If you needed evidence that "Russian disinformation" has become a catchall term for anything that undermines the Democratic Party's electoral prospects, look no further than the response of top party apparatchiks and the mainstream media to last week's New York Post exposé on Hunter Biden.
According to Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.), the story is "very likely Russian propaganda." House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) is certain the materials came "from the Kremlin." And CNN's John Harwood tells us the story is "clear disinformation by Russian intelligence."
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The Russians may very well be behind the embarrassing email leak, as they were behind the leak of Hillary Clinton’s emails in 2016. That hardly makes the emails "disinformation." A photograph of Hunter Biden with a crack pipe dangling from his lips looks like the real McCoy to us.
The Biden campaign has offered no suggestion that the emails are phony. Instead, Biden has offered the magical one-word response that his former boss, aided and abetted by the press, used so effectively in 2008: Smear!
It says something about the state of the mainstream media that their response has been functionally indistinguishable from that of the Democratic Party's leadership, elected and otherwise.
Rather than race to verify the Post’s reporting, reporters at outlets from the New York Times and the Washington Post to National Public Radio have worked to cast aspersions on the two young, female reporters behind the scoop.
"Post deputy political editor Emma-Jo Morris' reports on Biden this past week constitute the sum total of her professional bylines," sniffed NPR's David Folkenflik. He didn't much care for her tenure as a producer for Fox News's Sean Hannity or as an intern at the Washington Free Beacon, either.
Reporters who have stepped out of line—and had the temerity to suggest the Post has revealed newsworthy material—have been swiftly reprimanded.
Neera Tanden, professional scold and president of the left-wing Center for American Progress, lacerated reporters for sharing the story, labeling Politico‘s Marc Caputo "a tool of a Russian campaign to hurt one candidate and help another."
The New York Times‘s Maggie Haberman provoked a mob attack on Twitter when she shared the story.
But most reporters were happy enough to self-censor, either for fear of the mob or because they'd just as soon be part of it. Jon Favreau, the former Obama flack who now interviews his old boss for a living, was pleased to report that "most political reporters" are debunking the "fairly obvious bullshit" peddled by "right-wing liars."
Well, where's the lie? The emails demonstrate that Hunter Biden is a degenerate and a drug addict, facts already well-established by the public record. They show that Joe Biden is a loving father, a fact also well-established.
And the emails raise the question—confirmed by other, independent source material and reporting—of whether the younger Biden's depravity ensnared his loving father into taking meetings with unsavory foreigners.
The reporters at once-venerable institutions who at one point might have chased this story have been cowed into submission and supplanted by a new generation of journalists who view their mission not as informing the voting public but rather as herding it toward a particular political outcome.
That is why the unauthorized release of Trump's taxes is front-page news, while the unauthorized release of Hunter Biden's emails must be censored.
That censorship is futile in a fractured news environment where outlets such as the Post remain willing to endure the scorn of the elites—and where outlets such as the Free Beacon will continue to churn out talented young reporters to staff them.