evolving ecological media culture(s)

Laptop from hell?


On the disinformation front: Two things seemed to move the “laptop from hell” story yesterday, one of them forward (sort of), one of them back (to the drawing room?).

The first was Glenn Greenwald’s splashy announcement that he is resigning from The Intercept, the investigative journalistic platform he helped found, because of apparent censorship of an article on the Hunter Biden story, censorship Greenwald claims is widespread among Biden-supporting media today. What strikes me most about this is (1) that Greenwald seemed so intent on getting the story out in time to influence the election (which the editors seemingly didn’t think was a good idea, given the uncertainties), and (2) that his proclamations about censorship and disinformation (by a source with a long history of critical coverage of Joe Biden) appear disingenuous in light of his decision to go running immediately to Fox News for an interview on the Tucker Carlson show (despite Tucker). Wow, Glenn, something funny about your choice of venue…

The second thing is NBC’s apparent scoop that the document behind the story was faked at least in large part by an anti-China economics professor named Christopher Balding. Of course, just because there was faking involved to get the story out doesn’t mean there’s no story of some kind there. But at this point, voters might just know enough about Trump’s kidsinvolvements in different countries to have a comparative reference point for taking in a new story about Hunter Biden.

Meanwhile, the number of new coronaviruses infections in the U. S. continues to break records, topping 90,000 yesterday, with some questioning the high number of “excess deaths” that aren’t even included in the current count.

Addition (2:20 p.m. Eastern time): Zeynep Tufekci has just posted on the Hunter Biden story and, as always, makes some very astute observations. The “real questions,” she writes, concern “How much media attention should be given, to what parts of the story?” In the digital age, she argues, it is not speech but attention that is restricted and regulated. There is whistle-blowing and there is whistle-drowning, which this story is an example of. Like Hillary Clinton’s e-mails in 2016, it is “designed to flood the public a flurry of allegations that make it very difficult to concentrate on the important questions facing us.”

The media’s role, in Tufekci’s assessment, should not be to devote equal attention to allegations about both candidates — rather like news about climate change should devote equal attention to scientists who research the topic and professional obfuscators of it. It should be to devote “proportional attention to allegations and stories according to their credibility, scale, scope and importance.”

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