Salon uses scant evidence to push anti-Trump narrative

March 4, 2022

By Tim Worstall

Salon republished a piece from Alternet that takes an unjournalistic attitude toward the evidence. They are both politically committed outlets and it’s fine, from that point of view, that they don’t like ex-President Donald Trump. However, a certain reliance upon actual evidence is one of those little markers of journalism rather than mere politics. 

That being a test that isn’t passed here.

One of the ludicrous MAGA talking points being parroted in right-wing media outlets is that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not have invaded Ukraine were Donald Trump still president because Putin feared Trump more than he fears President Joe Biden. Vanity Fair’s Bess Levin tears that argument to pieces in a scathing March 1 column, noting some of the things that former National Security Adviser John Bolton had to say about Trump’s foreign policy during a February 28 appearance on Newsmax.

Not that we want to get into whether Trump was right or wrong. Differences of opinion are what make politics. What we do want to point to is the standard of proof being used here. All of this is based on the opinion of former National Security Adviser John Bolton. To quote Bolton’s opinion on Trump is perfectly legitimate.

But that’s not what is done. Instead, we have Bolton’s opinion from one appearance on Newsmax. And then Bolton’s opinion again but filtered through a Vanity Fair column. For that is the source there, Bolton again. Yet that Bolton’s opinion is in Vanity Fair is used as proof that Bolton’s opinion on Newsmax is fair and reasonable.

We’re open to the idea that Bolton could be right or wrong. But Bolton being the source of the same story twice does not add to the proof of Bolton’s story. 

Alternet itself gains some 3 million visits a month. Salon some 8 million and is ranked at 73 by some listings of media outlets. They’re a significant portion of the progressive media base between them. 

It’s also possible to point out that Bolton and Trump don’t get along – Bolton was fired by Trump, or perhaps we should say resigned from his position working for Trump. However many times they’re repeated, through however many channels, the unsupported statements of one individual are not proof by the usual journalistic standards.

We might even note that until very recently no one to the left of, say, Mitt Romney, would give anything Bolton said the time of day. But now he criticizes Trump he’s the font of all wisdom. That is indeed how politics works, whatever is said by whomever to meet the needs of the moment. Journalism is usually held to a higher standard.


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