“Provokatsiya.” This is the Russian word that refers to a hoax designed to embarrass or discredit the someone. Or, as we call it here in the U.S., Rovian tactics.
Is this what’s happening right now with the AP’s story about the Trump White House considering using the National Guard to round up undocumented immigrants?
On a day when Republicans are desperately selling the idea that the Media lies so bad so much so hard in order to make Trump’s wildly frightening press conference on Wednesday somehow OK, and Macedonian twitter eggs who recently joined the social media outlet got “#MediaLiesAgain” trending on twitter, the AP ran a story about the Trump administration considering using 100,000 National Guard troops to round up undocumented immigrants.
Shortly later, on Marine One en route to South Carolina, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied the AP report and chastised the AP for not asking first. The AP reporter replied that they did ask, several times, per a pool report provided to PoliticusUSA by the White House.
“That is 100% not true. It is false. It is irresponsible to be saying this. There is no effort at all to round up, to utilize the National Guard to round up illegal immigrants,” Spicer said, condemning the press report.
“I wish you guys had asked before you tweeted,” Spicer finished.
The AP reporter replied that they asked “multiple times before publication.”
The AP report cited a draft document it obtained that has “circulated among DHS staff over the last two weeks. As recently as Friday, staffers in several different offices reported discussions were underway.”
Spicer didn’t deny that this had ever been discussed in the administration, but said there was “no effort to do what is potentially suggested” and “It is not a White House document.”
So is the press “very fake news” or, is the media being set up to look like fake news by reporting stories that are leaked to them as bait. (Ironic perhaps that it was Time pooler Zeke Miller of the MLK, Jr bust that suddenly reappeared in the Oval office or was always there and somehow Miller missed it, who was tasked with reporting this.)
Security consultant and former NSA analyst John Schindler called it out as deliberate:
So, the WH is bating MSM with fake stories which they run in order to discredit them.
There's a word for that….in Russian.#provokatsiya
— John Schindler (@20committee) February 17, 2017
The talking point script for Republicans is solid today, as the White House Press Secretary for President George W. Bush between 2001-2003 (read, lead up to Iraq War) weighed in with notion that despite all polls but Rasmussen, the public loves Trump and the media is wrong in their perceptions that he is erratic and unstable:
MSM panned Trump convention speech, Inaug Address and ystrdy news conference. We know viewers liked first two. Will press be 0-3?
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) February 17, 2017
Let the record reflect that Republicans are not fleeing the Russian ship in order to take a stand for their country. Party first and all of that.
The National Guard story might be another disappearing bust story, but it also certainly follows along with things the Trump administration has suggested. But either way, the Trump White House doesn’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to claiming outrage over “fake news.”
The only fake news that is really happening just so happens to be either coming from the President himself or from websites selling total fabrications of events that just so happen to support Donald Trump, like a recent “story” falsely claiming that Bill Gates believes Trump will be “one of the greatest presidents.”
The problem with what it appears that the Trump White House is doing is it is designed to not only discredit the media, but make reporters question running stories, not out of proper caution but out of fear. Getting the press to self-censor, to do your job of silencing for you, is one of the first achievement necessary for authoritarian control.
Should the press wait for the White House to reply, even when they get no reply until they publish, as the AP claims?
If so, that would be super handy and convenient for a White House that lies so much the biggest challenge facing Saturday Night Live writers is knowing when to just let reality tell the story. Because then nothing would be real until Trump deemed it so.
This seems to be yet another attempt to make Americans doubt everything until they hear it from Donald Trump or one of his alternative fact machines.
Update: Here is the document, shared by Vox, on which the AP based the National Guard story.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.