When Just Asking Questions Goes Wrong
Plus: Rand Paul is a hypocrite.
Tim here, in for Charlie again, with a few words about two obsessions of MAGA media that both came to a head this week.
The life of a straight-shootin’ media critic must be nice. You get to take the shotgun approach to the news. You can “just ask questions” about a string of incidents that seem fishy and if just one hits the target then you consider that a kill.
You could be wrong on everything happening in Ukraine, the Burisma “scandal”, whether famous people died from the vaccine, who hacked the DNC, Paul Pelosi being attacked by a homosexual lover, but if you get one right (Jussie Smollett!), or even if you think you got one right when the full story is actually mixed (Lab. Leak. Theory) then you get to dine out on that without ever having to answer for all the ones you whiffed on.
Well check out what happened this week on a couple of those whiffs: the stories of Gal Luft and Ray Epps.
For those who need a refresher on the basics, JVL covered L’Affair Luft brilliantly on Tuesday (it’s a must-read) and Not My Party this week gives you everything you need to know about Ray:
And since Not My Party came out there have been updates in the Epps case, with Epps’s anticipated lawsuit against Fox being filed.
The Luft and Epps sagas are examples of a phenomenon in our modern political media where something seems like it might be fishy and bad for Democrats or “elites” but where the details aren’t yet fleshed out. The real media acts responsibly and covers the story incrementally, while the MAGA media and Contrarian Influencer Dark Web get out over their skis, speculating wildly about the supposed nefarious actions that the cOpoRaTe mEdiA is covering up.
In many instances, you can understand how the skeptics get audiences by pulling certain threads. There was no doubt that the short clips of Epps shouting “go into the Capitol” made it seem strange that he had not been arrested, as so many other J6ers had been. I even started to wonder what was up. And any fair-minded person would grant that some of Hunter Biden’s dealings seem super sketchy and be open to the possibility that someday there will be a piece of actual evidence that shows Joe Biden is implicated in one of those deals (though your mid-seventies is a rather strange time to start a grift).
But things smelling bad is not the same as things being bad. For journalists with standards there is a bar of evidence that needs to be reached before conclusions are drawn. Luckily for the media critics, that’s not the case!
The theory that Ray Epps was an FBI informant stoking the mob was covered widely by the likes of Joe Rogan, the Breaking Points Podcast, the Daily Wire, and more. This theory was brought up over twenty times on Tucker Carlson’s show alone, not to mention elsewhere on Fox.
Now, thanks to the January 6th investigations and the work of actual journalists, we know that all of their hypotheses were completely wrong! Ray Epps was just an idiot shouting stupid shit in a sea of idiots shouting stupid shit on January 6th. The answer to the questions about why he wasn’t arrested seem to lie in the footage that wasn’t seen (or shown) by the Just Asking Questions crowd. These videos, which aired on 60 Minutes, show Epps trying to calm down the protesters and helping bring an injured person to safety before any of the violence against police started.
Now imagine what would happen if the shoe were on the other foot. There’s an imperfect parallel that comes to mind: when some in the mainstream media got out ahead of the facts with the viral video of the Covington Catholic boys. Quickly there was backtracking—the Washington Post, for example, published a lengthy “Editor’s Note” and a followup story providing additional context. Still, they eventually faced financial consequences. Have we seen that from any of the Epps conspiracy theorists?
Now let’s go further. Imagine if Lester Holt had on twenty separate occasions proposed a theory implicating a random person in a crime that was exposed to be not just missing context, but completely and totally wrong. My guess is we wouldn’t be hearing from Lester Holt after that.
But nothing is happening to any of these contrarian critics. Tucker is off Fox of course, but not because of Epps, and he continues to push the Fedsurrection nonsense on his vlog on Twitter. As for Luft, we all know that this crowd will just move on to the next half-baked theory about the ways in which the Liberal Media is protecting Biden. (Aside: If you don’t think that the Washington Post or New York Times would love to be the one to find the elusive smoking gun that proves the Big Guy sold out our national intelligence to China, I’ll bet you a Pulitzer you are wrong.)
None of this is to say that the mainstream media doesn’t have blind spots. Or that they don’t have inherent biases. Or that there is a balance of MAGA Republicans and liberals at these outlets (or that there should be!).
It’s just observing that there are two types of content creators in politics these days. There are the journalists who actually need to get things right and face accountability if they don’t. And there are the critics outside the ring who get to haughtily pop off about how they are the real truth tellers all while they hope nobody notices the Ray Epps-sized egg smothered all over their faces.
And Another Thing
One of my biggest pet peeves is self-professed free marketeers railing against