'BuzzFeed' Catches Hell For Publishing Trump Dossier

Signs and wonders!  You probably thought you’d never see the mainstream news media lining up to defend Donald Trump, but here they are rushing to condemn BuzzFeed’s publication of a 35-page dossier of totally unverified allegations about the president-elect, including some supposed incidents that are not fit to print in a family media newsletter.

The dossier was ostensibly published by BuzzFeed as proof, or rather rumor, that Trump has close ties with shady Russian interests. Further, that Russian intelligence did indeed intervene to influence the 2016 presidential election on Trump’s behalf.

Part of the story consists of a putative trove of compromising information on Trump, supposedly compiled by Russian intelligence, which might give the Kremlin leverage over the president-elect.

The dossier makes for “salacious” reading, to use the polite term of art, what with prostitutes in hotel rooms and all kinds of other, um, stuff. The only problem, as a number of mainstream news organizations have pointed out, is that there isn’t a single scrap of evidence for any of it – at least not that’s presented in the dossier itself.

The actual provenance of the document, the sources of the individual accusations, and finally the descriptions of the incidents themselves, are pretty much the definition of hearsay.

BuzzFeed attributed the dossier to an unnamed former British intelligence official who has, the story goes, retired from MI6 to run a private intelligence gathering company. That definitely sounds trustworthy to me – after all, other unnamed spooks vouched for his integrity!

The identities of this private spy’s sources are also undisclosed, which means that we are well into the weeds here.

BuzzFeed justified publishing the dossier on the basis that U.S. intelligence officials presented summaries of the dossier to both President Obama and president-elect Trump. But so what? Simply presenting a summary of the claims is hardly an endorsement of them, especially in view of the vagaries of “intelligence.”

Is it possible that Russia’s spies are so sloppy as to let their precious, painstakingly gathered dirt on Trump leak – thereby sacrificing their “leverage” over him – before he even takes office? Sure, I guess.

Is it also possible the whole thing is a big disinformation campaign cooked up by Russian intelligence, peddling false information to damage the incoming president? Seems plausible. Hey, could it be a bunch of sensational lies fabricated by third parties to, you know, make money? Also yes!

Are there even more possible scenarios? Why, of course! By the way, which way is up?

The point: There is probably no way for intelligence officials, let alone ordinary people, to know whether there is anything to any of it – putting us right back in the epistemological quandary presented by “fake news,” namely, the impossibility of assessing the truth value of claims presented by or depending on unknown intermediaries.

So, here’s the short version: somebody said something uncomplimentary about Donald Trump.

Forgive me if I don’t hold the presses.

11 comments about "'BuzzFeed' Catches Hell For Publishing Trump Dossier".
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  1. James Boldebook from CBC, January 11, 2017 at 4:05 p.m.

    Trump tore BuzzFeed for the rubbish at his press conference today, and tore CNN a 
    new ass for covering it... something even the New York Times refused to do. 

    If you can't verify something with several sources.  If you're quoting a mysterious unnamed retired source from another country...and you even print it, you are participating in fake news.  CNN and others who did should give Trump an open apology. 

  2. David Mountain from Marketing and Advertising Direction, January 11, 2017 at 4:14 p.m.

    Unless and until the video leaks (leaks!) as well, at which point Buzzfeed looks like the only outlet with stones, and the mainstream media becomes increasingly ignored.

    There's no clear winning position for any media outlet in this environment, and given the P-E's (yes, the jokes write themselves) past record, no story that is completely beyond the pale. Or, seemingly, any story that the P-E's supporters won't shrug off.

  3. Chuck Lantz from, network, January 11, 2017 at 4:23 p.m.

    Trump and his cronies got where they are by using half-truths and flat-out lies, without ever bothering with old-fashioned evidence and verification ... they practically invented "post-truth."  

    And now they and their supporters are crying foul over unsubstantiated stories?  

    Too damned bad. You cooked this stew. So eat it.  

  4. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, January 11, 2017 at 4:37 p.m.

    Fake news is when materials are trolled by anonymous websites to Facebook, Twiiter etc.

    When materials are given to Intelligence agencies that is not fake news.

    The American public deserves transparency, period.

  5. Michael Zinna from zMedia Management, January 11, 2017 at 4:42 p.m.

    I am no fan of Buzzfeed (or as I like to refer to them, ClickFeed). But let's put some context on this. Everyone has tried to take the high road when approaching Trump. And everyone has lost. Among those losers you can count Hiillary Clinton, more than a dozen GOP Presidential Candidates, and a good portion of the mainstream news-gathering media. You could also make a solid argument that amongst "the losers" we must count, "Integrity." Trump is the most profoundly dishonest public figure in modern political history. He literally traffics in threats and amorality, for his own personal benefit. No one has been successful at predicting or explaining him (with the possible exception of me, of course), because no layperson could fathom the depravity of his motivations. The Buzzfeed reveal, now places into context Trump's behavior and motivations. It's a long-overdue awakening for the large portion of America that has no understanding of how the Russians have, for many decades, utilized coercion tactics to co-opt and corrupt people in positions of authority. Those of us who know the Russians, saw this coming a hundred miles away. This includes the real POTUS (the first client - who almost certainly confronted Trump at their private White House meeting), the Intel Community, and high-ranking members of Congress. But the truth is that no one actually thought Trump would pull off a victory, so everyone kept their powder dry. But now that our democracy is facing a conflagration, the irony is that it required Clickfeed (and to some extent the much less clicky, Mother Jones), to start the bucket brigade to rescue us from Trump's effort to burn the house down. If you've ever read an intel report, the doc has legs. It's not perfect. No intel report ever is. But it is legit. And the IC knows it. But they've known it all along. Buzzfeed isn't the NY Times, but in the grand scheme, we might consider cutting them a little slack. Compared to Trump who touts ethical bankruptcy for personal gain, Buzzfeed's ethics will take a slight hit, but come with just 10 days before constitutional chaos at best, and the destruction of the world as we know it at worst. If you think Twitter is an effective way to threaten people, just wait until all the levers of government power are pulled against you.       

  6. Donald Frazier from OneVideo Technology, January 11, 2017 at 5:18 p.m.

    We need a better definition of 'fake news'.  As it emerged over the campaign, these are stories knpowingly fabricated for display on sites of dubious credibility, in the hopes search engine analytics will propel them far enough that MSM might pick them up as true.  Almost always there's a profit motive, not an ideological one.

    The term does not refer to news you do not think is true.  It especially doesn't refer to news that would not pass all of the checks used by MSM.

    This one certainly would not pass. Even Buzzfeed qualifies it (who imhp they could do more).  But it does serve the useful purpose of eliciting rebuttals that advance the dialogue.  Some of this can be independently confirmed, and that's happening right now.

  7. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 11, 2017 at 6:27 p.m.

    Nobody is winning except for the top 1-10%. Even they (many of them) are losing in the long run. If one iota of blather that BuzzFeed wrote is inacute or cannot be proved (which they probably did embellish or purposely ran the article), we all lose and the truth of this Putinesque psychopath can get buried. Buzzfeed is getting a big buzz off from all sides.

  8. Chuck Lantz from, network, January 11, 2017 at 7:04 p.m.

    I can't help but wonder why anyone would consider Buzzfeed a reliable news source?  Now, if this story had been covered by Breitbart, Drudge or Fox News, I'd be much more inclined to take it all at face value. 

  9. Ruth Barrett from replied, January 11, 2017 at 8:34 p.m.

    If we weren't buried in snow I would run down to the local grocery store  and pick up the latest copy of the Enquirer before I make my final decision on this one ☃️

  10. dorothy higgins from Mediabrands WW, January 12, 2017 at 10:51 a.m.

    Just a bit hypocritical of Trump who regularly quoteed, touted and spouted Wikileaks to smear "crooked Hillary" to take umbrage at a silly quiz site called Buzzfeed and call CNN, which merely reported the real FACTS, "fake news." Mr. Birther needs to up his meds as the next four years will have manyore reveals of unsavory stories about this most unsavory man. The storie ARE out there, reporting on their existence is far less repugnant than Trump's years of fomenting the Birther lies. 

  11. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston replied, January 12, 2017 at 10:56 a.m.

    The NYT refused until the story broke and now they can rehash it all they want. Check today's edition for examples of covering the uncoverable. For all we know the story is true, but it's yet another black eye for the mainstream media, even the NYT.

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