Civics: notes on our de facto state media

Matt Taibbi:

I read Special Counsel John Durham’s “Report on Matters Related to Intelligence Activities and Investigations Arising Out of the 2016 Presidential Campaigns” yesterday in a state I can only describe as psychic exhaustion. As Sue Schmidt’s “Eight Key Takeaways” summary shows, the stuff in this report should kill the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory ten times over, but we know better than that. This story never dies. Every time you shoot at it, it splits into six new deep state fantasies.

I’ve given up. Nearly seven years ago this idiotic tale dropped in my relatively uncomplicated life like a grenade, upending professional relationships, friendships, even family life. Those of us in media who were skeptics or even just uninterested were cast out as from a religious sect — colleagues unironically called usdenialists” — denounced in the best case as pathological wreckers and refuseniks, in the worst as literal agents of the FSB.

Paul Thacker:

For years, Twitter executives provided favored access to a pack of select technology and “disinformation” reporters, giving them insider entrée to new products, responding quickly to their reporting needs to identify and suspend “disinformation” accounts—even helping one Washington Post reporter shut down an account that delved into her background as a wealthy child of privilege who attacked conservatives. In another example, CNN reporters requested that Twitter alter their algorithm to create a “read only mode” to guard them from criticism.

By changing Twitter’s culture and firing the majority of employees, Musk severed these ties between Twitter executives and privileged journalists—relationships that were so close one executive referred to some journalists as “our reporters.” Reporters who were close to Twitter, returned the favor to company executives by giving them positive press—even helping the company deal with lawmakers by relaying drafts of pending bills and providing advice on product development.

“Our DC-based tech reporters have gotten advance copies of at least five draft House bills that may get introduced today or early next week that would make changes to federal law and give more power to regulators,” wrote one Twitter executive in a June 2021 email. “This is in line with what we’re hearing about the Biden administration’s priorities to address antitrust concerns.”

In a separate example, Twitter held a meet-and-greet with their “news partners” in New York City later that same year to “solidify key relationships, encourage intel sharing, and, more broadly, help to reinforce comm’s network of trusted reporters.” Reporting back on the meeting, Twitter’s Elisabeth Busby wrote that journalists were “excited to meet” and profiled each reporter’s needs and what Twitter might expect in return.

“Please keep this information close hold,” Busby emailed.

In her report, Busby provided detailed insight into Twitter’s relationship with multiple journalists—many who work in the “disinformation” space and who are now some of Elon Musk and Twitter’s greatest online critics