Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Self-Fulfilling Press Coverage

Josh Marshall really nails down the nuttiness of the press coverage of this election and the paroxysms the reporters get themselves into just to get people to read what they write.

Here’s the reality. Who knows what we will learn in the future? And this has nothing to do with the political impact of the “emails controversy”. But as a legal matter, the chances of Hillary Clinton facing any kind of indictment are very, very low.

Start with the fact that as far as we know, she is not actually even being investigated for anything, let alone facing a looming indictment. The simple facts, as we know them, just don’t put her in line for an indictment. The first reason is the facts, which rest heavily on intent and reckless negligence. The second is tradition and DOJ regulations which make professional prosecutors very leery of issuing indictments that might be perceived or in fact influence an election. This was my thinking. But as the press coverage has become increasingly heated, I started trying to figure out if there was something I was missing – some fact I didn’t know, some blindspot in my perception. So I’ve spoken to a number of law profs and former federal prosecutors – based on the facts we know now even from the most aggressive reporting. Not like, is this theoretically possible? Not, what the penalties would be if it happened. But is an indictment at all likely or is this whole idea very far-fetched. To a person, very far-fetched.

So why the press coverage? I think it’s a combination of reasons. The most irreducible and perhaps most significant is simply prestige reporter derp and general ignorance of the legal system. Second is journalists’ perennial inability to resist a process story. And third, let’s be honest, wingnut page views.

As I’ve said, the political calculus and potential political damage is a different matter altogether. There is little doubt that this whole on-going controversy, along with stuff in the background about the Clinton Foundation, have hurt Clinton badly on public estimations of her honesty and trustworthiness. But again, on the possibility of an indictment, most of this chatter is just plain ridiculous – a mix of ignorance and tendentiousness.

[…]

… a huge amount of the campaign discussion is based on demonstrable nonsense – only there’s little part of the press process which involves stepping back, applying some basic factual explanation and deductive reasoning which would identify it as such.

Read the rest of this, including the breathless coverage of how Canada represents a real threat to the security of the U.S.  Seriously.