Collusion and crying wolf

Scott Johnson

“Liars are not believed even when they are telling the truth.”
This is the phrase coined by Greek storyteller Aesop for the moral of his famous story, which we have come to commonly refer to as “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”
Thinking over all that transpired during March, my mind consistently keeps wandering back upon this old fable.
I’m sure most of us know the story: A bored shepherd boy decides to amuse himself by crying “Wolf!,” causing the nearby villagers to rush to his aid to protect the flock.
Later, the boy decides to abuse his influence again and cries out a second time. To his delight, the villagers sheepishly run to his aid in the same manner.
At last, the boy actually spots a wolf and cries out for aid. To his horror, no one comes as they all believe he is lying and the wolf scatters the flock.
An old man from the village tries to comfort the boy as he cries in shame, saying “We’ll help you look for the lost sheep in the morning. Nobody believes a liar even when he is telling the truth.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has found that did not find evidence that President Donald Trump colluded with Russia, according to a March 24 letter to Congress from U.S. Attorney General William Barr.
The same week, actor Jussie Smollet was given a slap on the wrist by Chicago’s State Attorney’s Office, after (I’ll add “allegedly”) coordinating his own hate crime.
Both of these incidents were mishandled by a number of media networks, casting longer shadows of doubt on their credibility.
According to news media watchdog Newsbusters, ABC, CBS and NBC  networks produced a combined 2,284 minutes of collusion coverage in the last two years, averaging two minutes and 53 seconds per night.
This doesn’t even take into account the cable networks’ coverage on the issue.
News website Axios says that from May 2017, there have been 533,000 web articles published about Russia and Trump/Mueller, using data from social-media analytics company NewsWhip.
Using search results from each website, a GOP research team claims that from May 2017 through March 2019, CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post and The New York Times  have written nearly 13 articles per day mentioning the Mueller Investigation.
With all the smoke, it was easy to believe that something would be uncovered, but Barr released his report and a narrative systematically propped up by the media came crashing down in flames.
Now, Democrats are rallying for the full release of Mueller’s report, believing Barr was partisan on his summary.
There is no way for me to be 100% confident the report won’t turn up something else, but Barr did directly quote Robert Mueller in his conclusion, saying, “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or co-ordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
It appears that the shepherd-boy media via broadcast, social media and newspapers have coaxed American villagers up a hill, only for them to find that they have been duped once again.
Unfortunately, the precedents set by the media elite in our nation have resulted in large-scale skepticism towards any and all news media. Trump’s debatably-warranted “fake-news” slogan only adds fuel to the fire.
These networks need to be held accountable. I’m thankful that Covington, Ky., Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann  is choosing to take a stand.
In January, Sandmann, 16, argues he was falsely slandered as a racist by at least 52 organizations and celebrities who suggested he instigated an incident with a Native American man.
Sandmann is currently suing the Washington Post for $250 million  and CNN for $275 million and accusing them of defamation and neglecting journalist standards. Sandmann’s legal counsel has reportedly put the 50 other individuals and groups on notice.
I think the biggest issue comes back to Aesop’s point: If the large-scale networks are willing to prop up narratives with shoddy evidence, the American people will eventually discredit them (many already have) and they won’t believe them even when they are accurate.
The media’s mishandling of actor Jussie Smollet’s case casts the same predicament on the nation.
Smollet,  who claimed he was a victim to an anti-gay, racist assault by white Trump supporters in January, fit into a narrative the media is interested in, so the networks were more than happy to presume he was truthful and conjectured heavily from there.
However, evidence and interviews gathered by the Chicago Police Department in the following weeks suggested that Smollet actually paid two black men to stage the attack.
After a large-scale investigation by the Chicago Police Department, Smollet was charged with 16 felony charges of deceiving law enforcement.
Those charges were absurdly dropped by prosecutors on March 26, in what Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel suggested is a case of Machiavellianism and elitism. The Chicago PD is not happy either, to say the least.
Instead of a day in court, Smollet’s $10,000 bond was kept and he was only required to complete 16 hours of community service. He was also allowed to save face and not admit fault.
Smollet went as far as to maintain that he was innocent in statements after his charges were dropped, despite the fact that the court kept his bond money, he was ordered to perform community service and prosecutors have explicitly stated that he was not exonerated and they “stand behind the charges.”
Everyone—liberals, conservatives and all the others—should be upset with this.
Fake hoax crimes prematurely trumpeted by the media only disillusion the American people.
When the media jumps the gun to push an agenda, they are inadvertently harming the causes they believe they are helping.
Our nation’s media needs to revisit their standards and practices for reporting on these events, especially while information is still developing.
Fake hoaxes are designed to outrage people and are therefore more dramatized. For instance, one of Smollet’s attackers supposedly yelled, “This is MAGA country!”—in Chicago, of all places.
Because of this, these hoaxes can quickly and easily catch a lot of attention. I wouldn’t be surprised if Americans have heard more about the hoax crimes than they have about real hate crimes.
When these types of hoaxes are perpetuated by an echo-chamber media, the unfortunate result is a climate where people doubt the accused and real victims fear they will be cast aside with the frauds.
This is a tragedy given that hoaxes apparently accounted for less than 1% of all reported hate crimes.
There have been 23 fake hate crime hoaxes that have caught national attention since November 2016, when Trump’s presidency began, compared to the 7,175 hate crimes recorded by the FBI in 2017.
For the sake of real victims, we must save our outrage and our alarm for when it is warranted.

Please, in the words of Aesop’s wolf-weary village people, “Save your frightened song for when there is really something wrong.”