The Story Then Delivered into the Arms of the Public

Thanks to r/drama for linking to this, an article in the NYT about the infamous Steele Dossier.

To sum it up: yeah, it was a heap of fakery and the media ate it up with a spoon, but this wasn't because we were all water-carriers for Hillary, it was because us poor honest journalists were cruelly deceived by the private intelligence agencies who are out there pushing their own agendas-for-pay:

Now the glow has faded — from both the dossier and its promoters. Russia, as Mr. Steele asserted, did try to influence the 2016 election. But many of the dossier’s most explosive claims — like a salacious “pee” tape featuring Mr. Trump or a supposed meeting in Prague between Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former attorney, and Russian operatives — have never materialized or have been proved false. The founders of Alfa Bank, a major Russian financial institution, are suing Fusion GPS, claiming the firm libeled them. (Fusion has denied the claims.) Plans for a film based on Mr. Steele’s adventures appear dead.

Beneath the dossier’s journey from media obsession to slush pile lies a broader and more troubling story. Today, private spying has boomed into a renegade, billion-dollar industry, one that is increasingly invading our privacy, profiting from deception and manipulating the news.

...In the fall of 2016, Fusion GPS invited selected reporters from The Times, The New Yorker and other news organizations to meet Mr. Steele in Washington and receive briefings on what he had uncovered about the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. As is often the case in the world of private intelligence, the meetings came with a catch: If news organizations wrote about the dossier, they had to agree not to disclose that Fusion GPS and the former British agent were the sources of the material.

Mr. Steele was described to journalists as having played a pivotal role in breaking huge cases, including the 2006 poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, a former K.G.B. agent, and the F.B.I.’s investigation into bribery at FIFA, soccer’s governing body. And when speaking about Mr. Trump and Russia, he came across as calm, understated and confident, according to reporters who attended the meetings.

You see? The wicked roué spies-for-hire seduced the ingenue press and left her pregnant with the story about Trump being Putin's pawn which she then delivered into the arms of the public. The press had no fault or responsibility in the matter!

Of course, the guy writing this has his own reasons for doing so; he's got a book coming out and this is free advertising for it:

Barry Meier is a former reporter for The New York Times and the author of the forthcoming book “Spooked: The Trump Dossier, Black Cube and the Rise of Private Spies,” from which this article is adapted.

Something that isn't addressed in this article, which is also about the all too cosy relationship between former journalists and their colleagues still toiling at the coal face. It's great that, four years on, the NYT finally publishes a piece about how they, amongst others, were all too eager to help spread unsubstantiated rumours for political ends, but it's highly frustrating that this is being done only in the context of "a guy who used to work for us has a book coming out, let's do him a favour by running an excerpt" instead of an editorial taking responsibility for what they did.

By now, if anybody has any remaining shreds of belief in newspapers as communicators of factual stories without any bias, these kinds of quid-pro-quo back-scratching should dispose of them. The guys who founded the firm of private intelligence/investigative agency Fusion GPS, behind the dossier, were former Wall Street Journal journalists who were able to use their industry contracts to know exactly how to sell the story and who to sell it to. And the media, which is majority liberal, were all too happy to print a story smearing Trump because they were so desperate for Hillary to win, perhaps out of genuine conviction that Trump was indeed the Antichrist, but nonetheless out of partisan motivation and not impartial reporting.