Breitbart.com loudly declared recently that “Americans ‘Overwhelmingly’ Believe Obama ‘Improperly Surveilled’ Trump Campaign’. According to the far right outlet, Americans are now ignoring the “disgraced” media that is failing to report on it and are turning to journalistic stalwarts like Breitbart for the ‘real news’:
An IBD/TIPP poll shows that “Americans overwhelmingly believe the Obama administration ‘improperly surveilled’ Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.”
Despite the disgraced American media’s best and most cynical efforts to bury the truth, and to even stop the truth from ever seeing the light of day, this poll (and another addressed below) demonstrate that the American people are almost entirely tuning the partisan, mostly-hysterical news media out and looking to alternative media for the truth
We’ll get to Breitbart’s reasoning behind the results shortly, but the IBD/TIPP poll cited in the Breitbart piece reveals an incredibly depressing reality about America’s news media and fractured political culture. From Investor.com:
In the IBD/TIPP survey of public opinion, we asked respondents “How closely are you following news stories about the role played by the FBI and the Department of Justice during the 2016 presidential election?” Of those who responded, 72% said they were following the story either “very closely” (39%) or “somewhat closely” (33%). Our responses were taken only from those who were following the story closely.
Some 55% of those said it was “likely” that the Obama administration “improperly surveilled the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.” There was an obvious partisan split among the responses, with 87% of Republicans and 55% of independents saying the improper spying took place, but only 31% of Democrats.
On the question of whether a special counsel was needed to “investigate whether the FBI and the Department of Justice improperly surveilled the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election,” 54% responded “yes,” and 44% “no.” Again, 74% of Republicans and 50% of independents wanted a special counsel appointed. But even 44% of Democrats thought it would be a good idea.
The breakdown of Republicans, Independents and Democrats who think it was “likely” that the Obama administration “improperly surveilled the Trump campaign” is the most interesting statistic as it shows just how warped reality has become in modern America. To be clear, the Obama administration did not improperly surveil the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. This myth perpetuated by the ludicrous ‘Nunes Memo’ has been debunked over and over and over again by all responsible media outlets. This is a tiresome subject that unfortunately needs to be spelled out over and over again. Jonathan Chait provides an excellent breakdown of the nonsense surrounding the hack job Trump and the GOP tried to pull:
Its [the Nunes Memo’s] central contention, leaked in advance, is that the FBI used the work of a biased source (Christopher Steele, a British intelligence agent with expertise in Russia) to justify surveillance of Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser. The memo highlights Steele’s opposition to Trump (he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected”), along with the beliefs of FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, both of whom “demonstrated a clear bias against Trump and in favor of Clinton.”
As a legal matter, as law professor Orin Kerr has explained, there is no merit to the argument that a politically biased source cannot be used to obtain a warrant. Indeed, the FBI used journalism funded by Steve Bannon to investigate Hillary Clinton. In the place of any strong legal claim, the memo substitutes the assumption that intelligence sources who don’t want Trump to be president must be up to no good.
But this treats the effect as the cause. Strzok, as the context of his texts reveals, was a moderate Republican who voted for John Kasich in the GOP primary. Steele was a Brit who had not shown any strong passion for American politics. They developed intense preferences in the 2016 election outcome in large part because they had access to intelligence about Trump and Russia. They did not create this intelligence to support their political beliefs.
Indeed, Carter Page — the former Trump campaign official, the surveillance of whom occupies most of the memo’s attention — came under FBI scrutiny in 2014, after he had passed documents on to Russian spies. Page is the kind of person who would be brought on as a foreign policy adviser only if (a) the campaign was actively seeking out Russian assets, or (b) it was so slipshod it could easily be penetrated by Russian intelligence.
Evidence is evidence, regardless of the source, and the DOJ and FBI had every right to follow up leads on a potential crime of collusion. Every sane person in America is rightly worried about Donald Trump and the huge instability he brings to the country, and those closest to intelligence on him are no doubt far more alarmed than the general public. This isn’t a “Deep State” conspiracy to oust Trump, it is a genuine fear about the future of the country under the leadership of a man who doesn’t read intelligence briefings, has no grasp of global politics, creates domestic and international crises on a daily basis via Twitter, and is a confessed sexual predator.
Trump and the GOP have been cynically politicizing the FBI and intelligence agencies — themselves traditionally Republican organizations — to draw attention away from the Mueller investigation and the very real prospect that Trump colluded with Russia to subvert the 2016 election. The notion that the Obama administration improperly surveilled members of the Trump campaign is simply red meat for Fox News viewers and Breitbart readers who are desperate to believe in a “Deep State” conspiracy theory that exonerates Trump and his campaign team.
Breitbart and Fox News are well aware of what they are doing, and it is worth understanding their motives. The alternate universe they have set up to protect Trump and his lunacy is a naked power grab designed to smash the media and destroy political norms. Fox News and Breitbart.com are not interested in journalism, they are interested in saddling up to the Trump administration and attaining as much power as they can. Their job isn’t just to convince the diehard Trump supporters that he can do no wrong, they are aiming to change the terms of public debate. The more they can muddy the water, the more the public becomes skeptical of the Mueller investigation. When they believe the Democrats, the FBI and Hillary Clinton/President Obama are out to get Trump, the safer the president becomes.
If Trump is to survive the Mueller investigation, it will be the same way he survived the 2016 election. When Americans believe the “both sides” narrative, he transforms from being the bumbling buffoon who has no business being anywhere near government to a legitimate politician. As the Breitbart article concludes:
A just-released Rasmussen poll, however, shows that a full 50 percent of Americans “believe it’s at least somewhat likely senior federal law enforcement officials broke the law in an effort to prevent Donald Trump from winning the presidency.” Only 40 percent disagree.
Another Rasmussen poll from this week shows that only 42 percent of Americans believe Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election more than the FBI. Moreover, a full 34 percent believe the FBI meddled more than the Russians, while 24 percent are unsure.
In other words, we now live in a country where 58 percent of Americans either believe our own FBI meddled in a presidential election more than a hostile foreign government, or are not sure the FBI did not.
According to Breitbart, the media is attempting to hide this truth from the public, as if public opinion is a reliable indicator of the truth. More than 40% of Americans continue to believe that God created humans in their current form 10,000 years ago, but that doesn’t make it so. The reason why public opinion is now skewed against the FBI is that bullshit sites like Breitbart.com and outlets like Fox News have convinced enough people that they should doubt it. A fake news site has now managed to convince Americans that the real news is fake news, and the only way to uncover the truth is to read fake news.
We are entering a an era of self induced insanity, and the only way to stop it is to continue debunking this nonsense and hope that enough people are willing to stand up for reality. Due to the Fox News/Breitbart effect, most Trump supporters are now completely unreachable. Independents can still be reasoned with, but it appears like we are losing them too.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.