It's the same Russiagate playbook that's sadly been the norm for years: breathless headlines are issued, the "walls are closing in", then officials and media begin slowly walking back key aspects, and said walk-backs are buried in back sections of the Times, the substance of the story is memory-holed, while the vague imprint of the headline remains on the American consciousness.
A who's who of top intelligence and military officials have now denied the the Russian bounties to kill American troops in Afghanistan story which originated in The New York Times weeks ago. The outlets behind the initial reporting themselves have been slowly forced to qualify the story into oblivion.
And yet a new Reuters/Ipsos polls finds that 60% of Americans view that allegation as “believable.”
Reuters describes of the poll:
A majority of Americans believe that Russia paid the Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan last year amid negotiations to end the war, and more than half want to respond with new economic sanctions against Moscow, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday.
As an example of how some of the very outlets which pushed the story hard have since walked back many of the central claims, consider the following line from The Washington Post last week, which was certainly awkward for them and the Times:
The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that White House officials were first informed in early 2019 of intelligence reports that Russia was offering the bounties to kill U.S. and coalition military personnel, but the information was deemed sketchy and in need of additional confirmation, according to people familiar with the matter.
"Sketchy" and yet the avalanche of headlines are still out there. The Pentagon has flatly denied its accuracy many times over to boot.
Yes, this is how propaganda is supposed to work. When the 'Russia boogeyman' is invoked, especially related to Trump, the threshhold for evidence is low to non-existent.
Hey, remember that whole Russian Bounty thing about Putin paying for the scalps of US soldiers? This Friday night news dump from NYT suggests it's -- shockingly -- the latest Russiagate BOMBSHELL to fizzle out. One hint is where NYT placed it: page A19. https://t.co/LWX3Bq6MH0 pic.twitter.com/Yo8BqT2Fgr— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) July 6, 2020
Overall, 60% of Americans said they found reports of Russian bounties on American soldiers to be “very” or “somewhat” believable, while 21% said they were not credible and the rest were unsure.
Thirty-nine percent said they thought Trump “did know” about Russia’s targeting of the U.S. military before reports surfaced in the news media last month, while 26% said the president “did nsot know.”
As AntiWar.com points out, such fake stories and the American public's gullibility has real-world and potentially very dangerous consequences: "The poll shows that they view Russian President Vladimir Putin as a 'threat,' and support a new round of US sanctions against Russia. Alarmingly, 9% even supported attacking Russia outright."
"This is undercut by the strong evidence that this plot isn’t true, and never was. The danger is, the US could escalate hostilities and the majority of the public is fine with it," AntiWar aptly concludes.