-wing fever swamps of the American conservative media entertainment complex, in this case Real Clear Investigations and Breitbart, publish an unconfirmed report about whom they allege is the whistleblower.
- Russian state media amplifies and spreads the unconfirmed reports in social media and online.
- Demonstrating the Epistemic closure and the ‘conservative misinformation feedback loop’ media bubble, Russian asset Donald Trump Jr. tweets out the unconfirmed reports.
Prediction: Donald Trump Jr. will be the guest on the propaganda programming of FOX News aka Trump TV this evening to talk about this emerging scandal to spread the name of this individual even further.
Russian state media, e.g., Russia Today, TASS, and Rossiya-1, will publish Junior’s interviews on Trump TV in a seamless “feedback loop.”
The individual named in these right-wing media reports, whether he is the whistleblower or not, now finds his personal safety and life in danger from the sycophant followers of the personality cult of Donald Trump. If anything happens to this individual, it will be on the head of Donald Trump Jr., conservative media, and their Russian counterparts.
As Talking Points Memo notes, “It’s unclear why Republicans are still gunning to out the person who initially raised allegations of Trump’s pressure campaign. Every important allegation outlined in the complaint has been corroborated by multiple other witnesses who have testified before the House impeachment committees.”
Because this is about retaliation, pure and simple, for the complaint having led to the Ukraine scandal impeachment inquiry. Trump got caught red handed and now he wants vengeance against the whistleblower who called him out.
Whether the whistleblower is a Democrat or “Never Trumper” would only be relevant to a personality cult trying to enforce unquestioning loyalty to its “Dear Leader.” This in no way affects the credibility of the investigation, or the multiple other witnesses who have corroborated the whistleblower complaint in testimony before the House impeachment committees.
The whistleblower is a patriot who learned of a crime — extortion and bribery of a foreign government official for the improper purpose of obtaining “dirt” on a domestic political opponent — and reported it to the appropriate authority as provided for by law.
Only the Trump crime family and its criminal enterprise could find this inappropriate.
UPDATE: The fascist propaganda Fox News wants to use the whistleblower’s identity to discredit impeachment — but it’s not going to work:
Conspiracy theories are nothing new to Fox News, but with a potential impeachment on the horizon, the president’s favorite network is going full speed ahead in efforts to defend its most important audience. In its latest attempt to discredit the impeachment investigation, Fox recently picked up a razor-thin piece from Real Clear Investigations (RCI) that claims to identify the whistleblower by name. Unfortunately for Fox, RCI’s reporting is just another desperate attempt by right-wing media to distract from Trump’s abuse of power.
The identity of the whistleblower is far beside the point of the impeachment investigation. They could be a longtime right-wing operative, a committed left-wing activist (probably not), or someone in between: It wouldn’t change the cornucopia of evidence confirming that the president abused the powers of his office. Not only has the intelligence community inspector general debunked the lies pushed by Trump and his right-wing media allies, but damning testimony from the ongoing House investigation and reports from multiple whistleblowers have revealed that the president engaged in quid pro quo with a foreign leader to gain political advantage over an opposition candidate.
The RCI piece supposedly naming the whistleblower was written by far-right reporter Paul Sperry, the former Washington bureau chief for fake news outlet WorldNetDaily (now known as WND). Sperry’s journalism career had largely consisted of spreading anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, including writing a book on the Muslim Mafia. He’s also been at the center of pushing the conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama is running a “shadow government” aimed at undermining the Trump administration.
RCI has already walked back the article’s headline multiple times to soften its claims. Additionally, the individual named in Sperry’s “report” has been the target of far-right conspiracy theorists for years and was reportedly driven out of his White House post after receiving death threats.
This hasn’t stopped both Fox’s “straight news” and opinion sides from leaning into Sperry’s reporting. On day two of this manufactured distraction, anchor Martha MacCallum hosted a panel in which boy genius Charlie Kirk called the whistleblower a “highly politically motivated individual.” The previous day Brit Hume and MacCallum discussed the story without repeating the name reported by RCI, including a chyron that read: “Brit Hume on Whistleblower Being Named.” MacCallum suggested that the whistleblower’s identity “might reveal motivations, might reveal relationships, might reveal bias” against the president, echoing a line of attack from the network’s opinion side. Hume added that the whistleblower’s identity “would be embarrassing to House Democrats who are trying to mount an impeachment inquiry if it turns out that they, in some respects, had helped to trigger the whole thing.”
On Tucker Carlson Tonight, Jeanine Pirro, who is always, as they say, “on one,” called the whistleblower a “Brennan acolyte” and“someone who loves Susan Rice,” claimed he or she colluded with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, and lamented the unlikelihood that we will “see people go out in cuffs.” Carlson emphasized that he doesn’t know who the whistleblower is but the person identified in the RCI report “appears to be” him. He also called the whistleblower a “nakedly partisan political actor” in his opening monologue.
Frequent Tucker Carlson Tonight guest Ned Ryun inaccurately stated that The Washington Examiner and The Federalist had their own reports on the identity of the whistleblower when in reality the outlets had simply aggregated the original story from RCI. The conspiracy theory was also elevated across multiple other Fox personalities in the last two days, including Greg Gutfeld and Mark Levin.
When it comes to right-wing conspiracy theories, Sean Hannity reigns supreme. He opened his Halloween night show by spooking his audience about the threat of the whistleblower: “We are now looking down the barrel of yet another national crisis, clearly orchestrated by the deep state” and vowed the “hit job” against Trump “will not go unchallenged.”
The day before, Hannity claimed that a “massive, huge mystery out of our nation’s capital” is “reaching a fever pitch.” Although he repeatedly emphasized that Fox News cannot independently confirm Sperry’s reporting, Hannity also underhandedly endorsed his story, saying, “I can confirm to you after making numerous calls in the last hour, this is the individual that has been most talked about in Washington as the whistleblower.” He added that Republican lawmakers “must demand to know if, in fact, the whistleblower was a deep state operative.”
This is the lesson Hannity and his colleagues at Fox have learned since the backlash to his disastrous Seth Rich coverage that wreaked havoc on a grieving family: push the far-right conspiracy theory du jour as hard as you can, but try to maintain enough plausible deniability to avoid a lawsuit.
But the cable news network engaging in public speculation about the whistleblower’s identity is wildly reckless, discourages others from coming forward, and could put lives in danger — just this week we learned that there have been death threats made against the whistleblower’s legal team.
No one should be surprised that Fox News has stooped this low — the network has no editorial standards, and the distinction between the “news division” and opinion side is nothing more than a fig leaf. Right-wing hacks are throwing whatever they can get their hands on at the wall out of desperation to see what will stick. It couldn’t be more important that credible media outlets do not fall for it.
UPDATE: Buzzfeed News adds, Trump’s Allies Have Been Attacking The Person They Say Is The Whistleblower Since 2017:
The man Donald Trump Jr. and other prominent Republicans accused this week of being the whistleblower who sparked the impeachment inquiry has been a right-wing target since 2017 — when he was accused by a pro-Trump media personality of being “pro-Ukraine and anti-Russia” and leaking damaging information about the administration.
* * *
In the story, Real Clear Investigations named a 33-year-old former National Security Council staffer as the whistleblower. The person is a registered Democrat who worked for the Obama administration. The staffer left the White House in the summer of 2017 and currently works for the CIA.
The story, which has been shared over 15,000 times on Facebook, also connects the former NSC staffer to Ukrainian American Democratic National Committee contractor Alexandra Chalupa, a central figure in the Spygate conspiracy theory that claims Democrats conspired with Ukrainian nationals to frame the president’s campaign for collusion to delegitimize his 2016 election.
But the story doesn’t offer evidence that the NSC staffer is actually the whistleblower — instead, it speculates that his profile fits the broad description and that his name “has been raised privately in impeachment depositions” by Republicans who have been trying to determine the whistleblower’s identity.
* * *
One of the first big right-wing influencers to go after the former NSC staffer was pro-Trump media personality Mike Cernovich. In a Medium post in July 2017, he cited unnamed sources in accusing the then–NSC staffer, who at the time was working for then–national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, of being “pro-Ukraine and anti-Russia.”
Cernovich’s Medium piece was published at a moment when right-wing websites and message boards were scrambling for evidence that could counter reports that Russian hackers had meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. In March 2017, 4chan and Reddit users circulated a conspiracy theory that American cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike helped the DNC cover up evidence that the Democrats had tried to frame the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election. By April 2017, President Trump mentioned the theory in an interview with the AP.
(While Cernovich’s Medium account has since been taken down for violating the platform’s guidelines, the Facebook post he used to share it is still available and today is full of recently posted comments congratulating him on finding the whistleblower.)
Trump Jr.’s tweet, Paul’s and Gaetz’s comments, and the Real Clear Investigations story are further escalations in a right-wing information war against the whistleblower. Radicalized communities on Reddit and 4chan, conservative influencers on Twitter and YouTube, and hyperpartisan news sites like Breitbart and the Gateway Pundit have demanded the whistleblower’s identity be revealed since the impeachment inquiry began in September.
* * *
Cernovich’s Medium piece, according to an analysis conducted by BuzzFeed News of Reddit, 4chan, and Twitter from 2017 to 2018, was the only notable story claiming a connection between the former NSC staffer and conspiracy theories about Ukraine.
In days since the Real Clear Investigations piece, however, the name spread, pushed by far-right influencers like Jack Posobiec, Benny Johnson, Rush Limbaugh, and Sebastian Gorka. One America News Network, the news channel at which Posobiec is a host, has circulated the name. And according to social metrics site BuzzSumo, websites like Breitbart and the Gateway Pundit have had thousands of engagements around stories that include the name.
The name is also now all over 4chan and Reddit — which has strict rules on sharing personal information.
* * *
Content featuring the man’s name has received thousands of engagements on Facebook — and there are also pages promoting the conspiracy theory via boosted ad posts. According to Facebook’s ad library, there are two active and four inactive ad campaigns on the platform that include the man’s name and face. A Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that on Wednesday the platform had taken down those ads.
“Any mention of the potential whistleblower’s name violates our coordinating harm policy, which prohibits content ‘outing of witness, informant, or activist.’ We are removing any and all mentions of the potential whistleblower’s name and will revisit this decision should their name be widely published in the media or used by public figures in debate,” the Facebook spokesperson said.
“If the wrong person is named, if an unrelated person is named, that’s bringing the possibility of physical harm and threats against someone who’s not involved at all. It’s a reckless thing to do, to publish the name,” Tye said.
Tye added that attempts to disclose the whistleblower’s identity could dissuade others in the future from coming forward: “As we’ve seen with other whistleblowers, people are able to maintain their anonymity, and that’s what should happen here until they’re ready to come forward.”
“Clearly this person’s safety is a real concern, and we need to do everything we can protect that person,” Tye said.