Imagine you are an antiquarian who specializes in obscure books. You like the odd stuff that focuses on folktales and legends. After a while, you start to notice some similarities between legends that should not be connected. Maybe they came from different time periods are different parts of Europe. You get curious and after years of research you establish four main categories of this particular legend. There’s overlap between all of them, but none of them are exactly like any of the other three.
One possible explanation is that each set of authors borrowed from the previous authors, but added and removed material to fit their audience. On closer inspection, you can’t see how any of these authors had access to one another’s work. That and two were contemporaries, but separated from one another by a great distance. While it was possible they borrowed from one another, it is highly improbable. Instead, the most likely answer is they were working form a common source, some unknown body of work.
Those familiar with biblical scholarship will recognize where this is going. Most Bible scholars have come to believe that the solution to the question of the specific literary relationship among the three synoptic gospels is they relied upon an as yet undiscovered source or sources. They have constructed what that source would look like by careful comparison of the three Gospels, to catalog their similarities and differences. The term they use for the source is the Q Document, that may or may not have existed.
Discovery through inference is a useful skill for understanding the world, because we are usually presented with incomplete evidence. In the case of biblical scholars, their understanding the provenance of the Gospels would be simple if the writers had used end notes, hyperlinks and direct quotations. That’s not the case, so they have to “recreate” the missing data in the same way one figures out the shape of the missing pieces to a jigsaw puzzle. You fit everything else in place and examine the gaps.
That’s a useful way of thinking about these waves of fake scandal stories that are becoming a feature of the Trump era. On the surface, they look like what we used to call tabloid news or what we now call fake news. The “reporters” take some information and frame in such a way it takes on a whole new sinister meaning or they salt some fantasy they are peddling with unrelated facts to make it seem plausible. The headline makes one claim, but the body of the report fails to deliver the goods.
There’s some truth to that, but there are facts that don’t fit that narrative. For example, the main organs of the media are often silent on these things until they run their course. For example, instead of running with the BuzzFeed story, the main stream sites showed a great deal of wariness. Even CNN was skeptical. Part of it had to do with the fact that the authors were, as Columbia Journalism Review out it, “serial fabulists.” Still, CNN has never been afraid to make up the news, so it was odd that they were skeptical.
Then there is something else. The NeverTrump loons dropped all of their other subversive activities in order to push this story on social media. Confirmed plagiarist Jonah Goldberg was still pushing it even after the Mueller people knocked it down. As far as Goldberg is concerned, the story is true, even if it is false. The odious carbuncle John Podhoretz was working his greasy little fingers raw pushing the story on Twitter. Of course, the pope of the neocon fifth columnists, Bill Kristol, is still pushing the story.
There’s also the ham-handed nature of this caper. Giving the story to a serial liar like Jason Leopold was bound to raise suspicion. Giving it to the tabloid like BuzzFeed is just asking for scrutiny as to the accuracy of the sourcing. If you’re trying to push a rumor, this is the wrong way to do it. The way to drop a story in the media is to find a low level reporters at the Washington Post or the New York Times and give them the scoop of the year. That’s how the professionals put a rumor into the system.
The one guy capable of being comically ham-handed when trying to undermine Trump is Bill Kristol. This is the guy with some sort of weird attraction to bald gentiles. He first pushed the mentally unstable David French as a primary opponent to Trump and then landed on Evan McMuffin, the guy with comically bulbous head. One has to assume that Mitt Romney is loading up on Gillette products so he can run as the bald alternative to Trump in the 2020 primary. Yes, Romney is that obsequious.
The point of this rambling post is that when you start to think about these endless waves of fake news about Trump, there seems to be a missing source. That is, the patterns suggest there is a piece of the puzzle missing. It’s just assumed the neocons all share the same thoughts about foreign policy for the obvious reason. Maybe what we are seeing is an active conspiracy. Maybe these guys are coordinating their efforts, while working at various news outlets and government posts.
It is certainly a cliché to call people like Bill Kristol a subversive, but clichés don’t spring from nothingness. They have some truth. We know he was involved in the fake dossier the FBI used to spy on the Trump campaign. How unrealistic is it to believe that this crew is the source of the endless waves of fake news about Trump? Further, how unrealistic is to think they are actively conspiring with one another? In other words, the missing piece to this puzzle is a wide ranging conspiracy of people with a shared interest.