Monday, April 10, 2017

Damned if you do: politics trumps truth

Checking into Twitter the other day, I found #Carson trending. Since I am a huge fan of Ben Carson, I was delighted. It turns out that the right-leaning alt-media was all a-twitter with such stories as these:

MSM SILENT: Ben Carson finds $500 BILLION in Fraud-Mismanagement in HUD Audit. [caps in original]

There are two stories here: Ben Carson, newly-appointed by Trump to be HUD Secretary, himself uncovers huge levels of fraud from Obama-era HUD (some headlines emphasized the Obama connection); and the shameful and prejudicial silence of the MainStream Media in the face of this shocking discovery.

A quick search of the news showed that there was indeed silence in the large houses of print and broadcast journalism on this subject. But I smelled a rat--or a family of them. If Ben Carson had indeed discovered actual fraud, it would be all over the media, even the MainStream channels.

The media love to report fraud. They surely select facts, and they surely spin them, but coverup is not something journalists are known for. Furthermore--to use just the example of The Washington Post--no Federal agency, not even Obama's HUD, is exempt from hard-nosed investigation and reporting. Look at that link's biting lede: "The federal government's largest housing construction program for the poor has squandered hundreds of millions of dollars on stalled or abandoned projects ..." You'd think that'd be enough to make your average libertarian do cartwheels in a transport of joy (oh, wait, that'd be Amtrak).

Thank goodness for Snopes, which reported on the family of stories on Apr. 7. It turns out that the $500 billion was an accumulation of bookkeeping errors (both plus and minus) reported in HUD's 2016 audit released in mid-November, 2016.

Oh, and uh, when was Ben Carson appointed? More than 3 months after the audit was made public. Ben Carson had nothing to do with the audit or the findings. Snopes issued a finding of "mostly false," which seems mild to me. Snopes must be giving the false reports some credit at least for issuing the audit information, which is factual, and which has been available since it was released on the HUD website:
Even clearer, though, is the report on the audit of HUD's own Inspector General David Montoya, an Obama-era appointee, released on March 1, 2017 (just before Carson's confirmation). This report clearly summarizes the findings and the rationale for the internal investigation that clarified them.

This is not the work of independent, muckraking journalists. This is government investigating itself and reporting on its own screwups. To put it in the appropriate political context, this is the Obama administration reporting on its own screwups. And, as a reward, the right-wing Twittersphere spun a gossamer web of lies. Why not just say that Ben Carson has his work cut out for him moving forward with this report and getting things on the right track? It seems to me to be a huge job. There's enough of a story there. But hyper-partisanship can't accept anything that smacks of bi-partisan working through things.

As for the MainStream Media, it's looking elsewhere, its attention transfixed by Donald Trump, whose transparency is like something out of a Devil's Dictionary: "I am transparent. I say what I say, and it makes no difference if it's true or false. The only thing that matters to me is to say things--even false things--that work to my advantage." A riveting story, for sure (especially if the rivets are Russian-made), but also one that seems to be draining every last ounce of media attention so that there seems to be no interest in what happened at HUD.

In the HUD case, the only thing that would've made a difference would've been if they'd tried to cover up the findings of the audit. Then there would've been no lack of heroic journalism. As it was, all we got was boring government doing its thing and partisan shills breaking windows about it. In my book of folly, that's a crime.

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