A Sunday during Lent

Yesterday Michelle Berdy, an American journalist working in Moscow who I believed was half-way sensible retweeted this video and words to the effect this is the “latest from Trump”:


It’s fake news, of course: the video dates from May 2018 and he’s referring to MS-13, not asylum seekers generally. So I pointed this out to Berdy, and this is how the subsequent conversation went today:

The problem with far too many modern journalists is twofold. Firstly they spread fake news. Secondly, when called out on it they resort to sneering (“sounds like a pose not a position”) and go on the attack (“do you think it’s all right for Trump to lie”). So Berdy deleted her original tweet and replaced it:


Note the sneer at the end? Then this happened:

And suddenly I’m dealing with a petulant child. Like I said, it’s not just that journalists peddle fake news but they are incredibly thin-skinned and aggressive when called on it.

As I’ve said before, I have no idea why professional journalists go on Twitter. This was an interesting defence:

Journalists aren’t just on Twitter to have fun, they use it to promote their professional work and attract readers, linking to their publications. Yet they think readers should make a distinction between these posts and their “personal” tweets, and not draw any conclusions about the standard of their professional work from their peddling fake news. It’s like a doctor caught doing backstreet abortions using dirty equipment thinking this has no bearing on his position at the local hospital. Journalists don’t seem to understand the slightest thing about brand protection. Little wonder they like Twitter’s block feature so much.

No other profession would behave like this, and this stems from the fact that for decades journalists had the luxury of a one-way conversation. Now the world’s changed and they don’t know how to have a two-way conversation with people from outside their clique. This is why traditional media is collapsing, print journalists are fumbling about on Twitter, and the likes of Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, and Joe Rogan have audiences in the millions. The thing is, I’ve been reading Michelle Berdy since about 2004, always liked her work on Russia and have interacted with her positively in the past (which is why I took this up with her; I was disappointed). But she’s willing to lose the trust of a long-time reader for the sake of fake news about Trump, and scoring a few petty points when I object. I expect she thinks she has plenty more readers. That’s what they all think.

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20 thoughts on “A Sunday during Lent

  1. Interesting exchange, there. I’m far from being a technological determinist, but we are living through a revolution in social media which is affecting “news” and the way we talk about politics and life in general. There are some obvious new features:
    1) News is now 24/7, and the internet doesn’t sleep. Those in power can no longer pick the right time to release bad news, and details buried in that huge hastily-released document will be unearthed weeks or months later.
    2) Peterson makes the point that nothing is ever lost. It used to be hard work ploughing through archives trying to find inconsistencies or evidence of broken promises, but now it’s all saved. Guido, of course, is excellent at exploiting this. And I’m heartened by the number of people on line who are reproducing verbatim the government’s Brexit promises.
    3) People now bite back and challenge those who previously would have got away with magisterial-sounding piffle. It’s great to see so many informed citizens actually making more sense than our supposed masters. Whereas we used to be cynical about politicians, it was rarely anything more than vague mutterings and shrugs; now it tends to be focused and reasoned.

    There has been a lot of debate over the last couple of years about public opinion versus the experts. There are far fewer actual “experts” in prominent powerful positions than most people thought, and that includes journalists.

    Keep blogging, Tim, you are on the winning side.

  2. The msm is on its last legs. The concentration in ownership which began in the eighties has enabled the promotion of narrative over objectivity and reduced the employment opportunities of anyone who dares to dissent. I think they are about to be slaughtered in the courts with the damages for the Covington boys for $250m against CNN but the opening salvo. Big IT like Twitter Facebook Youtube and Google can no longer claim to be disinterested platforms now that their actions have revealed them to be highly partial. I firmly believe the news landscape is about to be utterly changed and that honesty and trust will once more become saleable.

    Brian Cates of the Epoch Times has this pinned at the top of his twitter account:
    “The capital you function on in news media is TRUST. You lose some of that every time your readers/viewers figure out you sold a lie to them.”
    https://mobile.twitter.com/drawandstrike

  3. There was a poll published in the last week which reported that Trump had a 50% approval rating with Hispanic Americans.

    This caused the Dems to shit themselves so they have immediately resurrected this old piece of fake news.

    Thus all 123 of the Dem candidates for 2020 along with all their fanboys in the media have been pushing this nonsense as hard as they can.

    Your friend Michelle is either a witting or unwitting tool in this political smear job, but being as she’s an American journalist, I know which of those choices I’d put my money on.

  4. I read very rarely Donald Trump’s tweets so I sometimes expect to be shown something that convinces me he’s only a liar.
    I don’t belong to American culture and don’t watch American TV (I don’t watch Italian TV, as well), but I believe to be reasonably well informed about the respective positions and facts on relevant political topics. So, reading your post here, I’ve tried to understand what these famous lies the liberal press always talks about are.

    I found out, among others, this article by NBC News: “President Donald Trump’s 10 biggest falsehoods of 2018” http://tinyurl.com/y6uwuss7

    For NBC, its not true that under Obama there were family separations at the border, notwithstanding the photos, the DNC refusal to discuss the issue and what Obama’s DHS secretary Jeh Johnson told (http://tinyurl.com/ybrtooq6).
    It’s also “not true” that the Russia case ” is a witch hunt” (right, it was a coup attempt). Not true that with Trump the US has had an economic turnaround: it’s all Obama’s merit, apparently, even if I remember quite vividly Krugman predicting – immediately after the election – a terrible and irreversible worsening of the (bad) economy then in place.
    In short, all these “big lies” are sometime rude remarks, sometime debatable points of view, sometime hyperbole or self-excuse every politician does – can you imagine Obama saying “Obamacare is not working”? or, “I brought racial division instead of mutual comprehension”?
    I can understand the irritation caused by Trump’s “in your face” style (utterly deserved, in certain precious accasions), but it’s evident that his “big lies” belong to a very different realm than the substantial political lies offered by HRC or Obama: Benghazi, the Iran deal, the private server, the IRS case, Solyndra & Co., the Steele dossier and all the scheming against Trump, etc.
    In other words: journalists are doing a bad service to themselves, but I don’t see their will to change, their group delusion of moral superiority remains strong.

  5. There’s something gets proved on a daily basis. The media, of all people, don’t understand the new media in the slightest.
    I presume the people commenting here have to write stuff in a professional capacity. I have for years. I would never send anything without checking it was correct to the best of my knowledge. 1) Getting it wrong could cost me a lot of money 2) I don’t fancy destroying my own credibility & putting myself out of business 3) And that applies even commenting here where you don’t know me & I don’t know you & it’s only pixels on a screen. I try & check before pushing that Post button because I don’t want to look a tunt.
    And weren’t we all advised never to phone or text while pissed? Because what seems clever now may well look very un-clever in the morning.
    And all this completely passes them by. Don’t they understand that nothing on the interweb ever truly goes away? That their errors & lies & ill judged rants never ever fade. That they’re there for ammunition for anyone who wants to fire it?

  6. Given your recent fondness for punning headlines, I’m disappointed you didn’t explore the possibilities around tweets from someone called Berdy.

  7. Well, the asylum thing clearly is a scam. It’s not surprising that people in favor of keeping the scam going would misrepresent like this.

  8. Given your recent fondness for punning headlines, I’m disappointed you didn’t explore the possibilities around tweets from someone called Berdy.

    I confess I thought about it, but I didn’t want to lay the boot in any harder than necessary.

  9. I’m not quite sure why after the anti Trump out pourings from the media, celebrities etc you expect any form of rational debate with anybody from the ‘other’ side. Your interactions with her in the past mean nothing the second you so much as approach defending Trump even unwittingly….fuck em all.

  10. @Tim N

    Well done for calling her out and making her reveal her true character.

    Doctor analogy is good, they and dentists (and others) are suspended/struck-off for off-duty bringing profession into disrepute – eg a GMC/GDC hearing held after almost any police charge/arrest or civil case.

  11. We have, in effect, “in-sourced” the editorial process.

    We take our news now from hundreds more sources than ever before and, whereas we may have been comfortable with the editor of the Daily Telegraph sifting and sorting for us, now we have realised we can no longer trust that approach.

    The journalists have so far mainly failed to realise this.

  12. As I said on the birdy, the rot set in when all journalists got bylines. This means there is no separation between the professional and personal, everything they put in to the public domain has their brand stamped on it – and if the haven’t realised they are all brands now. Just as much as White of Desert Sun has become your brand and can be destroyed if you abuse it on Twitter.

    When you are a professional there is no separation between the professional life and the personal life, and funnily enough it journalists that made it so. Look at what they did to Bernie Ecclestone.

  13. “I’m tweeting, not publishing”

    And right there is where she doesn’t get it. It’s got your name on it, you own it. Doesn’t matter whether your paper printed it or not.

    As far as I can tell, a lot of the journalistic harrumphing at Trump is because he sends out stuff directly rather than adhering to the gatekeeper model of the press room. But he does own his tweets. Not suddenly pretend to be a private citizen (I was tweeting, not governing?) Australian ‘journalists’ are lately falling into this trap too, expressing private opinions in public on Twitter and the like but claiming to nonetheless be unbiased on the job.

  14. William of Ockham

    “The journalists have so far mainly failed to realise this.”

    Maybe not the journalists, but the establishment most certainly have, and they are slowly fighting back.

  15. Michele Berdy is a translator and editor with a column at an expat newspaper. She doesn’t do reporting so she’s not in the business of making news, genuine or fake. I wouldn’t be surprised if she relied on the NYT and WaPo for Trump coverage, in which case she would be a consumer, rather than producer, of fake news. With her experience and at her age, she can well afford to use Twitter for self-expression rather than self-promotion.

    If your opponent were Julia Ioffe or Masha Gessen, I’d have no problem with your post, but you’ve been attacking the wrong target.

  16. Michele Berdy is a translator and editor with a column at an expat newspaper.

    Well if she’s only an editor of a newspaper with a column, that makes peddling fake news okay, then.

  17. It’s fake news to you (and possibly to me) but it’s honest-to-God news to her. Look at the headlines at the NYT, the CBS, the BBC – “Trump calls some illegal immigrants ‘animals'” or similar. No menton of MS-13 in any of these titles – at best it’s just a “gang.” It’s an uphill battle to convince someone who’s relied on the MSM for the past 40 years that it’s now producing fake news when Trump is concerned. Especially someone who first came to Russia in 1978 and must have fond memories of waiting for American papers to arrive, a week late as usual, – a breath of fresh air after the boring, lying, low-quality Soviet press.

    And even if you succeeded, she could still argue that for a US president to use “infest” and “animals” when speaking of humans – even violent criminals – is disgraceful. This is the kind of language Putin might use.

  18. Many of these “journalists” are so desperate for a new headline generating scoop that will ensure they stand out from the pack and build their following – and in turn their resume essentially.

    Now in the process of this constant 24/7 goal, they are willing to tweet and print out verifiable false information against Trump in the hope it garners attention on some previous statement of his that hasn’t been in the spotlight.

    My theory is that all of the verifiable false things Trump has said that generate headlines have been covered already, so they attempt to drag up something new. It’s just business – almost like a snake oil version of journalism. (Some of them are genuine Trump haters, but he’s incredible for business.)

    Of course their credibility will never recover, but they are banking on people’s short internet related memories in the current 24/7 news cycle of the web and social media.

  19. Sorry I am late to this, but tweeting is publishing. You publish something if you make your words widely available for the public to read.

    I am publishing this now, so therefore Michele A Berdy was publishing her words in her tweet. The fact it is a short statement as opposed to a book or a newspaper does not make it any less published.

    But then journalists aren’t actually that bright, so no surprise there.

    PS I note how this person rounds on your words “I expect” which are pretty much innocuous. I wonder if Michele A Berdy has ever published the words “I expect”? If so, she is guilty of the thing she attacks you with, sir.

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