Fake news and the storming of the Capitol

It is not true that Officer Brian Sicknick was beaten to death by a pro-Trump mob during the storming of the Capitol, Glenn Greenwald reported last night. 

This raises big questions about the credibility of reporting of the event and the justification for a “domestic war on terror.”

The report in the New York Times on Jan. 8, based on quotes from two anonymous law enforcement officials, and in a follow-up article.  It was cited as fact in the articles of impeachment against ex-President Donald Trump.

But on the same day, ProPublica published an article quoting Sicknick’s brother as having received a text from SIcknick after the riot saying he was okay, in spite of having been pepper-sprayed.  But then later they got word he had a blot clot and was on a ventilator.  He died that night.

Nobody has produced video evidence of the alleged beating of Sicknick.  Many of the rioters have been charged, but nobody has yet been charged with Sicknick’s murder. 

On Feb. 2, CNN published an article, noting in passing that the medical examiner’s report on Sicknick’s death has not been released, but quoting one investigator that there were no signs of head injuries and investigators no longer believe the fire extinguisher story.

I am not making excuses for Donald Trump or for the rioters.  It is clear to me that Trump intended the mob to storm the Capitol in order to intimidate Vice President Pence and the Senate into refusing to certify Joe Biden’s electoral victory.  This was wrong.  It was a symbolic and real attack on the democratic process.

Neither am I trying to trivialize the tragedy of Officer Sicknick’s death or deny that it was duty-related.

However, nothing is gained by false reporting or by believing false reporting.  You only weaken your cause.

I don’t fault the reporters of the initial NYT article.  When you’re reporting on deadline, you go with the information you’ve got.  But I do fault the NYT and the rest of the Washington press corps for not trying to check or verify the facts the next day. 

The great temptation for any reporter, as I know from my own experience, is to come across information that seems to confirm your biases and assumptions, and look no further.  This is the great fault of the so-called mainstream press in the Trump era.

The New York Times over many decades built a reputation as a reliable source of information by taking great care to be fair and accurate.  But it is much more easy to lose a good reputation than to gain one, and that is what is happening now.

Self-described liberals mock President Trump for talking about fake news.  They can’t understand why so many people believe things like the Q-Anon conspiracy.  But if respected institutions such as the NYT can’t be troubled to get things right, its editors and reporters shouldn’t be surprised if some people turn to disreputable sources.

LINKS

The False and Exaggerated Claims Being Spread About the Capitol Riot by Glenn Greenwald.  “Insisting on factual accuracy does not make one an apologist for the protestors.  False reporting is never justified, especially to inflate threat and fear levels.”

“This Political Climate Got My Brother Killed”: Officer Brian Sicknick Died Defending the Capitol; His Family Waits for Answers by J. David McSwane for ProPublica.

Investigators struggle to build murder case in death of US Capitol Police Officer Brian SIcknick by Evan Perez, David Shortell and Whitney Wild for CNN.

MAGA Blood Libel: Why Are They Hiding the Medical Report? on Revolver News  [Added 2/18/2021]

Mom of US Capitol police officer Brian Sickwick believes he died of a stroke by Laura Collins for The Daily Mail.  [Added 2/24/2021]

What we know about Capitol Police officer Brian Sickwick’s death by Bill McCarthy for PolitiFact.  [Added 2/24/2021]

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2 Responses to “Fake news and the storming of the Capitol”

  1. One year ago people who said they love America stormed the Capitol – Some View on the World Says:

    […] Fake news and the storming of the Capitol […]

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  2. Social media for Trumpists and changing nature of warfare | Marcus Ampe's Space Says:

    […] including Twitter and Facebook being rightly accused of inciting violence which led to rioters storming the Capitol Building. For Trump, who had seen 90 million followers hang on his 280-character […]

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