February 20, 2013

I'm shocked -- SHOCKED -- that Breitbart News would run with an echo-chamber created story about a group that doesn't exist at all, never existed, and has nothing to do with anything in the real world. Cenk pointed out five days ago that the mythical 'Friends of Hamas' story appeared to be nothing more than an unsubstantiated rumor started somewhere in the bowels of DC.

It turns out that it started over at the New York Daily News when reporter Dan Friedman asked a Congressional staffer whether or not they had any evidence that Chuck Hagel was fraternizing with shadowy terrorist groups the way Ted Cruz seemed to intimate.

On Feb. 6, I called a Republican aide on Capitol Hill with a question: Did Hagel’s Senate critics know of controversial groups that he had addressed?

Hagel was in hot water for alleged hostility to Israel. So, I asked my source, had Hagel given a speech to, say, the “Junior League of Hezbollah, in France”? And: What about “Friends of Hamas”?

The names were so over-the-top, so linked to terrorism in the Middle East, that it was clear I was talking hypothetically and hyperbolically. No one could take seriously the idea that organizations with those names existed — let alone that a former senator would speak to them.

By now, everyone should know that Republicans have no sense of humor, especially when it comes to terrorists! They're all about killing terrorists, destroying them, or else using them to strike fear in the hearts of every American.

That didn't stop the smartest-guy-in-the-room Breitbot Ben Shapiro from running with the story after he called the White House for confirmation and got the cold shoulder. Dave Weigel:

Following that, I checked with Ben Shapiro, the Breitbart.com editor and reporter who originated the "Friends of Hamas" meme in a short February 7 article titled "SECRET HAGEL DONOR?: WHITE HOUSE SPOX DUCKS QUESTION ON 'FRIENDS OF HAMAS.'" In it, Shapiro reported that "Senate sources told Breitbart News exclusively" of Hagel's "Friends of Hamas" problem.

"Have you found any more proof that this group exists?" I asked Shapiro.

"The original story is the entirety of the information I have," he said.

Shapiro appears to be resting his unwarranted certitude on the butt of his claim that he was merely repeating what he had heard from an anonymous Senate source. That didn't stop the entire right wing online universe from exploding with accusations and inflammatory articles, spreading the meme that Hagel might have received - gasp! - funding from terrorist groups.

Why Breitbart is taken seriously by anyone, I do not know. How many bogus stories do they have to blast out before they're no longer accorded any credibility by anyone, left or right? It seems the key to their success is merely to rest on form over substance, as Shapiro did today.

Shapiro, as you might expect, did not do that thing where he writes a correction/apology for putting up an wild-eyed article about a rumor that most vertebrates would at least treat with some degree of credulity. Instead, he's now accusing Friedman of lying about being the source. Shapiro's new take is as cleverly "caveated" as his last -- he gets to say that the source for his story didn't hear about the story from Friedman, but that doesn't necessarily mean Friedman wasn't on the end of the chain of whispers.

What Shapiro did is simple. He played an extended game of telephone and then did what gossips do: repeated the rumor with very careful language so it appeared to be fact. And then, because Breitbart's target is always the White House or damned libruls who support the guy in the White House, they called the White House with a stupid question which received the response it deserved. Whoever took the call hung up on Shapiro (according to Shapiro, of course), and so he ran with the whole White House doesn't deny Friends of Hamas thing.

See, a failure to deny something that doesn't exist means it exists, right?

I guess as long as stupid Senators like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz actually take whiners like Shapiro seriously in spite of their history, we're going to be writing these posts letting everyone know of the latest Breitbarting. I'm sure Andrew Breitbart is smiling on his young protege for asking himself WWBD* and then running with it, truth be damned.

*WWBD - What would Breitbart do?

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