CNS Flips For Elon Musk, Part 2
CNSNews.com stuck close to the Musk-fluffing agenda of its Media Research Center parent in serving as the billionaire's PR agent, with only its shutdown interfering with that mission.
By Terry Krepel
After the initial rush of parroting its Media Research Center parent on hyping the selectively released "Twitter files" that Elon Musk gave to handpicked reporters, CNSNews.com slowed the pace and moved toward reaction pieces. A Dec. 9 article by Craig Bannister featured a right-wing radio host:
After proof that Twitter had shadow banned him was revealed, conservative commentator Dan Bongino said the liberal media, that had adamantly denied the censorship, will never apologize.A Dec. 13 article by Bannister noted that "Three-fourths all U.S. likely voters think that social media companies like Facebook are censoring content because of political bias, and three-fourths of Democrat voters [sic] agree, but Democrats are much less likely to want Congress to do anything about it and much more concerned about so-called 'misinformation' posted on social media sites." It was a biased Rasmussen Reports poll, so "misinformation" was in scare quotes throughout without an explanation of why.
Bannister cheered the mean-spirited crassness from a Fox News host in a Dec. 16 article:
On Tuesday, late-night television Host Greg Gutfeld defended the decision by Twitter's new owner, Elon Musk, to end the social media company’s $13 million dollar a year free lunch program for employees.
It says a lot about Bannister as a person that he thought Gutfeld's ugly smear was worth amplification.
The Musk stenography continued as well. A Dec. 12 article by Susan Jones hyped that "Before the 2020 election, Twitter executives were 'clearly liaising with federal enforcement and intelligence agencies about moderation of election-related content,' according to Friday's dump of the 'Twitter files,' as reported by Matt Taibbi."
The fluff continued: A Dec. 18 article by Patrick Goodenough noted that Musk "posted a poll asking users whether or not they want him to stay on at the helm, and promising to accept the outcome," then updated it to show that a majority of users want him gone. A Dec. 21 article by Bannister noted another poll Musk posted on whether Congress should approve an omnibus spending bill, adding that "more than seventy percent of the 3.1 million Twitter users who voted said 'No.'"
Jones returned to Musk stenography for a Dec. 27 article hyping how "The latest edition of the "Twitter Files," a saga of censorship and shadow-banning, shows that Twitter, with input from the White House, 'rigged' the debate over COVID -- a debate that continues to this day." Managing editor Michael W. Chapman did stenography for Republicans in an article the next day:
Two prominent House Republicans, who will be in the majority come January, sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray stating that new information shows the agency "coordinated extensively with Twitter to censor or otherwise affect content on Twitter's platform."
CNS' "commentary" side weighed in as well. A Dec. 15 column by R. Emmett Tyrrell gushed over Musk for being the richest man in the world and, thus, brilliant, which somehow means we should trust whatever he does with Twitter. A Dec. 16 column by Josh Hammer was similarly gushy over the "promising new path forward" Musk established and how he is "answering the call of his civic duty as the world's wealthiest man," but also argued that "concerted public policy and legal changes are still needed to wrest control away from powerful Silicon Valley bureaucrats and to restore that control to its rightful place: with the American people." We thought conservatives opposed the taking of private property.
Ron Paul, meanwhile, decided in a Dec. 20 column that the FBI working with Twitter to counter extremism and misinformation means that the FBI must be dismantled:
As we learn more and more from the “Twitter Files,” it is becoming all too obvious that Federal agencies such as the FBI viewed the First Amendment of our Constitution as an annoyance and an impediment. In Friday’s release from the pre-Musk era, journalist Matt Taibbi makes an astute observation: Twitter was essentially an FBI subsidiary.
Tyrrell penned a Dec. 22 column again fawning over Musk:
As of this week, Musk is proving himself to be quite possibly the most refreshing force in American politics in years. All he really has to do is keep Twitter -- as he has said -- really neutral. That means open it to conservative voices that have been shut out of Twitter for years.
New Year's slowdown
CNSNews.com appears to have grown tired of the story since the start of the year. A Jan. 16 article by managing editor Michael W. Chapman hyped how "Several House Republicans introduced a bill on Jan. 13 that would prohibit federal workers from using their position to advocate for censoring free speech expressed on social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, and on other outlets," adding:
Emails and other documents released by Twitter in recent weeks, the "Twitter Files," show that the FBI and some members of Congress colluded with Twitter over two years to suppress and censor certain Twitter posts they did not like, particularly conservative viewpoints.
As ConWebWatch pointed out when its MRC parent pushed this same talking point, the FBI paid Twitter that money to complete document requests, not to "censor" anyone.
Chapman also dutifully repeated propaganda from his bosses (not that he disclosed that conflict of interest, of course) by claiming that "An MRC post-election poll showed that 36 percent of Biden voters were NOT aware of the evidence linking Joe Biden to corrupt financial dealings with China through his son Hunter,' reported NewsBusters. 'Thirteen percent of these voters (or 4.6% of Biden’s total vote) say that had they known these facts, they would not have voted for the former Vice President.'" Chapman also didn't disclose (as ConWebWatch has) that this poll was bought from McLaughlin & Associates, which was Trump's hired pollster in the 2020 presidential campaign, raising questions about its bias and credibility.
A Jan. 18 article by Craig Bannister touted an analyst's “5 Reasons Corrupt Media Are Ignoring the Scandalous ‘Twitter Files,’” but this person is just someone writing at the right-wing Federalist website. One of those alleged reasons was “Reporters Prefer Their Role as Propagandists to Journalists” -- ironic, since Bannister and the rest of CNS are serving as propagandists for Musk by uncritically repeating whatever he says.
Bannister served as the servile stenographer of another propagandist in a Jan. 27 article:
The news media’s collusion with Big Tech to cover up information reflecting poorly on President Joe Biden is a revelation by the Twitter Files document dumps that hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves, former Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said Thursday.
In fact, there was no reason anyone should have taken the initial laptop reports at face value given the New York Post's status as a highly biased pro-Trump publication and the Post's failure to provide independent verification that could withstand scrutiny.
Bannister helped Musk play victim -- with additional aid from the hand-picked writers pushing those selectively chosen "Twitter files" in a Feb. 16 article:
“True,” Twitter Owner Elon Musk agreed Wednesday, retweeting video and analysis of Journalist Glenn Greenwald, Podcaster Joe Rogan and Author Taibbi describing how the corporate media switched from praising Musk to portraying him as a Hitler-like figure and how they’ll do the same to anyone who even slightly dissents from their ideology.
Bannister was completely silent about the shenanigans Musk engaged in after taking over Twitter that may have soured people on him, such as his suspending the accounts of journalists who criticized him, his catering to far-right extremists, the increase in hate speech on Twitter since he took over, or that he ordered Twitter engineers to create a method to give his tweets maximum visibility whether Twitter users subscribed to his feed or not.
There were also, of course, the usual commentary pieces siding with Musk:
Ron Paul uncritically repeated another Musk narrative in a Jan. 30 column:
Thanks to the latest release of the “Twitter Files,” we now know without a doubt that the entire “Russia disinformation” racket was a massive disinformation campaign to undermine US elections and perhaps even push “regime change” inside the United States after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016.
As ConWebWatch has documented, the people behind the Hamilton 68 project have pointed out that they never claimed to be exclusively tracking Russian bots.
Biased coverage of House hearing
Like its Media Research Center parent, CNS covered the Feb. 8 House hearing on Twitter by focusing only on advancing right-wing narratives and censoring inconvenient facts that didn't fit those narratives -- but even more so. The first article on the hearing was from managing editor Michael W. Chapman, who selectively focused on ranting by CNS' favorite far-right extremist congresswoman:
House Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) sharply criticized four former Twitter executives at a congressional hearing today, stating that they had "violated" the First Amendment rights of "countless conservative Americans" and had engaged in "election interference." She also explained how Twitter had suspended her personal account in the 2020 election year but did not suspend that of her Democrat [sic] opponent.
Chapman didn't mention that Greene was banned from Twitter for spreading lies and misinformation about COVID.
Another article by Chapman uncritically touted another Republican congressman threatening Twitter executives:
At Wednesday's House Oversight hearing on Twitter's censorship of the Hunter Biden laptop story just prior to the 2020 presidential election, House Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) warned four former Twitter employees being questioned that "this is the investigation part, later comes the arrest part." He added, "Your attorneys are familiar with that."
A Feb. 9 article by Susan Jones began by noting an interview in which President Biden said the public isn't interested in Republican investigations into his family,then segued to a summary of the hearing:
As Biden spoke in Wisconsin, the House Oversight and Accountability Committee back in Washington was questioning former Twitter executives about their censorship of a New York Post report regarding Hunter Biden's laptop in the days leading up to the 2020 presidential election.
Micky Wootten quoted another Republican at length at the hearing in a Feb. 10 article:
During a House Oversight Committee hearing about Twitter’s censorship of the Hunter Biden laptop story, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) used her time to show how “Twitter worked overtime to suppress accurate COVID information,” over the course of the pandemic.
If you read only CNS, you would not know anything about this hearing that didn't conform to right-wing narratives about Twitter and Hunter Biden. It's not much of a "news" operation.
The Musk-fluffing continued right up until CNS' demise in April. Bannister unironically wrote in a March 7 article:
“If an organization portrays itself as balanced, but is not, it should be labeled to inform the public,” Twitter Owner Elon Musk said Monday, when asked about reports that CNN staff had previously been ordered not to investigate the origins of COVID-19.
Of course, such a label would have applied to CNS as well, given how its mission statement (falsely) claimed to "fairly present all legitimate sides of a story." Bannister also hyped Musk trolling a congressman in a March 9 article:
When Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted a condemnation of Fox News airing January 6, 2021 video from the U.S. Capitol, Twitter Owner Elon Musk replied to Schumer by retweeting a viral video clip of the footage - to ask the New York Democrat if he wanted it deleted.
“God bless Elon Musk,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said, when asked if he had a message for the billionaire who, after his purchase of Twitter, allowed two demonstrably liberal journalists to publish “The Twitter” files, exposing the censorship of conservatives that took place under the social media platform’s previous ownership.
As noted above, CNS' coverage of the February hearing was highly biased and incomplete (more evidence for that label Musk wants). Bannister attempted to do more of that regarding the March hearing:
This week, Rep. Jordan took part in a House subcommittee investigation of the “weaponization of the federal government,” with regards to Twitter. During the hearing, Democrats attacked, and tried to discredit, the two publishers of The Twitter Files: progressive journalist Matt Taibbi and former California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michael Shellenberger.
Given that Musk was obviously their source, it was absurd for them to claim any sort of privilege by not acknowledging that. Also note that Bannister offered misleading descriptions of Taibbi and Shellenberger -- "progressive journalist," "former California Democratic gubernatorial candidate" -- to suggest there's some kind of balance when, in fact, both writers have indisputably moved to the right and are simply Musk's servile stenographers.
CNS continued its own brand of Musk PR:
CNS also echoed its Media Research Center parent in cheering Musk's trolling of NPR by arbitrarily labeling its Twitter feed as "state-affiliated media." Managing editor Michael W. Chapman cheered the decision in an April 5 article, purporting to add context:
Examples of other "state-affiliated media" on Twitter include Sputnik (Russia state-affiliated media), RT, People's Daily (China state-affiliated media), and Periodico Granma (Medios afiliados al gobierno, Cuba).
Chapman cannot plausibly argue that NPR is anything like those fully state-controlled outlets, and, indeed, he made no effort to -- he was doing Musk PR, after all. Instead, he quoted other right-wingers, including a couple of his fellow MRC employees (not that he disclosed that conflict of interest, of course) cheering Musk's trolling.
When Musk trolled another media outlet, Patrick Goodenough cheerfully wrote about it in an April 18 article:
A widening controversy over Twitter’s decision to label media outlets that receive government funding took a new twist Monday night when the platform changed its label for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to “69% Government-funded Media.”
The same day, CNS published a column by right-wing writer Joe Schaeffer insisting that the $100 million the federal government provides toward public broadcasting equals "100 million reasons why NPR is journalistically compromised in its reporting on the ruling establishment in Washington."
Two days later, the MRC abruptly shut down CNS, for which it has yet to offer an explanation.