Wednesday, 16 May 2018 Jeffrey: "No clear link to Russia"

MoJo Reader,

There are a few stories that drive home, for me, just how urgent Mother Jones' new project to build a team of reporters focused on combating disinformation is.

The first one came last Wednesday—the same day we announced our project, which I hope you'll support with a tax-deductible donation—courtesy of President Donald Trump:

'The Fake News is working overtime. Just reported that, despite the tremendous success we are having with the economy & all things else, 91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake). Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?'

For now, you can ignore the fact that we had just learned the president's lawyer set up a slush fund to pay off a porn star. Ignore the irony of Trump accusing the media of corruption while his cronies were fueling that slush fund with payoffs from corporations who wanted favors and with Russian oligarchs who wanted God knows what. You can even ignore the authoritarian threat to strip press of their credentials.

But don't ignore what the president of the United States is saying here: that reporting he doesn't like is fake—that "negative" and "fake" are one and the same. That's chilling, because it lays bare the defining feature of the Trump administration and has emboldened others to follow suit: attacking the very notion of truth. And it's a big reason why we want to report on deception and manipulation in a systematic way.

But to be clear, our plan to dig deep on disinformation—who's behind it, who profits from it, how it spreads, and how we can counter it—is about more than one man and one tweet.

You can read what I mean in our new piece, "We Can't Wait Until Election Day to Find Out Who's Manipulating the Vote," and if you're on board, I hope you'll help us kick-start our disinformation project with a donation today—whether you can give $5 or $50, it all makes a difference.

Which brings me to my second story.

About a year and a half ago, on October 31, 2016—eight days before the election—The New York Times made a splash with a headline: "Investigating Donald Trump, FBI Sees No Clear Link to Russia." The story had some important news in it, confirming that the FBI was looking at alleged links between the Trump campaign and Moscow. But the headline did not highlight that fact—instead, it emphasized what the FBI had not yet found.

We recently asked an editor at the Times what the newspaper was thinking in packaging the story that way. He said, in essence, "Look, that story was what the FBI was telling us at the time." Which is true.

That same day, MoJo's David Corn published the first—and only—preelection story about what we now know as the Steele dossier. Its headline: "A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump." This was the story that the FBI didn't want told.

It's that simple, really: We need to be sure the story that those in power don't want told gets out. Now don't misunderstand me, because there are great reporters working on stories like this. But we need more. And we need it with a Mother Jones ethos.

I'll be frank here: We don't get a lot of interviews with Trump Cabinet members or corporate CEOs because, well, they know about our ethos. They know we're going to interrogate the storyline that they want us to print. And that works out well for us, because instead of worrying about staying in their good graces to maintain access, we dig into the documents, the data, and our sources to find out what they don't want known.

And that's what we're looking to do with our new project: raise enough money that we can hire a crack investigative journalist and a data scientist to track and expose the forces behind disinformation. We can't do it using the same journalistic methods of previous eras, when media and political and tech reporting were separate beats—we have to bring these together and let reporters focused on these issues work alongside our reporters who cover other forms of radicalism on the rise, like white supremacy, "incels," the alt-right, and other homegrown terrorists who utilize the same tactics.

But we can only do it if we raise $100,000 more than we planned before June 30—the end of our fiscal year, which also gives us enough time to ramp up ahead of the midterm elections this fall. The beauty of leading a reader-supported nonprofit like Mother Jones is that we can invest in whatever we think are the most important stories to cover.

And right now, we're convinced that combating disinformation head-on is what our democracy desperately needs. Our leaders, political and corporate, aren't solving this problem—because they benefit from it. So it's on us. And with readers like you—who have stepped up for every challenge, every special project—I like our odds.

I hope I can count on you to help get this project off the ground with a tax-deductible donation today—and whether or not you can pitch in even just a few bucks now, be sure to read our plan, because there are other ways to get involved too.

Thanks for reading.

Clara Jeffery, Editor
Mother Jones

P.S. If you've donated in the last several hours, thank you! And please accept my apologies for sending you this reminder.

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