Home 2016 elections The People Who Taught You to Hate Hillary, Part I: Judicial Watch

The People Who Taught You to Hate Hillary, Part I: Judicial Watch

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Cross-posted at Daily Kos

“Untrustworthy Hillary” is a media construct relentlessly pushed by people who gain politically from it.  Regardless of where you stand on Hillary Clinton, you owe it to yourself to know who are the players that have worked so hard for 25 years to push that meme into your consciousness.

The truth is, few stories end up in the media by accident.  Many are the result of well-funded groups promoting particular items and convincing reporters to run with them. But reporters rarely discuss their sources – for some good reasons, but for some not-so-good reasons as well. Because when you know from whence the germ of a particular story came, you may not trust it as much.

For this reason, everyone who discusses the overplayed Hillary email server story should know a few things about  Judicial Watch. As this group brags:

“[W]e expect we’ll be seeing the Clintons in court, as we have so many times before. At present, we have eighteen lawsuits, ten of which are active in the federal courts, as well as approximately one hundred and sixty Freedom of Information Act submissions, that could connect to the use by Secretary Clinton and her staff of secret email accounts.”

They have indeed gone to court in pursuit of the Clintons many, many times, including 18 major lawsuits during Bill Clinton’s administration.  These endless lawsuits and FOIA requests are designed to drive the news cycle, and at that game, Judicial Watch is a master.

Just a tiny sample of the right wing conspiracy theory topics driven by this group over the past three decades include: Benghazi, Filegate, Hillary’s email, IRS investigations, ISIS on the Mexican border, Obama czars, Obama’s trips, Ron Brown, Swift Boat Veterans, Travelgate, Vince Foster, White House visitor logs, Whitewater — and anything having to do with Huma Abedin, the Clinton Foundation, Sidney Blumenthal or anyone else closely related to the Clintons.

Judicial Watch can indeed claim credit for your opportunity to read all those boring Hillary emails about gefilte fish and such.  Speaking of fishing, the group most recently won the right to expand its expeditions by gathering depositions from three top Clinton aides – no better way to keep the 24-hour cable and social media cycles humming with suspicious-sounding content.

Judicial Watch’s method is to relentlessly pursue information that can in any way be used against its political targets, to aim this information – even if partial, misleading, or flat out wrong – at conservative media outlets from Breitbart to Fox, which generate hype and get Republican office holders talking about them, forcing mainstream media to get into the game or else be accused of cover-ups, “liberal bias”, etc.  This dynamic unfortunately leads to some very poor reporting.

Which has certainly been the case with the Hillary email story.  Indeed, the New York Times story that launched all the hoopla about the FBI investigation was, in the paper’s own words, “fraught with inaccuracies.”  The story falsely claimed that Hillary was the target of the investigation, when she is not; that it was a criminal inquiry, which it is not; and like many stories on this topic, was unclear about the critical questions of what constitutes classified information.

Another example of awful reporting was the ludicrous suggestion reported in the Washington Post that the FBI had assigned 147 agents to the email case – one that the Post and others who picked up the story quickly had to recant, as the actual number is perhaps 12.

All such bad reporting has fed the conservative mantra that “Hillary is going to jail” despite the fact that such an outcome is very unlikely considered the neither nefarious nor harmful nature of her email infraction.  Thankfully, an increasing number of media outlets are starting to report this reality, such as here, here, here, and here.

While Judicial Watch is very good at playing the Game of Courts, often all the sound and fury they generate ultimately leads to little enlightenment, not to mention, well, few criminal convictions.  With much credit owing to Judicial Watch and its allies, the US government spent $80 million on special prosecutor investigations during the Clinton administration. Can anyone explain to me what value I and other taxpayers gained from that $80 million, which might have been put to countless better uses?

What they have left is a ominous odor of corruption, based not on facts but on endless innuendo, bad reporting and conservative hype.  And what does Judicial Watch gain from all of this?

Publicity and funding, for a start.  Judicial Watch has received millions of dollars from conservative sources including the Scaife, Olin and Carthage Foundations.  They do, after all, deliver the goods – “scandals” conveniently packaged for conservative consumption.

Furthermore, for all the group talks about highfalutin goals of government transparency, its own agenda is pretty transparent as well.  Larry Klayman, longtime leader of the group who departed it in recent years, has become one of the most notorious birthers, proclaiming President Obama “Muslim of the Year” in 2015 and once imploring his followers “to demand that this president leave town, to put the Koran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up.”

Judicial Watch continues to hype spurious, sensational stories with political fallout, such as the one in August 2014 about ISIS supposedly setting up operations on the US-Mexico border.  It was complete nonsense, of course, but it received intense publicity from conservatives and helped motivate them to vote in the 2014 midterm elections.

And really, that’s what this is all about.  So, when you hear media and politically figures endlessly telling you that “Hillary is untrustworthy”, please spend a little time looking into the facts and the sources of these premises. Instead of simply believing the memes, ask why they exist and who is behind them.  And keep your eyes out for the little men behind the curtain.