The right-wing outrage over the Hunter Biden nothingburger is a tried-and-true propaganda tactic

Over at Media Matters, my friend and former colleague Parker Molloy has an excellently succinct piece summing up the meta-story around last week's unverified leak of a bunch of documents by the New York Post that basically just reiterated that Hunter Biden struggles with addiction, and that Joe Biden is a pretty good dad — a smear piece so bad that even Fox News refused to publish it.

There's currently plenty of punditry you can read anywhere about the decision to publish embarrassingly unverified claims, or the over-corrective response by Facebook and Twitter to suppress the link and thus ignite the Streisand Effect. What makes Molloy's piece stand out is that she contextualizes the whole non-troversy well within the history of right-wing propaganda schemes in the United States:

1. Right-wingers shout loudly about bogus story.
2. Fox News picks up bogus story, reports on it incessantly.
3. Right-wingers and Fox News start complaining that "liberal media" are ignoring bogus story.
4. Other outlets are shamed into covering bogus story, mini-frenzy ensues.
5. Pundits credit Fox News for "being ahead of the curve."
6. Responsible media outlets determine bogus story is bogus long after damage is done.
7. Repeat.

A decade later, little has changed about how the right launders information through mainstream outlets by complaining. Back then it was right-wing hectoring about community activist group ACORN, "Climategate," and Bill Ayers. More recently, we see this play out in topics like Uranium One, "unmasking," and Benghazi. Conservatives have asked why mainstream media outlets won't devote what Fox News deems a sufficient amount of coverage to a deceptively edited 2012 video of President Barack Obama saying "You didn't build that." And why won't mainstream news outlets report on terrorist attacks (that they had actually reported on quite extensively)? And why weren't Trump's coronavirus press briefings getting wall-to-wall coverage?

The success of right-wing media as a propaganda apparatus is often reliant on buy-in from mainstream news organizations. Conservative claims can be buoyed by mainstream coverage. "Even The New York Times …" is a common line trumpeted by the right whenever they're able to get one of their preferred narratives into traditional news outlets.

She also has an excellent Twitter thread accompanying the piece, that goes into detail about what, exactly, would have constituted as good journalism in this case:

Of course, there are some pundits who would rather wag their fingers about the awful dangers of tech companies exercising their First Amendment rights by exercising editorial control over the content on their platforms. Emma Best also has a great short Twitter thread shutting them down:

(The meta-irony in these case is that the pundits often point to the unverified Steele Dossier as a counter example, even though, by their own logic, it was irresponsible to publish those documents in the first place, and so they likely would have welcomed a suppression of such scandalous content.)

As the New York Post's Hunter Biden story flops, right-wing media rage at mainstream outlets that won't take the bait [Parker Molloy / Media Matters]

Image: Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC 2.0)