Since learning last week that Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of direct collusion between the Donald Trump presidential campaign and Russian officials looking to alter the outcome of the 2016 presidential elections, some left-leaning media and progressive activists have been on a soul-searching mission. How did they miss that the allegation was so thinly substantiated?
Vox Media feels it may have the answer. In an interview over the weekend with Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi, who claims that the Russian collusion spectacle was the worst media mistake in history, both Vox reporter Sean Illing and Taibbi agree: the Left was just far too devastated in the weeks following Trump's election to think straight.
"A lot of people simply did not want to believe that Trump was a legitimate president, that someone this vulgar and this dishonest could win a presidential election," Illing says. "And I think that disbelief and the emotional devastation of his election colored a lot of our judgments."
"Absolutely. Look, almost every pundit failed to see what was happening during the presidential election. No one thought this guy would win. It was almost a 100 percent consensus in the industry. Nobody even accepted it as an idea that he could possibly win, and a lot of that had to do with the insularity of the media," Taibbi agreed.
"Then when he became president, the instantaneous decision was to declare his presidency illegitimate and foreign-aided. That doesn’t mean all of these stories were made up, of course, but I think there was a deep need to make sense of it all, to somehow not recognize the result. So a lot of people wanted to cancel it out. But that’s not what the press is supposed to do. That’s not our job," he added.
This is surprisingly self-aware, though Taibbi has been pulling on that thread quite a bit of late. It's just interesting to see two journalists put the issue into print.
The two do go off the path quickly, of course, blaming the modern media need for clicks and eyeballs on digital stories for the news media's continued "concern" with Russian collusion, rather than consider that the media themselves were just as "bought in" to the concept as the audience they served.
Mueller was rarely treated simply as a special counsel. His face was emblazoned on tee shirts, tote bags, and even the occasional prayer candle, just in case you needed to fill the hole in your spiritual life with the man who was about to "save" the United States from President Donald Trump. The Left routinely admitted that Trump simply wasn't disagreeable, that his mere presence in the White House was actually harmful, and psychologists in liberal enclaves diagnosed patients with things like "Trump Anxiety Disorder," and post-election depression.
The insanity was real. But it was also the product of a continued belief, among the media — who failed to vet stories, ran with unsubstantiated allegations, and, occasionally, fell for total hoaxes — that Trump was, indeed, guilty of colluding with Russian officials that ultimately drove the story.
Americans as a whole, at least, are coming to grips with the Mueller report better than journalists. According to an NBC News poll released Monday, most Americans are taking a cautious, wait-and-see approach to the Mueller report, less out of hope that Donald Trump will be convicted by it, but more because the report has yet to be released, and Americans are less likely to jump to conclusions without media interference.